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NWHL season, 2021 Isobel Cup to take place in bubble at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid

NBCSN will air NWHL's 2021 Isobel Cup Semifinals and Final live on Feb. 4-5

The NWHL (National Women’s Hockey League) announced a plan to award the 2021 Isobel Cup during a condensed season and playoffs, all in a bubble at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, New York. If everything goes as planned, the NWHL’s six teams will compete without fans from Jan. 23 through Feb. 5, 2021.

NWHL aims to award 2021 Isobel Cup with condensed season in Lake Placid

“The NWHL is excited to provide hockey fans a fast-paced schedule of thrilling games on the road to the Isobel Cup,” NWHL Interim Commissioner Tyler Tumminia said. “The continued challenges brought by the pandemic resulted in a mandate for our league, players and partners to collaborate on creating a controlled environment protecting the health of everyone involved. At a time of hyper-growth for girls’ and women’s hockey, we see this season as a celebration of the sport. This will be a historic moment as the hallowed arena that was the site of the “Miracle on Ice” in 1980 hosts its first women’s professional championship. It is a proud moment for the NWHL, the players, and all hockey fans.”

All six NWHL teams (Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters, Minnesota Whitecaps, and expansion team Toronto Six) will compete for the 2021 Isobel Cup in this format.

The NWHL mapped out how its condensed season and playoffs should work:

  • Between Jan. 21 and 22, the six teams will arrive at Lake Placid in a staggered schedule.
  • Starting on Jan. 23, each team will play five games (one against each of the other squads).
  • From there, a playoff round determines the four semifinal teams.
  • The top seed faces the fourth seed, while the second takes on the third. They will be single-elimination series.
  • Finally, the 2021 Isobel Cup Final will take place on Feb. 5.

Of course, the NWHL’s press release acknowledges that COVID-19 could disrupt such plans.

Other details

Without fans in attendance, that bubble setup has a chance to work out.

Naturally, it’s crucial to get players tested. The NWHL announced that Yale Pathology Labs will conduct “regular testing” during the bubble to award the 2021 Isobel Cup.

Maybe the best details surfaced regarding how players will be treated:

All of the professional players who signed contracts this year for the NWHL season will be compensated in full, despite the condensed game schedule. Players were given the opportunity to opt-out of the tournament and still receive their complete salaries. At this date, more than 95 percent of the players have committed to the competition, giving each team a full playing roster for Lake Placid – the site of the iconic “Miracle on Ice” by the U.S. Olympic Team in 1980. Following local and national health guidelines, NWHL teams began voluntary workouts in September and started official practices and workouts in October.

Sounds promising overall.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.