The new Professional Women’s Hockey League has announced the six general managers tasked with building their team’s rosters ahead of the PWHL’s inaugural season set to begin in January 2024.
The American franchises will be led by Natalie Darwitz (Minnesota), Pascal Daoust (New York) and Danielle Marmer (Boston). The Canadian general managers are Gina Kingsbury (Toronto), Danièle Sauvageau (Montreal), and Michael Hirshfeld (Ottawa).
The Minnesota franchise has landed a local legend in Darwitz. An Eagan, Minn., native, Darwitz is a three-time Olympian and former Team USA captain. She has spent the last decade coaching high school and college hockey programs in Minnesota, including the last two seasons at the University of Minnesota where Darwitz won two NCAA championships as a player.
Marmer, named GM for the Boston franchise, joins the PWHL having spent the last year as a player development and scouting assistant with the Boston Bruins, where she was the first woman to have an on-ice position in the history of the organization. Prior to that, Marmer was the director of player development at Quinnipiac University, where she played from 2013 to 2017, and was an assistant coach for Connecticut College’s women’s hockey team.
New York general manager Daoust has served as the GM of the QMJHL’s Val-d’Or Foreurs since 2016. He also won two national championships as an assistant coach for the University of Montreal’s women’s hockey team.
Toronto has a general manager with championship experience at the sport’s highest level in Kingsbury. She most recently served as the vice president of hockey operations at Hockey Canada. As general manager of the Canadian women’s national team programs — a role she stepped into in 2018 — Kingsbury won Olympic gold in 2022 and back-to-back world championships in 2021 and 2022. She also won two Olympic gold medals as a member of Team Canada before retiring in 2010.
Hirshfeld will step into a GM role in Ottawa after seven years as the executive director of the NHL Coaches’ Association.
And Sauvageau, an icon in women’s hockey, will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to Montreal. She became the first female coach in QMJHL history when she was hired as an assistant coach for the Montreal Rocket during the 1999-2000 season before leading the Canadian women’s hockey team to its first-ever Olympic gold medal in 2002. Sauvageau coached in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, was a GM (and coach) for the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association Montreal region and was the founding general manager of the University of Montreal women’s hockey team. Sauvageau also launched Centre 21.02 in Verdun, Quebec, in 2019. It was the first recognized high-performance hockey center for female athletes in Canada. Sauvageau also served as the facilities president, CEO and coach. In 2013, she was appointed to the Order of Canada.
“Securing highly qualified general managers was a priority to help build strong foundations in each of our original six PWHL markets and delivering professional standards for all players,” Jayna Hefford, the PWHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations, said in a statement. “The search process identified a lot of impressive candidates from which we’ve assembled an exceptional group with collective experience across the highest levels of the game both on and off the ice.”
The general managers can officially start signing players when the league’s first free agency window opens at 1 p.m. ET on Friday.
Each team can only sign three players during the 10-day window — ending on Sept. 10 — and, according to the league’s news release Tuesday, current or graduating players from NCAA or Canadian university programs are not eligible to sign during this preliminary free-agency period.
The 15-round PWHL Draft on Sept. 18 in Toronto is up next. The six GMs will also be responsible for hiring their teams’ coaches and filling out the support staff.
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