After consecutive seasons of substantial growth while proving the value of women’s professional hockey and the skilled, inspiring athletes who play the game, the National Women’s Hockey League is coming to Canada. When the league opens its sixth season, an expansion team will debut in Toronto.
The ownership team is led by Johanna Neilson Boynton, who played four years at Harvard, serving as captain for two seasons, and is the CEO and co-Founder of Boynton Brennan Builders. Sports team owner and executive Tyler Tumminia, who in recent years was named one of the Top 25 Female Executives by Bleacher Report and received the Game Changer award from Sports Business Journal, will serve as the club’s Chairman. Digit Murphy, who has more than three decades of experience leading teams at Brown University and in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, has been named President. Murphy will oversee the hiring of a general manager and head coach for Toronto’s team.
“We aspire to build a perennial Isobel Cup contender for Toronto,” said Boynton. “This will be an organization with strong fan, community and corporate support, outstanding coaching, training, and player development, and a club dedicated to promoting hockey as a game for everyone. Although this pandemic is challenging everyone in profound ways today, and we are very mindful of that, our outlook for women’s sports remains positive. We are launching this team now because we believe in the future.
“The advancement of a professional women’s hockey league for Canada and the U.S., one that will stand and flourish on its own, is a passion for me and everyone associated with the NWHL,” continued Boynton. “We are driven every day to increase the opportunities available to women’s hockey players of all ages, and that’s what this expansion is all about. There is so much potential, and Toronto is the logical next step. I look forward to working closely with players, staff, sponsors, and fans to give Toronto the team the community deserves.”
Embracing the opportunity to be pioneers on the NWHL’s first team in Canada, five players have already signed contracts to join Toronto for the upcoming season:
Kristen Barbara: The 27-year-old defender from Mount Hope, Ontario won the Clarkson Cup with the Markham Thunder in the CWHL’s final season in 2019. Barbara played three seasons in the CWHL after an impressive collegiate career at York University in Toronto.
Elaine Chuli: The 25-year-old goaltender from Waterford, Ontario played in the CWHL for the Toronto Furies and Vanke Rays. The No. 1 goaltender at the University of Connecticut for all of her four years at college, Chuli was a member of gold medal-winning Team Canada at the U-18 World Championships in 2012.
Shiann Darkangelo: As a member of the U.S. National Team, Darkangelo won a gold medal in 2016 at the IIHF World Championship and competed in two Four Nations Cups. Before playing in the CWHL for Toronto and Kunlun, the 26-year-old forward from Michigan was a popular player in the NWHL with Buffalo and Connecticut. Darkangelo played collegiately at Syracuse and Quinnipiac and won gold with the U.S. National Team at the U-18 World Championships in 2011.
Emma Greco: The 25-year-old defender from Burlington, Ontario played for the Toronto Furies in the CWHL’s final season. After her college career at Quinnipiac, Greco played in the 2017-18 NWHL season with the Connecticut Whale. She is regarded as a very reliable stay-at-home defender capable of playing in all key situations.
Taylor Woods: After an outstanding four years at Cornell – serving as an alternate captain in her senior season – Woods was a mainstay in the lineup of the Markham/Brampton Thunder of the CWHL starting in 2016. The 25-year-old versatile forward from Morden, Manitoba won the Clarkson Cup with Markham in 2019. Woods was also a member of gold medal-winning Team Canada at the U-18 World Championships in 2012.
“We welcome Kristen, Elaine, Shiann, Emma and Taylor – five talented and highly driven players who will help our team contend for the Isobel Cup while advancing women’s professional hockey in the inclusive and incredible city of Toronto,” said Murphy. “I’m very proud that these five outstanding leaders, who all are connected to the Toronto community, have joined our roster.”
As the NWHL enters its sixth season, the addition of Toronto brings the league to six teams. The Minnesota Whitecaps joined the NWHL in 2018 after the league was launched in 2015 with four teams: Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, and Metropolitan (NY-NJ) Riveters. The 2020-21 regular season is scheduled to start in mid-November, with each team playing 20 games. The Isobel Cup Playoffs begin in mid-March and will be completed by the end of the month – two weeks before the opening of the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia.
“Today is just the start,” said Murphy, who is also an entrepreneur whose latest initiative is dedicated to providing female leaders to the corporate workforce. “We have plenty of work ahead. Our team in Toronto is led by women, and we are providing opportunities and jobs in the GTA for hockey players, coaches, and staff. This team will proudly represent Toronto and compete for the NWHL championship, and will also be dedicated to empowering younger female athletes through community engagement and education. We welcome everyone who wants to be part of a challenging and rewarding venture.”
The name, venues, additional staff and other news for Toronto’s NWHL team will be announced in the weeks and months ahead. Beginning today, fans can go to NWHL.zone to submit their ideas for the name, color and designs for Toronto’s team.
Toronto’s players under contract for 2020-21 will join the pool of NWHL players receiving 50 percent of revenue from all league-level, Canadian and U.S. national sponsorship and media deals. Last season, the NWHL and NWHL Players’ Association announced an agreement on a 50-50 split of revenue for players on the five teams from league-wide sponsorship and media deals. The league ended up having its best year in partnership marketing in its history.
Since its founding in 2015, the NWHL has created a platform for women’s professional ice hockey, continuing the important work of the CWHL and other predecessor organizations. The NWHL just completed the first of a three-year paid media rights deal with Twitch, resulting in games and a weekly talk show generating 8 million views – a 93 percent increase from the previous season.
“Launching our first team in Canada is a pivotal and proud moment for the NWHL,” said league Founder and Commissioner Dani Rylan. “Everyone in the Toronto hockey community can be sure that this first-class team of professionals will make bold strides for the women’s game.”
The league expects to execute more national and regional broadcast deals in Canada and the U.S. in the coming seasons.
“I’m looking forward to working with Johanna, Digit, and a team filled with like-minded professionals driven by the collective goal of making Toronto’s NWHL team a success that sets new standards and paves the way for more expansion in Canada,” said Tumminia. “Toronto is a vibrant city with an unmatched tradition in the sport, and we will give the fans a team of which they can be truly proud.”