By Janet Schultz, Women’s Hockey Writer
Is there a season?
Who are signing contracts?
What moves have been made in management, coaching, playing venues?
Why haven’t we heard anything about the women who chose to “boycott” the season?
Lots of great questions and I don’t have all the answers. But I have some.
First in May the NWHL took back control of the Buffalo Beauts and later on Pegula Sports Entertainment sued the Beauts for trademark and use of the logo, stating is was theirs.
That law suit ended with an “amlicable agreement” Tuesday (Aug. 20) according to a story written by John Wawro for AP.
So we immediately noticed that the Beauts were back on Twitter and Facebook making their signing announcements and using the logo.
Signings were far and few between since the end of the 2018-19 season and most of us wondered what was happening.
First the NWHL, and several other women’s leagues, have to deal with a “boycott” of women’s bockey until the players receive was they feel is fair in salaries and sharing other revenues.
Again, nothing has been written or said by either side since May. The latest on the internet is that the Swedish players are also taking that stance.
According to the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) they are prepared to stop playing for a year. They are looking for a league that will also provide for training programs for young female players, promote diversity and inclusion at all levels of play, and raise awareness of hockey as a sport that is open to all.
NWHL Commissioner and League Founder Dani Rylan issued a statement supporting the League.
“NWHL leadership respects the wishes of all players to consider their options, and they know we are always available to meet, to participate in open communication addressing their concerns and exchanging ideas, and to collaborate with the players on one league.”
She went on to say that the plans for the 2019-2020 season were underway. In its fifth season the NWHL offered increased salaries and a 50-50 revenue spilt from league-level sponsorships and media rights deals.
In addition to the NWHL issues, the CWHL ceased to exist at about the same time in May.
The Beauts have made several movements toward a Fifth Season including the signing of several players, including Buffalo natives Emma Ruggiero and Maddie Norton.
Ruggiero was Buffalo State College’s captain and leading scorer with 52 points in 100 games in her four years with the Bengals. Ruggiero spent her entire career in Buffalo playing for the Buffalo Regals before college. She is also planning to serve as an assistant coach with the WNYGVIH Kenmore/Grand Island girls varsity ice hockey team while playing for the Beauts. Ruggiero spent two seasons playing in the WNYGVIH League for the Monsignor Martin team. She had 33 points in those two years.
Another familiar name coming from the WNYGVIH Lancaster/Depew (now Lancaster/Iroquois/Depew) team is Maddie Norton. Maddie just finished a stellar career with the University of Buffalo ACHA Division II women’s hockey team. Last season she scored 46 goals in 18 games. She helped lead the Lady Ice Bulls to College Hockey East Championships in 2017 and 2018. The team also made it to the nationals in each of her four-year tenure at UB. Norton played four seasons with Lancaster/Iroquois/Depew, but not as a player. She took on the goaltending duties, as well as scoring 6 points in two of those seasons. In goal she had a 9/76 gaa and .814 save percentage her first season; 9.22 gaa and .831 save percentage, year two; .897 save percentage and 1.66 gaa in her junior year and in her senior year had a 2.63 gaa and .842 save percentage.
Norton also did some goaltending in her first year with the Bulls.
Ruggiero and Norton head to the Beauts after Norton’s teammate for one year at Lancaster/Iroquois/Depew, Meghan Fonfara, signed on with the Beauts last season.
In other Beaut signings RIT Forward Kandice Sheriff brings with her a lot of speed, strength and ability on special teams. The Brampton, Ontario native played in 98 games at RIT scoring six goals and 16 assists. Her DI experience, as well as experience with the Leaside Junior Wildcats, will her contribution to the Beauts.
Megan Delay won a Clarkson Cup with the Markham Thunder of the CWHL in 2018 and she was a standout on the 2016 NCAA Champion Plattsburgh team. Previously she played for the Burlington Barracudas. Playing on defense, Delay made an impact on the Beauts Coaching staff during the free agent camp with her skill on the ice and her experience at the collegiate and pro levels of hockey.
Cassidy McPherson comes from Providence College and is a strong two-way forward that accumulated 25 goals and 53 assists in her four years at Providence. She has great poise and can score, according to Buffalo GM Mandy Cronin.
Another impressive signing for the Beauts is Team Slovakia’s Linka Curmova. She is a 5’8” defender who has played for the Slovakian National Team since she was 15 years old. She served as an alternate captain in 2014 and captain in 2015 for the U18 Team. In the 2015 tourament she was named Best Defender and leading the team to the bronze after having the most goals and assists in the tournament. She also played for the Elite Women’s Hockey League with SKP Bratislava and seven seasons for the SHK Sarisanka Presov in Slovakia’s premiere women’s league.
Her passion and determination to make a mark in the NWHL is evident, said GM Cronin.
Another member of the Slovakian National Team has joined the Beauts. Iveta Klimasova has been a member of the Team since 2014, has participated in one Olympic qualification tournament. She had five goals and five assists in 25 games between five world championships. She played for the SKP Bratislava in the Elite Women’s Hockey League tallying 28 goals and 16 assists for 44 points. She has size and a strong shot as well as a good work ethic.
Coming down from Toronto Kim Brown has signed her first professional contract with the Beauts. She just completed her collegiate career at Brock University of the CIS recording 10 goals and 6 assists for the Badgers. Her impressive performance during Free Agent Camp is what brought her to the attention of the Beauts team. She also played for the Toronto Leaside Wildcats.
The Beauts also have a new home. They will play their home games out of the Northtowns Center of Ameherst. The site is home to the Amherst Knights youth hockey organization and the the University of Buffalo men’s and women’s teams. It has also been the site of several New York State Amateur Hockey Tournaments, as well USA Hockey National Tournaments. The facility includes three NHL regulation ice pads (200” x 85’), one Olympic size ice pad (200’ x 100’), a full service pro shop, restaurant and sports training facility. The “Feature” rink seats 1,800.
In other news several New York-connected player signings have taken place this summer including RPI’s Marisa Raspa going to Boston; RIT’s Mallory Rushton heading to the Metropolitan Riveters; Rushton’s teammate Kendall Cornine joining her at the Riveters; Lovisa Selander, the NCAA All-Time Saves Leader wtih RPI heading to Boston; and Syracuse’s Brooke Average joining the Riveters.
At the management level the NWHL has named Ivo Mocek has Head Coach of the Metropolitan Riveters. Mocek is a native of the Czech Republic and was a first round draft pick of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, playing pro in his home country and in North America.
AG Health, a leader in pioneering Endocannabinoid Nutrition (ECN) products announced that the company’s VEDA has become an official sponsor of the NWHL. It’s products will be available and continue to empower the female athletes through the sponsorship.
Dunkin Donuts is still an official sponsor for the league.
Just prior to posting this story the Beauts re-signed Taylorf Accursi. Accursi is a difference-maker for the Beauts on and off the ice, according to Team Manager Cronin. She is the Beauts third-highest scorer and brings with her a passion for the game.
This will be Accursi’s third season with Buffalo.
As of October 5 eighty players have signed with the NWHL.