Toronto will be the newest expansion franchise in the National Women's Hockey League, according to a Wednesday announcement by officials of the newest team.
The addition of Toronto brings the current membership of the NWHL to six – Toronto, the Buffalo Beauts, the Boston Pride, the Minnesota Whitecaps, the Metropolitan Riveters and the Connecticut Whale. The public is being asked for suggestions for the Toronto team's nickname, colors and uniform design.
Toronto had been without a women's professional team since the Canadian Women's Hockey League discontinued operations in 2019. The Toronto Furies were a member of the CWHL.
"Launching our first team in Canada is a pivotal and proud moment for the NWHL,” said league founder and commissioner Dani Rylan. “Everyone in the Toronto hockey community can be sure that this first-class team of professionals will make bold strides for the women’s game.”
The ownership team is led by Johanna Neilson Boynton, who played four years at Harvard – serving as captain for two seasons – and is the CEO and co-Founder of Boynton Brennan Builders. Sports team owner and executive Tyler Tumminia, who in recent years was named one of the Top 25 Female Executives by Bleacher Report and received the Game Changer award from Sports Business Journal, will serve as the club’s chairman. Digit Murphy, who has more than three decades of experience leading teams at Brown University and in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, has been named president. Murphy will oversee the hiring of a general manager and head coach for Toronto’s team.
One reason the CWHL failed was the belief that there was not enough corporate support, broadcast revenue and available investors to support two rival leagues.
According to the website The Ice Garden, Murphy said: “Hockey is a small world, you can’t build barriers, you have to build bridges. ... It’s too small of a pond to not work together.”
The addition of Toronto could be a significant development for the Buffalo Beauts. The potential rivalry between Buffalo and Toronto could enhance interest in the women's game in Western New York and Ontario.
On the other hand, "For its first five seasons, Buffalo has had the luxury of attracting some of Ontario’s most dynamic players. That may no longer be the case," opined Erik Wollschlager of the hockey website Die by the Blade.
Murphy's reputation and knowledge of women's hockey could be a major factor in giving Toronto an advantage in the recruitment of talent, especially among Canadian women. Toronto already has announced the signing of five players, including goalie Elaine Chuli, who played for the Furies, and U.S. National Team forward Shiann Darkangelo, who played at Syracuse and Quinnipiac and is a former Beaut.
Many players on the Beauts roster are residents of Ontario, and some play south of the border at some sacrifice and with some difficulty.
Among the Beauts who are Canadian citizens are leading scorer Taylor Accursi, defender Mary-Jo Pelletier, Brooke Stacey, Sara Casorso and goalie Lea-Kristine Demers, a Quebec native who was signed late in the season by Buffalo from Merrimack College in Massachusetts. Accursi is under contract for Buffalo for the 2020-21 season.
Of the 24 women who played in NWHL games for Buffalo last season, only nine were U.S. residents, according to the International Hockey Database website. Three WNY natives who played for the Beauts in the 2018-19 season, Hayley Scamurra, Maddie Elia and Julianne Iafallo, did not play in the NWHL last season because of a labor dispute that caused a player boycott.
Also, the Buffalo franchise was in a state of flux when Pegula Sports and Entertainment turned the Beauts back over to the NWHL and the team's home games were moved from the PSE-owned LECOM Harborcenter to the Northtown Center in Amherst.
Buffalo finished fourth in the five-member NWHL last season and was eliminated from the Isobel Cup playoffs in a 5-3 upset loss to last-place Connecticut, which had not won a postseason game since 2016. The Isobel Cup playoffs never were completed. The coronavirus outbreak caused their postponement on March 13 and they have not been rescheduled.