One of women’s hockey’s worst kept secrets came to fruition this morning in St. Paul Minnesota as the NWHL announced that it had acquired the Minnesota Whitecaps, an already existing barnstorming program based out of Minneapolis. The club will begin play in the 2018-19 season.
It was suspected, and confirmed to myself and a few other sources that the NWHL had placed it’s 2018 All-Star Game and Skills Competition in St. Paul, Minnesota as a market test for potential expansion. Lacking the star-power of the Olympians who were in South Korea at the time, including Amanda Kessel and Gigi Marvin, the event nevertheless proved a success with strong attendance for both days, despite the Minnesota Wild playing at home less than a half-mile away, against rival Chicago Blackhawks concurrently with the skills contest on February 10.
It appears the NWHL will not engage in any sort of expansion draft procedure, which makes sense as the league is regional, and the Whitecaps not only already exist, but boast a number of high profile players and former players, who could possibly be added via free agency next month. Among them Kendall Coyne, Alex Rigsby, and the Lamoreux Sisters.
There remain some questions about operations, but it would seem likely that the team will partner with the Minnesota Wild and play in the practice rink in St. Paul, similar to the relationship the Metropolitan Riveters have with the New Jersey Devils.
Roster announcements have not been officially made, likely due to the Whitecaps not having been part of a formal league since 2011. Meaning the team, technically, has no players at this time.
While a version of the Whitecaps’ jersey was used in the press conference for photo-ops, nothing with that logo has yet been added to the Whitecaps’ NWHL merchandise page, suggesting that the final uniform may not be identical to what they have worn in the past.