PHILADELPHIA -- The University of Delaware will become the 45th NCAA Division I women's hockey program for the 2025-26 season.

The formation of the program is the culmination of a yearlong feasibility study funded by the NHL and NHL Players' Association Industry Growth Fund.

The move also comes as part of a multitiered partnership with the Philadelphia Flyers.

"We have been studying the [Football Bowl Subdivision] transition and a part of that was also adding a women's sport, and women's ice hockey made a tremendous amount of sense," Delaware athletic director Chrissi Rawak said Saturday. "I have to give Kevin [Westgarth, NHL vice president hockey development and strategic collaboration] some credit here because he was the one that said what about a partnership with the Flyers. And honestly it started from there."

Rawak counts herself as a long-time Flyers fan, but said what makes the Flyers-Delaware association so important is the people that will be part of it.

"From the very beginning it was clear that this partnership is going to matter to the Flyers organization and that is because they are incredibly aligned with what we value," she said. "And there's no doubt in my mind that this partnership will quickly put our program in a position to be successful.

"The pillars of our partnership will be growing the game of hockey, community engagement and launching a world-class women's ice hockey program. We both feel a responsibility to invest in our community and utilizing the game of ice hockey as the vehicle is exciting and special."

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Through the partnership, Delaware women's hockey players, as well as other Delaware students, will have access to career and professional development opportunities, as well as the chance to take part in the Flyers Next Shift program, which was developed to allow college-age women to shadow professional women throughout the Flyers organization on a game night.

The Flyers and Delaware also will co-host youth hockey clinics at Fred Rust Ice Arena on the school's campus in Newark, Delaware, and the Flyers Community Caravan will make additional visits to Delaware during the offseason.

"We are extremely excited to announce that we have partnered with the University of Delaware to support the development of their first-ever NCAA Division I women's ice hockey program," Flyers president of hockey operations Keith Jones said. "It's incredible news on that front and exciting from our side as well as we want to continue to develop women's hockey in this area. We will work with the University of Delaware to help develop a first-class women's ice hockey program and support their community engagement while continuing to grow the game of hockey in our local communities."

Allison Coomey, who was named coach Tuesday and dropped the ceremonial puck before the Flyers played the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, said having a partner like the Flyers could provide an edge in recruiting.

"Obviously being affiliated with an NHL team will just bring the interest of recruits," she said. "And then the partnership, working with our current student-athletes, being able to sell that as something that's important and that is meaningful to for whatever profession they're striving for at the University Delaware. ... I think those things too are not only growing the game in our region and maybe down the line creating future Delaware players because of it."

Delaware is the latest school the NHL has worked with on a feasibility study, and Westgarth said the League will continue to search for more opportunities to help grow the game.

"When anybody's looking to kind of where hockey is going, the NHL is the North Star," Westgarth said. "It's adding opportunity, access, exposure to our sport and really just telling the stories of how successful our student-athletes are in college. ... I think also just being able to serve the game off the ice, there's going to be tons of opportunities for students who might not have had access to our game to either work with the Delaware Blue Hens, work with the Philadelphia Flyers, and really just expand the number of people that can get involved in our game. At the end of the day, that's what we're all here to do."