In somewhat of a stunning, late night news drop, it has been reported that the NWHL will be instituting wholesale changes to their governance structure leading into Season 6. While these alterations will lead to several differences in how the league operates on a day-to-day basis, the most impactful change is at the head of the table. League founder and commissioner Dani Rylan Kearney will be stepping down from her role, effective immediately. She will be replaced on an interim basis by Tyler Tumminia, who was originally hired to be the Chairperson of the expansion Toronto Six, who will step into the role and lead a new, 6-member board of governors as the league looks to transition towards a more traditional franchise model. Tumminia came to the league with an impressive resume in management and operations in baseball, and although this is her first foray into hockey, she has impressed many in the community thus far. It will be beneficial for the league to have a fresh set of eyes, particularly ones who are new to the league itself, to push it to grow even further. As for Rylan Kearney, she will remain with the league, but in a different role entirely, as she will be leading efforts to identify independent ownership groups for the four teams which remain under the control of the league itself. According to Marisa Ingemi, the league is already in discussions with a few potential candidates, as well as possible additional expansion franchises in the near future. This is particularly noteworthy as Rylan Kearney asked her Twitter followers just last week where they would want to next see an expansion team in the league, and her responses indicated that it was more than just a thought exercise.
Until last season when Miles Arnone purchased the Boston Pride, the league owned and operated all 6 of their franchises (apart from the short period of time that the Beauts were owned and operated by Pegula Sports and Entertainment, but that’s a whole other can of worms). The Six are also independently owned. The league wishes to mirror the more traditional franchise setup of other professional leagues, which, in my opinion, is the best way to ensure long-term growth and sustainability. To do so, the league will transition to being an unincorporated association with a Board of Governors. The Board will include Andy Scurto, who lead an investment group earlier in the year to help bolster the league, as well as John Boynton, but the other four members of the group have not been announced, nor has Tumminia’s replacement with the Six.
This can only be seen as a positive for the league. Rylan Kearney was the woman who dared to dream and created the NWHL, but she has long been one of the more controversial figures in women’s sports. She’s done a lot of positive things in the past 5 years, but she has not been flawless, and a fresh set of eyes, not tinted by the personal investment to the league, may be what it takes to start to close the divide in the sport, and open the league up to new and different opportunities.
Stay tuned to @PrideDiehards for continuing women’s hockey coverage, and be sure to tune in to the Pride Diehards Podcast for discussions, interviews, and more!
By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey