Hockey’s a popular sport in both the United States and Canada, so it’s no surprise that each country has a league. But while the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) consists of four teams based in the northeastern United States, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) has seven teams: four in Canada, one in Boston and two in China, which makes things confusing. Each league had a different start and a different history, so even though it seems unusual that the CWHL would have an American team, when examined further it’s understandable.
The first NWHL game took place in 2015 between the Connecticut Whale and the New York Riveters in a sold-out stadium. Finally, young girls in the United States could have role models in a mainstream hockey league. This was the first paid women’s league in American history. The league consists of four teams: the Boston Pride, the Buffalo Beauts, the Connecticut Whale and the New York Riveters, each made from players who played in college or recreationally at high levels.
Last year, the Buffalo Beauts defeated the Boston Pride to win the Isobel Cup in the championship game, but this year the Boston Pride is hungry to return to the final game and come away with the cup. Some highlights of the game can be viewed here, or anyone with two hours to spare can watch the whole thing to get a glimpse at some of the talent that will return again this year.
The Canadian Women’s Hockey League began about eight years before the NWHL, in 2007, starring players like Jennifer Botterill and Lisa-Marie Breton. The goal of the CWHL was to create a foundation for women’s hockey that would grow with time, and it has! In 2011, the draft was held at the Toronto Hockey Hall of Fame, and acceptance and following of the CWHL continues to grow.
The first team in the United States was established before the draft that year in Boston, Massachusetts, and in July 2017, the league announced their expansion to China with the formation of two new teams. It seems that the CWHL has nowhere to go but up! Here’s some footage from last year’s Clarkson Cup, when the Montreal Canadiennes defeated the Calgary Inferno in the CWHL championship game.
Although the leagues are separate entities, teams have faced each other a few times. There is no announced merger, but players in both leagues have expressed the desire to combine the leagues. Either way, watching teams from each league play against each other showcases the talent of each women’s hockey league.
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