NWHL’s 6th team entering 6th season gets name: Toronto Six

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TORONTO — Six is the magic number and name for the National Women’s Hockey League’s expansion franchise in Toronto.

The Toronto Six name and gold-colored maple leaf logo embedded in a red and black TO6 crest were unveiled Tuesday by the NWHL, which is adding its sixth team while entering its sixth season.

The name was the most popular in an internet poll conducted by the NWHL shortly after the U.S.-based league announced it was establishing its first team in Canada last month.

The gold represents southern Ontario’s so-called “Golden Horseshoe” region, which begins in Toronto and follows the curve of Lake Ontario in extending to Niagara Falls. The red color and maple leaf reflect Canada’s red-and-white flag.

“We wanted a bold, clean and modern brand for the team, for the game and for the city,” Six chairwoman Tyler Tumminia said.

Toronto joins the league’s five teams, which are based in Boston; Monmouth Junction, New Jersey; Danbury, Connecticut; Buffalo, New York; and Saint Paul, Minnesota.

The NWHL is scheduled to open its 2020-21 season in mid-November.

NWHL cancels 2020 Isobel Cup Final

The National Women’s Hockey League has canceled the Isobel Cup championship game between the Boston Pride and Minnesota Whitecaps.

The game was scheduled March 13 in Boston, before the initial postponement because of the coronavirus pandemic.

NWHL founder and commissioner Dani Rylan calls the decision “disappointing” while adding “this global health crisis transcends sports.”

The league is focused on preparing for next season. Its scheduled to open in mid-November, with a sixth team after the addition of an expansion franchise in Toronto.

Ticket holders can request a refund or choose to apply their payment toward Pride tickets for next season.

Pro women’s hockey association unveils 5-city regional plan

The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association enters its second season with plans to regionalize its structure by basing players in five hub cities, while also continuing its Dream Gap Tour series of barnstorming stops across North America.

Groups of 25 players will practice in rinks in New Hampshire, Minnesota, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary, Alberta, where they will have access to dedicated dressing rooms, strength and conditioning facilities as well as support staff and coaches, the association announced Wednesday.

The decision to establish hub cities came out of feedback the PWHPA received from its members following its first season.

The regionalized structure allows the PWHPA to concentrate its resources on five sites, where players can hold full practices and schedule exhibition games to increase their playing time aside from a still-to-be-determined schedule of six to eight Dream Gap Tour stops.

Last year, the association had groups gathered in eight sites, some of which lacked enough players to hold a full practice. Players also had limited chances to compete in games, with few exhibition contests scheduled around the six weekend-long Dream Gap events.

“The new structure provides players with a more professional training environment on a regular basis, which will allow us to put the best product of women’s professional hockey on the ice daily,” two-time U.S. Olympian and PWHPA board president Kendall Coyne Schofield said in a statement.

The PWHPA was established a year ago following the collapse of the six-team Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Its membership is made up of about 200 players — including members of the U.S. and Canadian national teams — who pledged not to compete in the U.S.-based National Women’s Hockey League.

Unhappy with the financial limitations of the private investor-backed NWHL, the PWHPA instead is advocating for the creation of a professional league with a long-term sustainable economic model.

The PWHPA announcement comes a few weeks after the NWHL announced it is adding a sixth team – and first in Canada – by expanding into Toronto next season.

The 25-player regional rosters will be chosen following a tryout, and members not based in the regions will have an opportunity to compete in games.

“By condensing our regions a little more will allow us to provide better resources within those regions for our players,” PWHPA executive member Jayna Hefford told The Associated Press by phone.

“It was a priority for us to increase the level of commitment and to provide additional resources for our athletes to develop and perform at the highest levels,” she added. “This is by no means where we think they need to be or should be, but our goal will always be to provide the most professional experience that we can.”

PWHPA players are not paid, but they had their meal, travel, uniform and facilities costs picked up last year by numerous corporate sponsors including Budweiser, Secret, Adidas and Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union. The PWHPA also had the backing of the NHL Players’ Association and several NHL teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Arizona Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals, who broadcast the final two Dream Gap stops on their broadcast network.

Though the coronavirus pandemic has caused economic uncertainty for many companies, Hefford said initial discussions indicate many, if not all, of the PWHPA’s corporate partners are committed to backing the players again next season.

Davis overcomes hip surgery to be No. 1 pick in NWHL draft

Playing professionally, let alone returning to the ice, was the last thing on Sammy Davis’ mind following her sophomore season when the Boston University women’s hockey forward sat out an entire year after having both hips surgically repaired.

Some three years later, the 23-year-old was signing her first pro contact Friday, a few days after being selected by the Boston Pride with the No. 1 pick in the National Women’s Hockey League draft.

“I couldn’t have imagined what my future would hold, and I think a lot of it had to do with perseverance and motivation from the people around me,” Davis told The Associated Press.

“My heart is just so full with how I feel,” she added. “It’s pretty surreal. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity, and I get to play in my own city.”

Davis joins the Pride after a senior season in which she led the Terriers with 17 goals and 41 points in 36 games, and earned a Hockey East first-team selection. The 5-foot-4 forward enjoyed an even better season as a junior, in which she led the conference with 25 goals and finished second with 52 points.

It marked a tremendous comeback for the 2016 Hockey East rookie of the year runner-up, whose career was placed on hold after the hip pain Davis experienced during her sophomore season was the result of a bilateral labral tear.

“There were definitely a lot of low points,” Davis said.

“I think physically, as athletes, we’re told to be tough and to hold in our emotions,” she said. “But honestly, that year, I was struggling mentally. It was definitely a challenge.”

The Pride were so interested in selecting the player from Pembroke, Massachusetts, they dealt first- and second-round picks in next year’s draft as part of the deal to acquire the No. 1 choice in a trade with expansion Toronto.

“As talented and determined as Sammy is on the ice, her selflessness and leadership make her a perfect fit for the team we are building,” said Pride GM Karilyn Pilch, who knew Davis after previously serving as BU’s director of hockey operations.

The Pride are coming off a 23-1 regular-season and were preparing to play the Minnesota Whitecaps for the Isobel Cup, before the championship game was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now Davis has the benefit of playing in her own backyard, while also beginning to pursue her doctorate in occupational therapy at BU.

She doesn’t think it’ll be an issue balancing her studies and turning pro, by saying: “I’m just trying to think of it like I’m going to college and still playing in a Division I sport.”

At the very least, Davis can reflect back on the challenges she overcame following surgery.

“I had this fire under me that fueled me, and I just wanted to be the best version of myself,” Davis said. “Because I took the whole year off, I really loved hockey again.”

Boston selects BU’s Sammy Davis with top pick in NWHL Draft

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The Boston Pride selected Boston University forward Sammy Davis with the first pick in the NWHL Draft on Tuesday night.

The women’s professional hockey league is heading into its sixth season.

The Pride acquired the top pick from expansion Toronto in a trade hours earlier to get Davis. The 23-year-old hometown star had 17 goals and 24 assists for the Terriers this season.

Boston also received Toronto’s fifth-round pick this year in exchange for the Pride’s first-round selection this year, and their first- and second-round picks in 2021.

Clarkson forward Kayla Friesen was chosen No. 2 by the Connecticut Whale, and Maine goalie Carly Jackson went third to the Buffalo Beauts.

Friesen had 10 goals and 20 assists in her lone season with the Golden Knights after transferring from St. Cloud. Jackson was 12-11-7 with a 1.90 goals-against average this season for the Black Bears.

The Metropolitan Riveters took Yale defenseman Saroya Tiner at No. 4, followed by the Minnesota Whitecaps selecting Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Alex Woken. Toronto got Robert Morris forward Jaycee Gebhard as the franchise’s first draft pick to complete the first round.

The National Women’s Hockey League began play in 2015. Boston (2016), Buffalo (2017), Metropolitan (2018) and Minnesota (2019) have won the league’s first four championships.

The 2020 Isobel Cup Final between Boston and Minnesota was postponed last month due to the COVID-19 outbreak.