The newest team of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), the Minnesota Whitecaps, just signed two 2018 Olympic gold medalists: Hannah Brandt and Lee Stecklein.
Having been former Minnesota Gophers (University of Minnesota), Junior Whitecaps and fans of the Whitecaps franchise, it only made sense for Brandt and Stecklein to want to join the Minnesota Whitecaps NWHL team.
In addition to helping Team USA win gold in February, the pair also won the NCAA championship for Minnesota Gophers in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
Brandt helped Team USA to three gold medals in the IIHF World Championships (2012, 2015 and 2017). Stecklein helped capture gold medals in the same tournament in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017. During their collegiate careers, both were named to First Team All-America.
Before the NWHL’s expansion, Brandt was with Connecticut while Stecklein was with Buffalo.
Stecklein isn’t the only star the Whitecaps got from Buffalo. Minnesota has also signed 2018 NWHL Goalie of the Year and former Buffalo Beauts goaltender Amanda Leveille. Like Brandt and Stecklein, Leveille also played for University of Minnesota.
There are now officially three players signed to the Whitecaps’ roster of 25. It is expected that more former Minnesota Gophers will be joining the Whitecaps.
Although Olympians signing elsewhere could be a downfall to the skill of the team, recruiting Gophers could be an effective marketing strategy. Gopher’s fans who are familiar with the names of those who played for Minnesota will be likely to follow the recognisable stars to the local professional rink.
The Whitecaps will be the fifth team in the NWHL and will be making their debut when the 2018-19 season kicks off later this year.