Oh, Canada: NWHL confirms plans to expand into Toronto

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2016, file photo, National Women's Hockey League All-Star players take time for a "selfie" before the start of an all-star game at Harborcenter in Buffalo, N.Y. A person with direct knowledge of the plans tells The Associated Press the U.S.-based National Womens Hockey League is in the process of establishing an expansion franchise in the Toronto area, Tuesday, April 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2016, file photo, National Women's Hockey League All-Star players take time for a "selfie" before the start of an all-star game at Harborcenter in Buffalo, N.Y. A person with direct knowledge of the plans tells The Associated Press the U.S.-based National Womens Hockey League is in the process of establishing an expansion franchise in the Toronto area, Tuesday, April 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert, File)

Professional women’s hockey is set to return to Canada, with the National Women’s Hockey League announcing Wednesday it is expanding into Toronto.

The yet-to-be-named franchise has an ownership group led by former Harvard captain Johanna Boynton, features former Brown coach Margaret “Digit” Murphy as its president and already has five players under contract, the NWHL said in a three-page news release.

“Launching our first team in Canada is a pivotal and proud moment for the NWHL,” league founder and commissioner Dani Rylan said in the statement.

The Toronto team increases the U.S.-based NWHL’s number of franchises to six and comes a year after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League folded after 12 seasons because of financial instability.

The NWHL was founded in 2015, becoming North America’s first pro women’s league to pay its players a salary. It currently has teams in Boston; Monmouth Junction, New Jersey; Danbury, Connecticut; Buffalo, New York; and Saint Paul, Minnesota.

The move north of the border comes a little over a week after The Associated Press first reported the NWHL’s plans.

Murphy has played a lead role in establishing contacts and recruiting players.

All five players signed previously played in the CWHL, with the most notable being Shiann Darkangelo, a member of the 2016 world championship-winning U.S. team. The four other players are Canadians: forward Taylor Woods, defensemen Kristen Barbara and Emma Greco and goalie Elaine Chuli.