Upper Midwest High School Elite League Launches 2023 Season

by Pete Waggoner

Blaine, MN - The Girls Upper Midwest High School Elite League (UMHSEL) launched the 2023 season with a pair of games from the National Sports Center Wednesday evening.  Featuring a 166 game schedule, the league will play out over six weeks with each team playing around 25 games. The season culminates with the legendary 96-team NIT Tournament at the National Sports Center and Fogerty Arena.  

Winny Brodt-Brown and Chris Peterson founded the league along with Eric Johnson in 2008.  Along with the help of the late John Russo, they were able to forge a path for girls hockey at the high school level with a focus on player development while preparing them for their next high school season and beyond.  

“Looking back to this league about 18 years ago it was John Russo, the Godfather of hockey that really thought that women’s hockey should be pushed along,” Brodt-Brown said on the most recent Overtime Podcast.  “He gave us the credibility and the exposure.”  Brown noted that Johnson was a coach in the boys elite league and his experience and connectivity to the sport at the boys and girls level was an important component.  

Russo approached Brodt-Brown, Natalie Darwitz, Jenny Potter and Krissy Wendell to drive the league.  As household names in Minnesota hockey, the group of players held their love and passion for the game in common and were able to channel the challenges they went through which included searching for opportunities to play.  It was through that experience of fighting for what they loved of hockey that they found a way to pay it forward.  

“I can guarantee that it was we had to fight for everything we got back when we were playing as kids,” said Brodt-Brown when asked of the passion her group of players possess to this day.  “We all had to play with the boys and so I think we’ve taken it upon ourselves that we were the first females that brought high school hockey, youth hockey, college hockey, USA Hockey levels and now professional.  Coach (Laura) Halldorson has a big credit in that because she was a female at the University of Minnesota where we played and we saw how much she did for the game.  I think it was just we are all people that get things done and want to see the game be left better than it was for us.  

The legacy that Halldorson left behind with her players speaks volumes of her leadership.  One of the key takeaways Brodt-Brown would like to see the players have from the UMHSEL is the ability to go back to their high school teams confident and deliver leadership.  

This year, there are 28 teams that participate at the U19 and U16 levels with 6 different states represented.   The NIT will be even more impressive as it blew up from 72 teams last year to the current level of 96 this year, the highest amount of teams ever.  15 teams in the NIT are from Minnesota with 81 traveling from around North America.  With eight sheets of ice utilized at the National Sports Center and two more minutes away at Fogerty Ice Arena, the opportunity to see a lot the best teams in women's hockey from the U19 and U16 levels will be easy the weekend of October 20th - October 23rd.  

For college coaches, the recruiting opportunity is a jackpot.  “No where in the country do you have 90 teams in one building,” Brodt-Brown said.  “They can walk from one rink, watch 30 minutes then you can be on another rink to watch another period, different age groups, 16’s 19’s.” 

This year, the league will have a weekly update on the Overtime Podcast where players will be featured along with other discussion around the league.  We also will have one game announced per week in our spotlight game of the week and we will provide write-ups or weeks in review to the league.  Finally, the majority of the games will be streamed live and you can find them by clicking here

Be sure to listen and subscribe to the Overtime Podcast by clicking here.