Canada's Lisa Haley named NWHL's senior vice-president of hockey operations

·5 min read

Lisa Haley's burgeoning portfolio now includes the job of National Women's Hockey League senior vice-president of operations.

The 47-year-old from Westville, N.S., is already head coach of both Ryerson University's women's hockey team, and the Hungarian team competing in May's women's world championship in Nova Scotia.

The six-team NWHL completed its sixth season Saturday when the host Boston Pride hoisted the Isobel Cup.

The league hired Haley to oversee multiple league operations including the draft, player development and relationships with other hockey entities.

"How I see it all fitting together is obviously tapping into all 24 hours of the day," Haley told The Canadian Press.

"I think this role with the NWHL is one that I feel I can rely a lot on my past experience. The work won't be easy, but it will be familiar just in terms of the hockey operations side of things, which is something I've been doing for the majority of my professional life."

Haley, who lives in Cobourg, Ont., was an assistant coach of Canadian women's teams that won Olympic gold in 2014 and a world championship in 2012.

She's coached U Sports women's hockey for more than 20 years, first with the Saint Mary's Huskies in the Atlantic University Sport conference and then the Rams for the last decade in Toronto.

The NWHL, which pays annual player salaries reportedly up to US$15,000, expanded into Canada last year with the Toronto Six. The league has yet to confirm reports of further expansion into Montreal.

The Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Minnesota Whitecaps and Metropolitan Riveters (New Jersey) are the league's American clubs.

The NWHL's reach into Canada continues, however, with the addition of Haley to its front office.

"Lisa Haley has built a distinguished hockey career as a coach and player development leader in Canada," NWHL interim commissioner Ty Tumminia told The Canadian Press in an email.

"Her relationships with stakeholders at both amateur and professional levels will help drive the continued growth of the NWHL and women's hockey."

Haley won't speculate on what her hiring means for the NWHL's relationship with the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association (PWHPA).

PWHPA players, including the stars of the Canadian and American national teams, refuse to play in the NWHL as they seek a league that allows them to play hockey for a living, and provides the competitive supports the men's pro leagues have.

Hockey Hall of Famer and four-time Olympic gold medallist Jayna Hefford is the face of the PWHPA.

She and Haley have a relationship because Haley coached her on the Canadian women's team.

"I know Jayna Hefford well," Haley said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for her. She's got every intention to create a viable professional women's hockey league as well.

"Whether that brings these two entities together or not, I guess that remains to be seen and that's beyond something that I can control.

"I'm passionate about having a professional league and I'm willing to be part of what the conversation needs to look like for that to happen."

Tumminia told CP in the email "we want everyone involved in women's hockey to work together to advance the sport."

The Rams' 2020-21 season wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, Haley had time between trips to Hungary to join the Toronto Six as an assistant coach to Digit Murphy for a shortened season.

The NWHL attempted to run an abbreviated season and the Isobel Cup playoffs in Lake Placid, N.Y., over two weeks in late January and early February.

The league halted the season on the eve of the semifinals because several people tested positive for the coronavirus. The Isobel Cup was completed Friday and Saturday in Boston.

Conversations with Tumminia in Lake Placid led to Haley's hiring.

"I had a lot to say to Ty in terms of how things were running with the tournament and in some aspects around the operations side of things, and just had a few questions," Haley said.

"We both agreed we wanted to finish that conversation. She did reach out to me shortly after and talk about what type of knowledge I could bring and what the role could look like with the league."

Tumminia, a former minor league baseball executive and owner, took over as interim commissioner last year for NWHL founder Dani Rylan Kearney.

"It didn't take long in my conversations with Lisa to understand and appreciate just how passionate she is about the women's game and her motivation to help strengthen and grow the NWHL," Tumminia said.

"Her depth of knowledge in the sport and in particular with player development and scouting is an area I value given my own experiences in baseball.

"We spoke about how we can grow those areas in our league and elevate our player draft and free agency process."

Haley wasn't behind the Six bench with Murphy last Friday, when Toronto fell 6-2 to the Pride in the semifinal.

Haley intended to fly from Budapest directly to Boston after a women's team camp, but found out U.S. travel restrictions don't allow travellers from Hungary to enter the country.

She instead headed home to Ontario to observe the 14-day quarantine mandated by the Canadian government.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press