On International Women’s Day, an international woman saved the day.
Minnesota Whitecaps goalie Amanda Leveille shut out the Metropolitan Riveters and Allie Thunstrom scored in overtime on Sunday at Tria Rink in St. Paul in the semifinals of the NWHL playoffs. Minnesota’s 1-0 victory will give the Whitecaps a chance to win their second straight league title.
Despite the drama, watching Leveille win big should never surprise. She won three national titles with the Gophers and an NWHL championship with Buffalo in 2017 before winning another with Minnesota last season.
If Leveille played a more lucrative sport, she’d be rich and famous. With the NWHL trying to survive financially and players needing to treat pro hockey as a second job, Leveille has a slightly different daily routine than, say, Zach Parise.
As a Canadian, she said her visa allows her only to work in hockey. So she works at hockey all day long. She coaches goalies for Os Hockey Training, and had a few of her students on the ice during introductions.
What’s her normal day like?
“With seasons ending it’s settling down a little bit,” she said. “But I get up at 5 a.m. every day, I’m on the ice with whoever’s brave enough to get up at 6 a.m. with me to do private lessons. Then I head over to an academy that I coach at, Gentry, and I’m there for about two hours.
“Then it all starts over again at 3, and I’m coaching from 3 until whenever we practice, which is sometimes 8:50 at night.
“Sometimes I run out of the rink and then go to another practice after so it’s pretty much the whole day. I think the most I’ve ever been on the ice in one day is 11 hours. But, I like being on the ice.”
Many of the world’s best players refuse to play for the league because of low wages. Commissioner Dani Rylan, who attended the game at Tria on Sunday, has asked for patience while she tries to build the league into something resembling the WNBA, which signed its landmark collective bargaining agreement in January after 25 years in existence.
Comparing a startup women’s league with no television deal to established male sports is pointless. What Whitecaps players emphasized was the enthusiasm of their crowd and the opportunity to grow the game by attracting girls to hockey.
“Honestly, really good,” Thunstrom said, when asked how she feels about the league. “We’re playing like we believe in the league and we just want to grow the game, and that’s really been our goal from Day 1. You see the packed house that we had here. Boston sold out a ton of games.
“There is traction. People want to see us play. People want to come out, and it’s been a really special year, because people thought the league was going to fold and now you see the crowds we’re bringing in and the smiles on the young kids’ faces when they come watch. I feel really good about the future of women’s hockey in this league.”
Winny Brodt Brown plays alongside her sister, Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal, and for her father, coach Jack Brodt. Her family is fully invested in her team and league. She noted that the semifinal was played the day after four days of the boys’ high school state tournament, and during a weekend in which the Gophers men’s and women’s teams were playing key games at home.
“I think we have a lot of momentum,” Brodt Brown said. “You have the biggest boys’ state tournament in the country going on, two blocks down. You’d think people would be backing out because everybody’s been in the arenas from Wednesday until today — including all of us.”
Tria Rink’s official capacity is 1,200. Not all of the seats were filled, but there were a lot of fans standing at railings and around the glass.
So the startup league is drawing about as well as Gophers men’s hockey.
“It was electric in here,” Thunstrom said.
Here’s hoping the league can keep the lights on.