This article was a collaborative piece between Krissy Draper and Mikayla Guarasci.
Bubble hockey is back! With COVID-19 still plaguing the world, the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) will be playing their 2021 regular season and playoffs in Lake Placid, New York using a bubble format to ensure all teams stay safe and healthy. The NWHL is following the lead of the NWSL and WNBA, who played their seasons in a bubble format in 2020. In only two days, the NWHL’s regular season and Isobel Cup Playoffs will begin and we at Unbenched Sports have everything you need to know before the puck drops on January 23rd.
- It will take place from January 23-Feb 5
The NWHL will begin their bubble regular season will begin on January 23 and finish on February 3. The two semi-final games will happen the following day on February 4 and then the season will wrap with the finals on February 5. Each team will play a 5-game regular season with one game against each team, and then two round-robin games to reseed heading into the playoffs. The top 4 teams make the single-elimination playoffs.
- The NWHL Bubble will take place in Lake Placid, New York.
The games will take place at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, the location of the 1980 Miracle on Ice.
The NWHL will utilize the bubble format, similar to the one that the NHL used for the 2019-20 playoffs and the IIHF used for the 2021 World Junior Championship. The NWHL decided to utilize the bubble format because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that restricts cross-border travel which would negatively impact the NWHL’s newest team, the Toronto Six.
- There will be 6 teams playing, including a brand new franchise
The Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters, Minnesota Whitecaps will all return for another season.
This will be the first season for the Toronto Six. They are the first franchise in Canada in league history. It was announced in April 2020 that they would be joining the league led by head coach, Digit Murphy.
- Games will be streamed/broadcasted
All of the regular season and seeding games will be streamed on Twitch. In addition to the Twitch stream, the semi-final and final games will be broadcast live by NBC on NBCSN. This will be the first time in history that a professional women’s hockey game will be broadcast live on a major cable network in the U.S.
- There will be an all-female officiating staff
The 10 women are part of USA Hockey’s officiating program and come from all over the United States. Female officials are often forgotten when it comes to giving women in sports so this is another step in the right direction.
The 10 officials who will be participating in the 2021 NWHL Season are Sarah Buckner, Erika Greenen, Kendall Hanley, Alicia Hanrahan, Jacqueline Howard, Jamie Huntley-Park, Jackie Spresser, Amanda Tassoni, Mackenzie Welter, and Laura White.
- There are strict COVID-19 precautions in play
Similar to other professional sports leagues that utilized the bubble format in the earlier months of the pandemic, the NWHL has had to navigate the unknown world of COVID-19 and successfully orchestrate the organization of the bubble while keeping players, coaches, and support staff safe, all while keeping the hockey fast-paced and entertaining. The NWHL has partnered with Yale University to conduct over-night COVID-19 tests. The players will be tested before they head into the bubble, tested regularly within the bubble, undergo one final test before exiting the bubble. Instead of having to wait for days for test results, the partnership will be able to provide the teams with the ability to receive their test results in less than 24 hours. If a player tests positive for COVID-19, she will have to sit out of her team’s games until she is able to produce 2 negative tests.
Other than the mandatory, regular COVID tests, all people involved in the NWHL bubble are restricted to the hotel that they are staying at and the arena, the Herb Brooks Arena, that they will be playing at.
- Team and league merchandise is now available
While we are unable to physically support the teams in the bubble, there are lots of opportunities to support the league. The NWHL has designed Isobel Cup merchandise as well as new merchandise for all 6 teams! You can find all of your merchandise here.
You now know everything you need to regarding upcoming NWHL hockey. The 2021 NWHL season is sure to be exciting so you won’t want to miss it. Puck drop is coming soon so pick a team to support if you haven’t already and get excited. For the full regular season and playoff full schedule, click here. Stay tuned for more NWHL content from Unbenched Sports as the season progresses.