MINNEAPOLIS — There's a new sheriff in town for Minnesota's top professional women's hockey team. Earlier this month, the Minnesota Whitecaps announced that they have hired a San Jose Sharks team official to be the team's next general manager.
According to the team, the Whitecaps have signed Chi-Yin Tse to a multi-year deal as general manager. For the last five years, Tse has worked with the San Jose Sharks in various roles, most recently as the girls' hockey coordinator for the Jr. Sharks.
"I'm looking forward to getting to the rink and really kind of laying down some roots and trying to integrate the community into the facility, integrate the community into our program," Tse said.
For Tse, taking a job halfway across the country also meant taking a leap of faith, one that he wasn't prepared for at first. He told KARE 11 the company that owns the Whitecaps reached out to him for the general manager position in the spring and he declined, saying, "I was kind of set wanting to expand the girls' program" with the Jr. Sharks.
'We're really, really excited about what the future holds'
After researching the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) and the current state of professional women's hockey further over the summer, Tse said he felt ready to take a leap of faith. He explained that he was friends with Dani Rylan, the co-founder and league commissioner of the National Women's Hockey League, which later rebranded to the PHF, from 2015 to 2020. Tse said he knows she "had a lot of struggles" when the league launched.
In the professional women's hockey landscape, the PHF is currently the only league in North America, however, the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association, which many Olympians are a part of, is in the process of launching its own league. The PWHPA's new league was expected to go alongside the PHF's upcoming regular season, but the players association is continuing its Dream Gap Tour, which plays showcase games around the country, this year.
"I just wanted to make sure one, if I had taken the job it was for the right reasons," he said. "And then I knew that PWHPA and the PHF were not seeing eye to eye on things and I just wanted to make sure that the route that I did choose was the one that at least had the groundwork to establish a working league that everybody's working towards. So that was one of the biggest things for me, it's just making sure that PHF was going in the right direction."
While he feels that the PHF is doing a good job with its salary cap, salary disclosures, the new deal with ESPN+ and its expansion into Montreal, he hopes to get more international players in the league.
Tse said one of his priorities as Minnesota's new general manager is getting face time with the community and "getting more girls into our facility just to watch women play. I'm a really big believer on if you see it, you can be it."
'We just skated every day and I worked on my own stuff every day'
Tse is still in the process of moving to Minnesota and said moving to the State of Hockey is "kind of overwhelming, but really kind of cool."
"It's a lot to learn as an outsider coming in and trying to integrate with people, you know, generations of hockey players versus California that are like mostly first-generation hockey players," Tse explained. "So I think the culture will be cool for me just to get back into it and being able to talk hockey with everybody versus having to educate people."
His love for hockey began thanks to the 1994 Major League Baseball strike. As a New York Yankees fan, he was left disappointed when this team couldn't chase their destined World Series. After being turned off from baseball, he picked up one of his friends' hockey sticks and started learning the sport. After about three months of playing street hockey, Tse said he got a pair of rollerblades and started skating every day.
"We're lower-middle income, so didn't have an opportunity to get to the rink every day. My mom and my dad were both working and my brother and my sister are much older than me so they're already out of the house," he said. "So there was no transportation for us. And we just skated every day and I worked on my own stuff every day so I haven't stopped since."
Bobby Long, the director of hockey operations for NLTT - the company that owns the Whitecaps and the Buffalo Beauts of the PHF, said Tse will continue to be an advocate for women's sports. “He has immersed himself into learning as much as he can in his short time already," Long said in a press release.
On Tuesday, the team announced in an email that season tickets were now on sale, with ticket packages ranging from $100 to $200 for three different seating areas. Bar rail seating with a backrest and a rail for food and drinks is the most expensive option at $200, while primary seating at center ice and the sidelines ranges from $150 to $175 and general seating behind the nets cost $100.
According to the team, season tickets include tickets to 12 home games and "special access to any pre-season games." Packages also include discounts for merchandise and alcohol at home games.
"We're really, really excited about what the future holds for this organization and for the league as a whole," Tse said.
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