The rise of NCAA women's hockey
The GIST: Cue Queen Bey, because pro women’s hockey’s experiencing a renaissance right now, and North America’s top talent has mostly filtered through the NCAA. A beneficiary of the Emerging Sports program that’s been handing out hardware since 2001, women’s hockey’s growing more popular by the day.
- The gals’ college game now boasts 114 programs: 37 DI and five DII schools compete together across five conferences, and DIII competition is even more robust with eight conferences and 72 teams. Katelin Kingsford would be proud.
How it works: At nearly every elite level, hockey’s basics are the same. The rules of women’s and men’s college hockey differ very little from each other or the pros, except for the confusing variability in conferences’ overtime protocols.
- The women’s season starts in late September, with the men only a couple of weeks behind. They take a long break over the holidays, then hit the ice at full speed to race toward the college hockey season’s spring pinnacle: the Frozen Four.
The powerhouses: This year, the Wisconsin Badgers broke a tie with mortal enemy Minnesota for the most national championships, bagging their seventh in a 1–0 win over Ohio State in March. The Badgers have won three of the last four ’ships, cementing their modern dynasty.
Going pro: The North American women’s pro scene has been chaotic at best over the last few years, but the NCAA’s brightest have new hope on the horizon: Last month, the continent’s two pro women’s hockey orgs announced the formation of a joint North American league. Listen to our explainer of the merger, and watch this space.