While the Minnesota Wild are celebrating their great start to the 2021 NHL season, the other pro hockey team that calls TRIA Rink home is getting ready for their own. The Minnesota Whitecaps of the NWHL will head to Lake Placid, NY for a two-week bubble season where the league’s six teams will compete for the Isobel Cup, named after Lord Stanley’s hockey playing daughter, of course.
As the 2019 reigning champs who were set to defend their title last year before COVID took the chance away from them, a lot is resting on the shoulders of the quickest and most disciplined team in the league.
We couldn't be prouder of @WhitecapsHockey -- not only for their @NWHL-best inaugural season, but for all the ways they create a greater #StateOfHockey.— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) March 9, 2019
Good luck tomorrow! #RollCaps #HockeyIsForEveryone pic.twitter.com/u083hBLXc7
So if you’re looking to cram even more Minnesota hockey into your schedule to make up for lost time, here’s everything you need to know about the Minnesota Whitecaps.
The Whitecaps were founded in 2004 by Dwayne Schmidgall and Jack Brodt, who is still the team’s GM and co-head coach today. His daughter, Winny Brodt-Brown is the team’s captain as well. She is the league’s oldest player, and collectively has played 11 recorded seasons for the Whitecaps.
The Whitecaps began as a simple pathway to continue playing hockey for two girls in a time when beyond college, there really was no pathway for women. The team has truly evolved with North American women’s hockey, having joined the WWHL and the original NWHL before they disbanded, and the CWHL, who eventually folded as well.
They are the only team in existence to have both a Clarkson Cup from their CWHL championship in 2010 and an Isobel Cup in 2019, their inaugural season in the NWHL. They also became the first NWHL team to turn a profit that year, selling out every single home game and a record high 500 season tickets. This is big news in the women’s sports world, where often a narrative is pushed that women in sports aren’t profitable.
From the beginning of the Whitecaps’ merge into the NWHL, the Wild have been there with support and backing. At the time, they were the fourth NHL team to partner with a NWHL team following the Bruins, Sabres, and Devils. However, since then, both the Sabres and Devils have severed their ties with the Beauts and Riveters, respectively.
“The Wild has always been a big advocate of women’s hockey. Now, with an NWHL franchise here to help guide the movement along, we couldn’t be more excited. We’re happy to have them here and get started this fall.” — Jamie Spencer @mnwild pic.twitter.com/f7IM1QLe0E— Minnesota Whitecaps (@WhitecapsHockey) June 27, 2018
It’s not a coincidence that the two teams who do receive support from their Boston and Minnesota counterparts see the most success financially and on the ice. It’s no secret that those two places are hockey hot spots but access to NHL practice facilities, as well as marketing backing, and schedule planning has had an impact for the teams involved.
Since 2019, the Wild have put on joint practices, double-header events, Whitecaps watch parties, as well as spotlighting the Whitecaps during Girls’ Hockey Weekend and other big hockey events in Minnesota.
While the team has had some big historic hockey names on it’s roster like Julie Chu, Angela Ruggerio, and Natalie Darwitz, they may look a lot different now to the average Wild fan. For those who may not see these women because they often aren’t competing in the Olympics every four years, here’s what you should know:
This team is one of the tightest, most well-streamlined teams in the NWHL. They have just three rookies headed into the 2021 season, and have retained most of their three to four year veterans.
The Caps have the most tenured, and accomplished goaltender in Amanda Leveille who has appeared in the last eight championship games for her respective league. I don’t anticipate her wanting to break that streak any time soon. Last season she posted a .935 save percentage, and lost just four games.
Allie Thunstrom and Jonna Curtis are both alternate captains on the team and together scored 72 points last season. They set the tone for any game they play, and you can always expect quick plays and high scoring from them.
Amanda Boulier is the team’s top defender. She is a Connecticut native who played one season with the Connecticut Whale before joining the Whitecaps squad the year they joined the NWHL, and is typically the team’s most productive defender. She is essentially the team’s Ryan Suter, but better if you’re asking just me.
Two notable newcomers are Haley Mack and Sara Bustad. Bustad has NWHL experience playing for the Buffalo Beauts last season, where she had 11 points, the third most for a defender on the team. Mack holds multiple scoring records at Bemidji State where she graduated from last year. She will add to an already elite scoring offense. For comparison purposes, you can think of her as the Kaprizov of the Whitecaps.
Finally, another player to watch whenever she is on the ice, is Audra Richards. Richards is a Minnesota native who strayed a bit from her path after college, joining a New Jersey team who wears red before returning home to score big for her hometown team...sound familiar? Yes, I’m calling her the team’s Zach Parise. She played her rookie season with the Metropolitan Riveters, where she racked up 8 points and was named a 2019 All-Star. She had a breakout season while breaking many New Jerseyan hearts when she scored 20 points her sophomore season with the Whitecaps, going to the All-Star Game again, and qualifying for the Isobel Cup final.
The sixth NWHL season will begin Jan. 23 and you can stream all of the games on the league’s Twitch channel, as well as watch the semi-final and final matchups live on NBCSN.