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NWHL founder Dani Rylan Kearney steps down

New York Riveters Media Day

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 16: General Manager Dani Rylan of the New York Riveters of the National Womens Hockey League speaks with the media at the Aviator Sports & Events Center on September 16, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The NWHL will commence its first season of play on October 11. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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National Women’s Hockey League founder and former commissioner Dani Rylan Kearney stepped down from her role as a league advisor and as President of W Hockey Partners, the entity that owns and operates the Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters, and Minnesota Whitecaps, according to a press release from the league.

Rylan Kearney, who had her role reduced in October 2020, founded the league in March 2015 with four teams, before the league expanded to Minnesota and Toronto under her watch.

The NWHL became the first league to pay women’s hockey players a salary. In the league’s second season, she was at the helm when salaries were cut.

Since then several players elected to leave or not join the league, signing with the ill-fated Canadian Women’s Hockey League, and after its demise, created the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association. The PWHPA, which does not pay its players, have refused to work with the NWHL while and after Rylan was commissioner.

Messaging in recent weeks have changed, with commissioner Ty Tumminia, who took over in October 2020, openly advocating for working with the PWHPA on Sportsnet’s 31 Thoughts podcast last week, and tweets from the league shouting out the PWHPA’s event in New York at the end of February.

[MORE: NWHL to finish 2021 Isobel Cup Playoffs March 26-27]

Rylan Kearney began her career in hockey as a player with Northeastern, where she served as captain in her senior season. After an unsuccessful attempt to buy and place a CWHL team in New York, she started the NWHL.

The NWHL is set to complete its 2021 season on March 26 and 27 with the Isobel Cup semi finals and championship in Boston’s Warrior Ice Arena, with both games on NBCSN, the first two NWHL contests on national television. The league had originally begun in Lake Placid, New York, but saw its protected environment -- originally dubbed a bubble -- infiltrated by Coronavirus, where at least 20 percent of the league contracted it.

In her five seasons as commissioner, the NWHL completed four Isobel Cup seasons, with a different winner every year, before the 2020 championship was cancelled due to Covid.

W Hockey Partners will continue to operate the four member clubs with the intent to sell those teams to new owners.


Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.