Connecticut Whale sold, NWHL adds third private owner

The Connecticut Whale celebrate a goal against the Boston Pride. (Michelle Jay/NWHL)

The six-team National Women’s Hockey League added a third private owner Monday by approving the sale of the Connecticut Whale.

The group of investors is led by Tobin Kelly, a mergers and acquisitions specialist with strong hockey ties.

The Whale are based in Danbury and were owned and operated by W Hockey Partners, which took control of the NWHL’s original four franchises for the purpose of selling the teams to private interests last year. The teams were previously operated by the league.

The push for private ownership comes in bid to increase the financial base for a league that was established in 2015 and the first to pay female hockey players a salary. Last month, the NWHL announced it was doubling the salary cap to $300,000 a team based on projections it is making strides in achieving financial stability entering its seventh season.

“Tobin’s commitment to supporting our athletes, building community partnerships and enhancing the fan experience represents another significant milestone,” NWHL Commissioner Tyler Tumminia said in a statement.

Kelly is from Needham, Massachusetts, and oversees numerous organizations in various roles. He is the founder of Arc Hockey, an equipment and apparel company, and established New Hampshire’s Youth Pond Hockey Festival, which is described as being the largest outdoor youth tournament in the United States.

Kelly has also coached girls hockey teams at the youth and high school levels.

“Finalizing the purchase of the Whale with my co-investors is the culmination of a dream that I have held for decades,” said Kelly, whose ownership group is called Shared Hockey Enterprises. “All of us who have established SHE are excited to continue the amazing growth made by the NWHL and to fulfil the NWHL’s goal of providing the opportunity for elite women athletes to earn a living wage playing the sport they love.”

The Metropolitan Riveters, Minnesota Whitecaps and Buffalo Beauts remain under control of W Hockey Partners. The Boston Pride are owned by Miles Arnone, who also has a stake in the Johanna Neilson Boynton-led BTM ownership group of the Toronto Six, who were established last year.

BTM plans to add a team in Montreal for the 2022-23 season.

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