It's a significant step for the NWHL, which is aiming for sustainability as many of the sport's top stars have opted to sit out this season. The NWHL owns and operates the four other franchises. Arnone, who lives in Boston, said he has been interested in women's hockey "for a long time. The NWHL still sets the league salary cap, but Arnone said if the team can "grow commercially" it will "advance the state of economics as it pertains to the players; then we can afford to pay the players better. Arnone said he will focus on other ways he can improve conditions for players, including how they travel to games, what type of facilities are available for practices and what resources, such as equipment, are made available.
The regular season has increased from 16 games per team to Schammel was a Top finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award thanks to that breakout performance.
The Whitecaps are favorites to win the Isobel Cup until proven otherwise. The average age of the Whitecaps players heading into this season is 27, which makes them most experienced team in the league by a wide margin.
If they do manage to repeat, Minnesota will become the first NWHL franchise to win two championships. Buffalo is back under NWHL ownership, its relationship with the Buffalo Sabres is over, and all of the new talent that the Pegulas were able to draw to the team last year have left.
That group of players is headlined by Scamurra, Maddie Elia, Blake Bolden, and Shannon Szabados, all of whom won individual awards last year.
Also returning to the team after a one-year hiatus is goaltender Kelsey Neumann. Her team has 14 newcomers to the NWHL, which makes Buffalo the biggest mystery heading into the season.
With Buie, Accursi, and rookie Brooke Stacey leading the offense, the Beauts will likely finish in the middle of the pack in the standings, behind Minnesota and Boston.
Needless to say, expectations are high for Boston this year. Last year, Mara helped turn the Pride around after Boston slipped down the standings in the season.
With extra support off the ice and a deep balanced team on the ice, the Pride has everything they need to return to the Isobel Cup Final for the first time since Finishing any worse than second in the standings after the game regular season would be a major disappointment for this team.
Packer, Leary, and rookie center Kendall Cornine will likely do the heavy lifting for the Riveters offense this year; Cornine is already off to a strong start after a dominant preseason performance against LIU in which she scored a hat trick and had 12 shots on goal.
The most pressing question off the ice is how the team and its fans will adjust to a new home rink in Monmouth Junction now that the partnership with the New Jersey Devils has dissolved.
Thus far, goalies from small schools have struggled to gain a foothold at the NWHL level. New head coach Ivo Mocek will likely have to play defense-first hockey at even strength until he has a better idea of what Walther and DeMartino are capable of.
If all goes well, the Riveters should be competing with Buffalo to finish behind Minnesota and Boston in the standings. Connecticut Whale Connecticut has finished at the bottom of the standings in each of the last three seasons and all signs point to a repeat this year.
However, the Whale do have a new home rink, a new head coach in former NHL enforcer Colton Orr and an experienced blue line.