Professional women’s hockey in North America has undergone a seismic shift since March 31, 2019, when the six-team Canadian Women’s Hockey League announced it was ceasing operations after 12 seasons.
From the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association starting up in the wake of the CWHL’s demise to the National Women’s Hockey League continuing to grow, here is a timeline of what has happened in women’s hockey since the CWHL announced it was folding.
Mar. 31, 2019 – The CWHL announces it is folding after 12 seasons as of May 1, 2019, leaving the NWHL as the only professional women’s hockey league in North America.
Apr. 4-14, 2019 – The game’s best converge in Espoo, Finland, for the IIHF Women’s World Championship. Canada fails to make the gold-medal game for the first time in tournament history, falling to host Finland in the semifinal before claiming bronze over Russia. The United States goes on to win gold over Finland in the final in a shootout. The game featured a controversial call in overtime, where Finland thought they claimed gold on a goal that was eventually called back after a 10-minute video review.
May 1, 2019 – CWHL officially ceases operations.
May 20, 2019 – The PWHPA officially forms in an effort to create a viable pro league. Its members, which includes Marie-Philip Poulin, Hilary Knight, Kendall Coyne Schofield and Natalie Spooner, issue a release saying they will not play in any professional league in North America until they receive the resources that “professional hockey deserves and demands.”
Sept. 13, 2019 – The Four Nations Cup scheduled for November 2019 is cancelled by the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation after its players boycott over pay and working conditions.
Sept. 21, 2019 – The PWHPA’s first Dream Gap tour kicks off in Toronto, with the National Hockey League Players’ Association as a partner. The first stop includes four teams made up of PWHPA players in Team Poulin, Team Jenner, Team Johnston and Team Knox. Other Dream Gap tour stops for 2019-20 include Hudson, N.H., Chicago, a second stop in Toronto, Philadelphia and Arizona.
Oct. 5, 2019 – The NWHL kicks off its fifth season with an expanded 24-game regular season.
Dec. 2019 – Feb. 2020 – Canada and the United States clash in another installment of the Rivalry Series. The Americans win four out of five games played.
Jan. 22, 2020 – Four PWHPA players – Dani Cameranesi, Kali Flanagan, Gigi Marvin and Annie Pankowski – are invited to participate in the ECHL All-Star Classic. All four players participate in the game and the skills competition.
Jan. 25, 2020 – The NHL All-Star weekend in St. Louis features an Elite Women’s 3-on-3 game, pitting the Canadian All-Stars vs. American All-Stars with Canada winning 2-1. Participants in the game include the likes of Poulin, Meghan Agosta, Mélodie Daoust and Ann-Renée Desbiens for Canada and Knight, Brianna Decker and Amanda Kessel for the United States. Poulin and Knight also take part in the skills competition.
Mar. 7, 2020 – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IIHF Women’s World Championship scheduled for Mar. 31 – Apr. 10 in Halifax and Truro, NS., is cancelled.
Mar. 13, 2020 – NWHL Isobel Cup championship game set to be played in Boston between the Boston Pride and Minnesota Whitecaps is postponed due to COVID-19. It was officially cancelled on May 15.
Apr. 22, 2020 – The NWHL adds an expansion team in Toronto named the Six, joining the Pride, Whitecaps, Buffalo Beauts, Metropolitan Riveters and Connecticut Whale.
Oct. 5, 2020 – Goaltender Liz Knox steps down from PWHPA board so that Sarah Nurse, one of a few Black players in the organization, can take her place.
Oct. 12, 2020 – NWHL commissioner and founder Dani Rylan Kearney steps down and is replaced by Ty Tumminia. Rylan Kearney remains with the league overseeing the Beauts, Riveters, Whale and Whitecaps and searching for independent ownership for the four league-operated teams.
Oct. 22, 2020 – Secret agrees to a $1 million sponsorship deal with the PWHPA. It’s considered to be the largest corporate commitment in North American women’s hockey history.
Nov. 23, 2020 – The Chicago Blackhawks hire Kendall Coyne Schofield as player development coach, the first woman to hold the position in the organization’s 94-year history.
Nov. 25, 2020 – The NWHL announces the 2020-21 season will be played in a bubble at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y., from Jan. 23 – Feb. 5, 2021.
Jan. 23, 2021 – The NWHL kicks off its sixth season in Lake Placid with the Toronto Six playing their inaugural game, a 3-0 loss to the Riveters.
Jan. 25, 2021 – Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini releases a video calling out the “haters,” encouraging Barstool fans to go after them after some fans and media members expressed disappointment at NWHL players Rebecca Russo and Kelly Babstock appearing on Nardini’s podcast. Riveters rookie defenceman Saroya Tinker responds in a tweet saying the NWHL does not want support from any openly racist platform. Barstool founder Dave Portnoy calls out Tinker, saying she should be in jail for saying the company promotes white supremacy. NWHL releases a statement condemning the original video by Nardini.
Jan. 28, 2021 – The Riveters withdraw from the bubble due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Feb. 1, 2021 – The Whale forfeit their final round-robin game against the Whitecaps, citing health and safety protocols.
Feb. 3, 2021 – The NWHL suspends its season before the playoffs due to COVID-19 positive tests one day before the playoffs were set to be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network. It was later revealed that all six teams had positive tests.
Feb. 27, 2021 – The second year of the Dream Gap tour kicks off in Somerset, N.J., as Team Minnesota beats Team New Hampshire 5-2. The PWHPA is operating out of five regions this season, including Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and the aforementioned Minnesota and New Hampshire.
Feb. 28, 2021 – Game 2 between Team Minnesota and Team New Hampshire takes place at Madison Square Garden in partnership with the New York Rangers.
Mar. 6-7, 2021 - The second stop of this year’s Dream Gap is in Chicago, with the game on the Mar. 6 taking place at the United Center in partnership with the Blackhawks.
Mar. 16, 2021 - Rylan Kearney resigns from her position as NWHL advisor and president of W Hockey Partners, the entity that owns and operates the Beauts, Whale, Riveters, and Whitecaps.
Mar. 27, 2021 – Boston Pride win the 2021 Isobel Cup 4-3 over Minnesota Whitecaps. They are the first NWHL franchise to win two league championships.