ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Hockey observers say this was just a matter of time.

Beginning next October, women’s professional hockey will make its debut in the State of Hockey.

It’s taken the past quarter century for the sport to fully embrace girls at the youth, high school and college hockey level. And over that time, no place in the nation has met with more success than Minnesota.

“This opened up a lot of doors for a lot of women’s hockey players,” Winny Brodt Brown, Minnesota’s native hockey daughter, said.

Roseville’s Brodt Brown has played on every hockey stage but one – professional. That’s ending soon.

“We are the State of Hockey and to have a professional team join the ranks of those out on the east coast is really exciting,” Gov. Mark Dayton said.

In 2015, the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) formed with four teams on the east coast: New York, Connecticut, Buffalo and Boston.

In a brief ceremony in St. Paul Tuesday, NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan announced another.

“Minnesota has joined the NWHL, welcome to the Minnesota Whitecaps,” Rylan said.

Commissioner Rylan says 28 women players graduate from Division I programs in Minnesota each year.

Adding the Whitecaps to the professional league will allow more of them to play well into their prime.

“These women are the best at what they do and they’ve earned the right to play professional hockey and that’s why we’re here today,” Rylan said.

And for the state’s inaugural Ms. Hockey, it’s going to give the youngest on ice a new goal to strive for.

“Now those girls coming out of college will have a place to play, it’s a huge opportunity to strive for. Because girls shouldn’t have to stop playing hockey competitively at age 21 or 22,” Brodt Brown said.

It’s expected the Whitecaps will play a 16-game schedule with the league’s other four teams on the east coast.  Where they will play their eight home games has yet to be finalized.

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