The National Women's Hockey League (Ligue Nationale de Hockey Féminin) was a women's ice hockey league, established in 1999. After the 2006-07 season, the league ceased operations, and its teams moved to the Canadian Women's Hockey League and Western Women's Hockey League.
The League consists of two divisions: the older Eastern Division (later the Eastern and Central Divisions) consists of seven teams based in Ontario
, while the Western Division was formed in 2002
with the addition of the Calgary Oval X-Treme
and the Edmonton Chimos
- however, because the high travel costs for the two teams, the two teams broke off and formed the Western Women's Hockey League
. Although the WWHL currently operates separately from the NWHL, the league is nevertheless considered to be the Western Division of the NWHL, after the two leagues agreed to merge in 2006
(but, as of the end of the 2006-07 season, have not fully done so). Because of the different league structure in the Western Division, only the structure of the Eastern and Central Divisions is discussed in detail here.
Teams in the Eastern and Central Divisions play a 35-game unbalanced but interlocking schedule, with the four teams from the Central Division and the top two teams from the Eastern Division qualifying for the postseason. In the NWHL playoffs, teams play a best-of-three series to determine the Eastern and Central Division champions, who face off for the Clarkson Cup. (Prior to the introduction of the Clarkson Cup, the NWHL Championship Cup was awarded instead).
Teams from the Eastern and Central Divisions do not play against the Western Division teams at all in the regular season or postseason, although as a result of the merge there are plans to merge the NWHL and WWHL there are plans to have a league-wide championship between the Western Women's Hockey League Champions and the champion from the Eastern and Central Divisions. Like their counterparts in the West, teams in the NWHL are eligible for entry into the Canadian women's senior hockey championship, the Esso Women's Nationals, where they may play against the teams from the WWHL during the course of the tournament.
The following is a list of current franchises in all three divisions of the National Women's Hockey League.
Without any other teams to play, the Dolphins and Aeros sought permission to play hockey as 'guest teams' in the NWHL after they withdrew from the league. The Governors for the remaining 5 teams in the NWHL's Eastern and Central divisions voted to allow this 'interleague play' in order to maintain the most teams and spots available for elite female players.
At the end of 2007, these two teams led the vote to suspend operations. As of June 2007, the legal entity of the NWHL remains in place, representing 5 teams, as do the 2 teams in the IWHL. None of these teams are 'icing players'. Only the Brampton Thunder voted against suspending operations and by September 2007, the team's players had agreed to play as the Thunder-Canadettes in the newly formed professional women's hockey league, the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL).
- British Columbia Breakers, Langley, British Columbia
- Calgary Oval X-Treme, Calgary, Alberta
- Edmonton Chimos, Edmonton, Alberta
- Minnesota Whitecaps, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota
- Saskatchewan Prairie Ice, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
- Strathmore Rockies, Strathmore, Alberta
, the championship of the Eastern and Central Division is awarded the Clarkson Cup
, while the (officially unnamed) NWHL Champions Cup
was awarded prior to 2006. Although the Western Women's Hockey League
is considered to be the part of the NWHL, no true league-wide championship has existed since the 2006-07 season, when the two leagues decided to merge. Currently, teams in the Western Division play for the WWHL Champions Cup
. As the Eastern and Central Divisions will not be playing in 2007-08, there is no indication on whether the Clarkson Cup will be awarded to the WWHL champions, or whether it will be awarded at all.
A list of NWHL winners (winner is in bold):
- 2007 - Brampton Thunder vs Montreal Axion
- 2006 - Montreal Axion vs Brampton Thunder, in Brampton
- 2005 - Toronto Aeros vs Montreal Axion, hosted in Brampton
- 2004 - Calgary Oval X-Treme vs Brampton Thunder, hosted in Brampton
- 2003 - Calgary Oval X-Treme vs Beatrice Aeros, hosted in Brampton
- 2002 - Beatrice Aeros vs Brampton Thunder
- 2001 - Beatrice Aeros vs Sainte-Julie Panthères
- 2000 - Beatrice Aeros vs Sainte-Julie Panthères, hosted in Brampton