The National Women’s Hockey League was announced in March of 2015 as the first U.S women’s professional hockey league where players would receive income. Commissioner Dani Ryan, a former ice hockey player, started the NWHL in order to provide options for players after their collegiate careers. The league announced their four teams: Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, New York Riveters.
The NWHL will have their second annual All-Star Weekend on February 11 and 12, 2017. The weekend will begin with an All-Star skill showdown on Saturday, followed by an All-Star game on Sunday. Amanda Kessel, a New York Riveter, will be team captain. Kessel has become a fan-favorite in New York and across the NWHL fanbase due to her passion and skill for the sport. Kessel will be joined by Kelley Steadman, also a fan-favorite from the Buffalo Beauts, as another All-Star captain.
The All-Star game will be played in Pittsburgh, a city that the league is in talks to expand to. The game will be hosted by the Penguins in their practice facility, UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. The All-Star game is centered around the NHL All-Star power that fans love. The skills competition will include hardest shot, fastest skater (along with goalie), shooting accuracy, rapid-fire shootout challenges, and breakaway. The All-Star game on Sunday will have a 4-on-4 format for two 25-minute periods. It will feature the NHL’s best players, drafted by their All-Star captains, to find the best team.
Although the All-Star weekend is filled with fun and entertainment, there’s no ignoring the salary cuts that the players have gone through along with the cut of their NWHL game schedule. When players signed with the league, salaries were between $10,000 – $26,000, which would cover both their practices as well as games. Now, players will only be paid for their games played, and the New York Times reports the cuts at 38%. This leaves the destiny of the league and it’s players in a rocky position. However, it is weekends like this one that can draw in the crowd, fandom and attention that the NWHL needs to grow and expand.