The NWHL Announces Plans To Return

The Isobel Cup Playoffs will take place March 26–27 on NBCSN

By Alex Holmes

The NWHL will crown its 2021 champion during the rescheduled Isobel Cup Playoffs on March 26–27 at the Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, Massachusetts. Both semifinals and the final will air live on the NBC Sports Network.

The partnership with NBCSN will mark the first time that a championship series for women’s professional ice hockey will air on a major national television network.

“It means a great deal to our athletes to have the opportunity to compete to lift the Isobel Cup and to be supported by partners who are committed to growing the women’s game. We extend our appreciation to the Boston Bruins, NBCSN, Twitch, and our sponsors – especially Discover – for making this possible. Hockey fans will be inspired by the skill and dedication of our athletes, but we’re all especially excited about the message this sends to the young girls and boys who will be watching,” NWHL Commissioner Tyler Tummunia said in a league press release.

NWHL Commissioner Tyler Tummunia (SOURCE: Forbes)

The top-seeded Toronto Six will take on the fourth-seeded Boston Pride on Friday, March 26 at 5 P.M. EST. Following that matchup, the Minnesota Whitecaps and Connecticut Whale will play in the second semifinal at 8 P.M. The winners of each game will play in the championship at 7 P.M. on Saturday, March 27.

The event will feature enhanced COVID-19 protocol, which includes daily testing of team personnel. As a precaution, fans will not be allowed to attend the games. More information on the league’s coronavirus-related health and safety plans will be released in the coming weeks.

The news comes one month after the NWHL had to postpone its season due to COVID-19. At the time, it was a devastating blow for the league, which had record-breaking viewership through the first two weeks of the 2021 season.

The cancellation brought plenty of negative press to the NWHL, some of it coming from those mainstream sports outlets who always seem to suddenly take an interest in a women’s league at the moment it appears to fail. Reports emerged ignoring the lack of resources the NWHL has to work with or conveniently skating by men’s leagues who have had COVID-19 struggles of their own. The pain of last month makes this return feel special. Despite the naysayers, the inherent hardship of the pandemic, and majorly limited economic resources, the NWHL has picked itself up to try again.

The Warrior Ice Arena will host the 2021 Isobel Cup Playoffs. (SOURCE: NHL)

The NWHL’s announcement is a win for women’s hockey, not only because the sport will finally be showcased on NBCSN, but also because it demonstrates the league’s resilience to pick up where it left off in February. 

Although its season was cut short, the NWHL saw its largest audience ever through 15 games played in Lake Placid, reaching a total of 1.62 million live views on Twitch. With its final three games on NBCSN, there are high expectations for viewership to increase during the Isobel Cup Playoffs. Those big viewership numbers lead to more money for the league, so this year’s strange finale still has the chance to make a real impact.

The NWHL is poised to finish what it started and, for the first time, crown its champion in front of a nationally televised audience. 

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