Change is hard to come by. It is never easy and it is not always forgiving. However, the Eastern Women’s Hockey Conference (EWHC) would say otherwise.
By Kelsey Hagan
The league, having undergone complete rebranding this past spring, believed that change was necessary to achieve what the league originally sought out to do: develop female hockey players into collegiate athletes.
There certainly was risk, but it was a risk the league was willing to take.
“When rebranding, there is always a risk taken, but with that risk, we see opportunity,” said Commissioner Hayley Moore.
After three seasons as the New England Women’s Junior Hockey League (NEWJHL), the league decided that it was time for a change.
“The idea of rebranding came from a collective initiative to step up the level of play in our league,” added Moore. “We didn’t want to remain complacent with where our league stood, and we felt the increased need to strengthen the teams in our league.”
Strengthen they did, as the league dropped one organization and added three powerhouse franchises with teams from the Ontario Hockey Academy, Hockey Training Institute, and Kunlun RedStar.
The addition of these teams has certainly increased the level of play within the league.
Of the major structural changes that the league has made over the past few months, the most noticeable is the addition of another division, which allows more opportunity for the league to grow.
The Gold Division includes a complete 28-game schedule, including three league-wide showcases in October, December and January. There will also be a playoff tournament, set to be housed at the current practice site for the Boston Bruins at Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, Mass.
Members of the Silver Division will get to be a part of all three league showcases without having a regular season schedule.
The hardest part of this process for the league has been gaining exposure and credibility with a brand in such an infancy stage.
“As a newly branded league, we are continuing to strive for visibility for our players and to grow the level of play in our game,” Moore said. “We want players and coaches everywhere to feel as though this is the best opportunity to develop. There is an increased focus on attracting top-level players and teams to our league and showcase events. We will carry that momentum in the right direction.”
One thing that hasn’t changed since their days under the old brand is the focus on developing athletes for the college ranks.
Though many improvements have been made on this front, many things have remained the same, such as the showcase formatting that puts all players in the league in one place. This makes it easier for college coaches to recruit players.
“The EWHC is consolidated in the Northeast, spreading into both the U.S. and Canada,” said Moore. “Our location is convenient to a great number of NCAA and CIS [Canadian Interuniversity Sport] colleges, providing ample opportunity for those scouts to watch our teams, and for those players to easily visit campuses.”
This paired with league mandated streaming of all games makes the recruiting process much easier for college coaches.
“We put in a lot of work over last season and the off-season to create this new identity,” Moore said.
“The goal was to recruit high-level teams, such as OHA [Ontario Hockey Academy], HTI [Hockey Training Institute] and Kunlun RedStar, who have the same vision for their players – to emphasize development, and ultimately, provide the best platform to showcase our teams.”
League play is already underway, with four games played at the end of September. The first league showcase will take place starting Friday, Oct. 20, and spanning until Oct. 22. All the action that takes place at Cyclones Arena in Hudson, N.H.
For more information and to follow the league, go online to www.easternwomenshockeyconference.com.