The National Women's Hockey League may be young, but only one season into its existence, it's already displaying a certain flair for the dramatic. Connecticut Whale head coach Jake Mastel resigned on Thursday, following the resignation of Whale GM Harry Rosenholtz in December. According to a Friday report, the resignations of the two top voices for the league's most successful franchise may have been motivated by a "secret dressing-room meeting," called by NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan in November.
"It had come to her attention that some of the players were unhappy with the way their coach was running practices and games, Rylan said in that meeting. She was aware their head coach was the least-qualified of all the coaches in the league and for that she was sorry," Cimini reports. "If the team wasn't doing so well, she would fire him immediately, Rylan told players, but since the Whale was 4-0, she would wait until the end of the season to let him go."
Per Cimini, Rosenholtz was on vacation at the time and Mastel "was not allowed in the room," though he "heard every word."
Mastel was, in every practical sense, the least qualified of the league's coaches. New York Riveters coach Chad Wiseman, for instance, is a former NHL and AHL player. As Cimini notes, Mastel's experience prior to joining the league was mainly with youth league teams.
2015 was mostly a success for the nascent league. Rylan managed to secure Dunkin' Donuts as a long-term sponsor and even worked out a deal to get the Boston Pride involved with the NHL's Winter Classic.
But it's been a year that's come with plenty of issues as well. Rosenholtz was actually the second GM of the NWHL's Connecticut-based franchise - Chris Ardito stepped down from the post in August.
As a young entity and the first women's professional hockey league to pay its players, Rylan was destined to deal with some upheaval as she attempted to guide the NWHL through its initial season. Some of that aforementioned drama is not only acceptable, but probably to be expected. But when Rylan, also GM of the Riveters and owner of all four of the league's teams, is addressing the players on a team other than the Riveters in their locker room regarding the abilities of their head coach, it's a bad look.
It's a strange situation thanks to Rylan's joint duties as commissioner, owner and GM and one that will likely only be solved by growth and the interest of outside parties both in sponsorship and franchise ownership.
Until then, Rylan has a fine line to walk.