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Bob Corkum named U.S. women’s hockey head coach

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Bob Corkum, who played 12 NHL seasons, succeeds Robb Stauber as head coach of the U.S. women’s hockey team this season.

Corkum was announced as head coach Monday, along with assistants nine-year NHL defenseman Brian Pothier and Joel Johnson, who is in his 14th year on the University of Minnesota women’s team’s coaching staff. Corkum’s deal is through the 2019 World Championship. Pothier and Johnson were named on the staff only for next week’s Four Nations Cup.

Reagan Carey, director of U.S. women’s hockey since 2010, stepped down to pursue other opportunities.

Corkum previously was an assistant coach for the U.S. women’s under-22 team and head coach for the U.S. men’s team at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. He played center for seven NHL teams between 1990 and 2002.

Stauber, a former Los Angeles Kings goaltender, was U.S. women’s head coach for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, guiding teams to world and Olympic titles. PyeongChang marked the Americans’ first Olympic hockey gold since the first Winter Games women’s hockey tournament in 1998.

Stauber and his wife were named co-head coaches of the newest NWHL team, the Minnesota Whitecaps, in May.

It is unknown if Stauber could return to the U.S. coaching staff before the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

The U.S. plays its first international tournament since the Olympics next week at the Four Nations Cup in Saskatchewan, an annual event that also includes Canada, Finland and Sweden.

The roster includes all of the stars from the Olympic team save captain Meghan Duggan, who is sitting out with an injury but plans to return to the national team later in this Olympic cycle, and twins Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, who are pregnant.

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Hannah Brandt, Olympic gold medalist, to practice with Minnesota Wild

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Hannah Brandt will become the latest U.S. female hockey player to practice with an NHL team on Dec. 14.

Brandt will skate with her home state’s Minnesota Wild as part of the club’s Girls’ Hockey Weekend. Brandt plays her club hockey for the Minnesota Whitecaps of the NWHL.

The 24-year-old forward tallied a goal and an assist in her Olympic debut in PyeongChang, helping the U.S. to its first Olympic hockey title since the first women’s tournament at Nagano 1998.

Brandt also garnered attention at the Games given her sister, Marissa, who was adopted from South Korea, played for the host nation. It marked the first time a U.S. Olympian’s sibling competed for a different nation at the same Winter Olympics in any sport.

In 2014, U.S. Olympians Hilary Knight and Anne Schleper skated with the Anaheim Ducks and Tampa Bay Lightning, respectively. Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados practiced with the Edmonton Oilers less than a month after the Sochi Olympics.

Knight has said she hopes to play in an NHL preseason game.

One woman has played in the NHL — 1998 Canadian Olympic goalie Manon Rheaume in exhibition games in 1992 and 1993.

(h/t The Ice Garden)

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NHL helped end USA Hockey, women’s national team wage dispute

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The NHL’s support of women’s hockey included the league stepping in at the last moment to end a wage dispute between USA Hockey and national team players threatening to boycott the 2017 World Championship on home ice.

Two people familiar with the situation said the NHL agreed to pay USA Hockey to help fund the four-year agreement reached in March 2017. The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the league and USA Hockey have not made that information public.

The NHL also supports the idea of one women’s professional league and has several member teams involved in both leagues.

The Buffalo Sabres purchased the Buffalo Beauts in December to become the NHL’s first franchise to fully own an National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) team. The Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens each have partnerships with Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) teams based in their respective cities.

The NHL has been careful to avoid the appearance of favoring one league over the other. Commissioner Gary Bettman told the AP last month he has no interest in forming a third league because he doesn’t want the NHL “to look like a bully” by pushing the existing leagues out of business.

Players want a single North American women’s professional hockey league. Bettman does, too. And now NWHL founder and Commissioner Dani Rylan is on record saying she is working toward that objective.

“One league is inevitable,” Rylan wrote in an email to the AP, her strongest statement regarding a potential merger with the rival CWHL.

Rylan’s comments come nearly four years after she split from the CWHL to establish the NWHL, which became the first women’s hockey league to pay its players a salary.

The investor-funded NWHL has provided a framework for how a pro women’s league can function, but most observers agree that two leagues competing for the same talent pool and limited financial resources isn’t going to last — or help the game grow.

The U.S.-based NWHL, in its fourth season, grew to five teams after expanding into Minnesota this year. The CWHL, in its 12th season, began paying its players a salary for the first time last year and has six teams, including ones in Worcester, Massachusetts, and China.

Rylan is now echoing what Jayna Hefford said in July upon being named the CWHL’s interim commissioner. The former Canadian star called the formation of one league “a priority” and projected it could happen within two years.

Rylan’s comments also come after both leagues discussed merger options this summer, a person with direct knowledge of the discussions told The AP. Also on the table is an NWHL proposal for both league champions to compete in an end-of-season playoff, the person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the talks were private.

Rylan confirmed she’s spoken to Hefford, and added: “There is a path, and Jayna and I and our business partners will continue those discussions.”

Hefford expressed cautious optimism regarding the possibility of joining forces.

“It’s certainly something we have to figure out,” she said, while noting she’s still new on the job. “I’m trying to understand what the challenges are, what the roadblocks are and try to figure out a way to get us to the point where we have one truly professional women’s hockey league.”

Hefford was scheduled to meet this week with NHL officials, including Bettman, for the first time since replacing former commissioner Brenda Andress.

Bettman is hesitant of the NHL assuming control of the CWHL or NWHL because, as he put it, “we don’t believe in their models.”

“We need to start on a clean slate,” Bettman said.

“If at some point the leagues say, ‘We’ve had enough, we don’t see this as a long-term solution, we’d like you to start up and we’ll discontinue operations,’ then we’ll do it. But we’re not pushing it,” he said. “If we’re going to get involved, it cannot fail, which means it has to be on us.”

Rylan, who previously worked at the NHL, took exception to the comments.

“What’s it like when Gary Bettman tells the media the model for our women’s league doesn’t work? Of course, it’s really disappointing,” said Rylan, who nonetheless called Bettman a “gracious adviser.”

“Can we improve? No question about it,” she added. “If Gary and more NHL owners want to get involved in women’s hockey, that’s an awesome an exciting thing. Let’s get started now.”

Hayley Wickenheiser, a retired six-time Olympian and newly hired Maple Leafs assistant director of player development, said, “I think the NHL should and could do more and in a heartbeat make it happen.” But she placed more of an onus on the players to make it happen.

“They need to take control and move it forward, and the NHL is there and ready when they are,” said Wickenheiser, the first woman to be hired to a hockey operations role.

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