On Wednesday, the National Women’s Hockey League announced its plan of suiting up for the 2020-21 season. Although not quite like the 24-game season seen in 2019-20, the world’s top women’s hockey league will be going ahead with a highly-abbreviated campaign, beginning in the new year.
With the decision of hosting a hub-city bubble out of the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, NY, the league has come up with a 14-day event, which will be both the regular season and postseason. Significantly reduced from past years, the schedule will see each team arrive by January 22 and play five games (one game against each team), to determine the four teams moving on to the single-game semifinal. A single game Isobel Cup Final will then be played on Friday, February 5, concluding the 2020-21.
“The NWHL is excited to provide hockey fans a fast-paced schedule of thrilling games on the road to the Isobel Cup,” NWHL Interim Commissioner Tyler Tumminia said in a press release Wednesday. “The continued challenges brought by the pandemic resulted in a mandate for our league, players and partners to collaborate on creating a controlled environment protecting the health of everyone involved. At a time of hyper-growth for girls’ and women’s hockey, we see this season as a celebration of the sport. This will be a historic moment as the hallowed arena that was the site of the “Miracle on Ice” in 1980 hosts its first women’s professional championship. It is a proud moment for the NWHL, the players, and all hockey fans.”
According to the NWHL, the idea of playing in a hub-city bubble with no fans in attendance is a way of providing the players with protection, prioritizing both the health and safety of the local community, the players and staff members.
Players within the bubble will be routinely tested for COVID-19 and follow strict daily protocols put in place by Yale Pathology Labs. They will be paid their full salaries, despite only participating in potentially five games. Should players opt out of the two-week season, they will still receive their paycheques in full. Currently, 95 percent of the league’s members have committed to the 2020-21 season.
The NWHL’s newest team, the Toronto Six will join the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters and Minnesota Whitecaps in New York for the spectacle. A full broadcast schedule is still in the works.