In case you have been not paying attention this summer, the National Women’s Hockey League expanded from four east coast based teams by adding the Minnesota Whitecaps to the league. The Whitecaps and formerly been a semi-pro team that most notably played several midwestern NCAA women’s teams in recent seasons. This season they will be a full fifth team in the NWHL.
NWHL free agency began in June 1st, and all players were eligible to sign one year contracts for the 2018-19 season. The Whitecaps looking to make a splash in the local market have decided to give their team a maroon and gold flair.
On Monday the Whitecaps announced they had signed former Minnesota Golden Gophers goaltender Amanda Leveille. Levielle was the NWHL goalie of the year last season for the Buffalo Beauts.
On Wednesday, Rachel Blount of the Star Tribune first reported, and it was officially confirmed by the Whitecaps that they had signed two other former members of the Gophers, and the US 2018 Gold Medal winning Olympic Team in Hannah Brandt and Lee Stecklein.
As Blunt describes in her article:
The 2018 Olympic gold medalists, whose signings will be announced Wednesday by the National Women’s Hockey League, share a long-running association with the league’s newest franchise. Brandt was a huge fan of the team when she was a child and played for it in 2016-17. Stecklein developed her game as a member of the Junior Whitecaps program before she and Brandt starred for the Gophers.
Both of them relish the opportunity to usher the Whitecaps into their first NWHL season, opening a new era for the women’s game in Minnesota.
Both Brandt and Steckein won three NCAA titles with the Gophers in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Brandt also was on the team in 2014 that lost to Clarkson in the NCAA Championship game while Stecklein played in the 2014 US Olympic Team.
The Whitecaps have now three players on their 25 player roster, and it would not be a surprise at all to see several other former Gophers and other upper-Midwest collegiate players added to the roster in the very near future. Several of the other notable 2018 Olympians with Minnesota ties have opted to sign elsewhere in the league as Amanda Kessel signed with the New York Riveters who she played for in 2016-17, and Dani Camaranesi signed with the Buffalo Beauts.
The Whitecaps will be co-coached with another former Gopher and US Olympian as 2018 US Olympic Team coach Robb Stauber will co-coach the Whitecaps with his wife Shivaun.
All in all, it is a smart marketing ploy to bring in some former Gopher stars to draw some crowds in the Whitecap’s first season in the NWHL. And, oh, yeah they are all really good hockey players who will make an immediate impact in the league as well.