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Report: NWHL to add teams in Toronto, Montreal next season

The NWHL will expand into Toronto and Montreal next season, and commissioner Dani Rylan said there exists potential for further growth this off-season.

The NWHL is set to add two Canadian teams next season in an effort to fill the void left by the CWHL shutdown.

According to multiple reports, NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan said Tuesday that in the wake of the CWHL’s Sunday announcement that the longtime women’s professional league will be shutting its doors as of May 1, 2019, the NWHL Board has approved plans for the league to expand into Canada, and the expectation is that there will be Toronto- and Montreal-based NWHL franchises as soon as next season.

It is not yet clear whether that will mean the absorption of the CWHL’s Toronto Furies and Les Canadiennes de Montreal franchises or the creation of two new organizations. ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reported that Rylan and the NWHL plan to speak with “stakeholders and partners within Toronto and Montreal.

The NWHL might not be stopping there, either. Per The Ice Garden’s Mike Murphy, there exists the opportunity for further expansion, though there is nothing concrete, unlike Tuesday’s announced plan to move into the Toronto and Montreal markets. “Just because we have seven [teams] now doesn't mean we are stuck at seven for this offseason,” Rylan said. “We'll explore all opportunities for the upcoming year.”

Last season, the NWHL was home to five franchises, and the league underwent its first round of expansion last season, as the Minnesota Whitecaps joined the Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters and Boston Pride as member teams.

In addition to the announcement of expanding north of the border – Toronto and Montreal will become the NWHL’s first Canadian teams – Ryan also noted that the NHL has increased its financial contributions in the NWHL, according Kaplan. The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun reported that the NHL will provide the NWHL $100,000. Previously, the NHL had contributed $50,000 to each of the competing women’s circuits.

Also reported was that the NWHL will be expanding its schedule, with The Athletic’s Lyndsey D’Arcangelo noting that the planned schedule would see each team play 24 games, up from the 16 games teams played this past season. As well, Rylan said player salaries are primed to increase, though no specifics were reported.

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