League confirms rumor with official statement after lengthy internal review

In a surprising twist to what was a historic season not just for the Professional Women’s Hockey league and PWHL Minnesota, but women’s hockey overall, the league officially announced Minnesota General Manager Natalie Darwitz and the PWHL have “parted ways.”

The move comes after a lengthy internal review, although details of the review have net been specified.

Natalie Darwitz led PWHL Minnesota to the league’s first championship title, winning the Walter Cup on May 29. She is shown above during her stint as an associate head coach at the University of Minnesota.  PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT

Word first surfaced late Thursday in articles posted by the New York Times and The Athletic that Darwitz was no longer going to be the team’s general manager. Darwitz had successfully built a Minnesota team that won the league’s first playoff title and took home the Walter Cup after defeating Boston 3-0 in Game 5 on May 29 .

Rumors swirled from various media sources citing unnamed sources about tensions behind the scenes between Darwitz and head coach Ken Klee. Klee, a former NHL defenseman,  joined the team just days before the season began after initial head coach Charlie Burggraf resigned for personal reasons.

Despite the rumors, the league had not issued an official statement until Saturday. The statement read:

The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) and PWHL Minnesota General Manager Natalie Darwitz have parted ways, effective immediately.

“We appreciate all that Natalie has done for PWHL Minnesota in the league’s inaugural season and her contributions to the team’s championship success. We wish her the best moving forward,” said Jayna Hefford, Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, PWHL.

There is no immediate timeline for the naming of the next PWHL Minnesota General Manager.

The PWHL Minnesota coaching staff will make the team’s player selections in the upcoming draft this Monday, June 10 at 6 p.m. CT. Minnesota owns the third pick in all seven rounds of the PWHL Draft, which will be streamed live on the league’s YouTube channel.

In addition to the league’s statement, Hefford further addressed the situation with select members of the media on Saturday. According to The Associated Press, an internal review was being conducted for much of the season. The Associated Press reported it wasn’t one person but the input of many over the past five-plus months that led to the decision to remove Darwitz as PWHL Minnesota’s GM.

The Associated Press reported Hefford as stating: “The feedback to us was pretty direct and pretty clear that there wasn’t a path forward with the current personnel in place. It was with the work we did throughout the year, and it was clear that a change needed to be made.”

Klee will maintain his role as head coach while the league will conduct a GM search to replace Darwitz. The PWHL Draft is slated for Monday and Klee and the current staff will oversee the draft and any further signings until a new GM is named.

Darwitz is perhaps the most decorated female hockey player in the state and one of the best players the country has produced, winning several international medals and championships with Team USA. She was recently inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame. She has also been successful in her coaching endeavors, which included turning the Hamline University program into a national contender before joining the University of Minnesota as an associate head coach. She was pegged to take over the Hill-Murray girls high school coaching job before taking on the task of being the general manager of PWHL Minnesota.

“We completely recognize the iconic status of Natalie Darwitz in the state of Minnesota. Her incredible contributions, to the PWHL, to building a championship team,” Hefford told the Associated Press. “Certainly, this was the last thing we wanted to happen. But our job is to also do what’s right for the league, and so that’s where we’re at today.”

Read the full Associated Press article here : https://apnews.com/article/minnesota-darwitz-pwhl-gm-womens-hockey-7a941d29d0c54356479ba87c6d63852b

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