Retired U.S. national team captain Natalie Darwitz and former Team Canada coach Daniele Sauvageau head a list of four women and two men named general managers of the newly established Professional Women’s Hockey League’s original six franchises on Friday.
Darwitz is staying home to oversee the the PWHL’s team in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Sauvageau also will be working in familiar surroundings as GM in Montreal, where she established Canada’s first only recognized high performance women’s hockey training center.
Rounding out the hirings are former Hockey Canada executive Gina Kingsbury (Toronto), Michael Hirshfeld (Ottawa), who spent the past seven years serving as the NHL Coaches’ Association’s executive director, Danielle Marmer (Boston) and Pascal Daoust (New York).
All six have extensive coaching and player development experience and ties to women’s hockey.
“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,” PWHL senior vice president of hockey operations Jayna Hefford said in a released statement. “Securing highly qualified general managers was a priority to help build strong foundations of each of our original six PWHL markets, and delivering professional standards for all players.”
The six become the first employees of the league-controlled and yet-to-be-named franchises. Their hiring comes on the day the PWHL opens a 10-day free-agent period in which teams are allowed to sign three players, and followed by a 15-round draft on Sept. 18.
The GMs will be responsible for hiring their coaching and support staffs, with training camps set to open in November and the league to launch play in January.
The 39-year-old Darwitz is from Eagan, Minnesota, and regarded among the state’s most high-profile women’s players. She spent the past two seasons as associate head coach of the University of Minnesota women’s hockey team. As a player, she won three Olympic silver medals and three world championship gold medals representing the U.S., and was a two-time NCAA champion playing for Minnesota.
The 61-year-old Sauvageau coached the Canadian women to win their first Olympic gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, and was the first female coach of a Canadian Hockey League team. She spent the 1999-2000 season as an assistant coach of the QMJHL Montreal Rocket. A former police officer, she also founded the University of Montreal’s women’s hockey program in 2009.
The 41-year-old Kingsbury heads to Toronto after spending the past five years as general manager of Hockey Canada’s national women’s team programs. She oversaw teams that won the Olympic gold at the 2022 Beijing Games and world championship titles in 2021 and ’22. From Saskatchewan, she was a national team player and member of two Olympic gold medal-winning teams.
Hirshfeld is heading to Ottawa, after spending the past seven years overseeing the NHLCA, which in 2020 launched a female developmental program in identifying 50 candidates to work directly with NHL coaches in advanced training sessions.
Marmer is from Vermont and takes over in Boston, where she spent the past year as the NHL Bruins player development and scouting assistant — the team’s first woman to hold an on-ice role. She played college hockey at Quinnipiac, and later served as the women’s team’s director of player development from 2019-22.
Daoust will oversee the New York team after spending the past eight years serving as GM of the QMJHL’s team in Val-d’Or. He previously was an assistant coach and won two national titles with the University of Montreal’s women’s hockey team.
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