News came yesterday of the NWHL announcing that they will be expanding the roster sizes ready for the 2017-18 season. The new expansion will see NWHL teams increasing their roster size from 17 to a potential max of 25 players.
With the expansion of team sizes comes the removal of so-called ‘practice players’. Such players were introduced into the NWHL to give full-time players other individuals to practice against in training. The idea here is that by increasing roster size all players will have a chance to play in-game, rather than being used solely for practice. Also, all players that now sign a contract will be considered members of the franchise and paid a salary which was not the case for practice players.
But will eliminating practice players in exchange for larger teams work? Previous practice players have commented that they were in such roles because they believed they weren’t ready for full-time play. In my opinion, this is a good step for the NWHL franchise, practice players were previously useful due to the smaller size of teams, but with this expansion teams, I believe, will now be stronger and able to work to their full potential both in training and games.
NWHL Deputy Commissioner, Hayley Moore, stated that as the talent in Women’s hockey grows, they want to be able to offer up the opportunity for full-time play to as many people as possible.
The option to add up to 25 players is available up until the final week of the regular season. With this teams will have more flexibility over their roster throughout the season, and if deemed necessary they will be able to increase their team size.
With the NWHL about to enter its third season of operation, all four inaugural teams will be participating once more to take home the Isobel Cup. With Boston and Buffalo winning so far, Connecticut and New York will be looking to take home the trophy this season.
Another interesting addition to the NWHL will be the inclusion of the Russian National Women’s Hockey team taking part in exhibition matches against the participating NWHL teams in October 2017.
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