National Women’s Hockey League Commissioner Dani Rylan announced that she expects two new teams in the upcoming season.
Not only does that expand the five team league by over 30% but it also brings Canada into the league for the first time. The current teams are the Minnesota Whitecaps, Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale and Metropolitan Riveters. Four out of those five teams are partnered with a specific NHL team as only the Connecticut Whale do not have a partner. The two new teams are expected to be in Montreal and Toronto and I would guess partnered to their corresponding NHL team.
This news is even more important than usual. On Sunday, competitor league, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), folded and announced there would be not a season next year. The CWHL has six teams not only in Canada but also in the US and China. Multiple CWHL teams responded by stating the intention to maintain the team and women’s hockey in their city. Though those commitments are different in scale, the intention is not to go away quietly as the league dissolves.
The NHL’s financial contribution to the NWHL is also expected to grow.
ESPN writer Emily Kaplan reported that her sources are saying the NHL will double its contribution to double next year. This past year, the NHL gave $50,000 each to the CWHL and the NWHL. It is expected that all $100,000 will now go to the NWHL. Up until now, the NHL’s only involvement with the NWHL has been financial. That is not likely to change and any increase in financial assistance to the NWHL needs to be approved the players association.
Commissioner Rylan is also expected to have conversations with not only the corresponding NHL team shareholders in Montreal and Toronto, but also shareholders from the liquidated CWHL league teams. Les Canadiennes de Montreal and the Toronto Furies are the loudest oppositional voices in the wake of the CWHL news. Both stated that they would be playing again this coming season.
This is all a major change in the rapidly expanding world of professional women’s hockey.
The CWHL formed in 2007 as the first professional women’s hockey league. However, the league didn’t pay salaries, only providing ice time, travel, some equipment, and maybe a bonus. The NWHL formed in 2015 as the first professional hockey league that paid women a salary. Much of the capital came through private investment and a later partnership with Dunkin Donuts. That partnership and the involvement with NHL have kept the league alive. However, the league consistently dropped the minimum salary in the last few years. The lowest earning player currently makes $2,500 for the entire season.
All that said, women’s hockey is in a renaissance worldwide. More women are playing hockey than ever before and more will be willing and able to turn pro in just a few years time. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a bright beautiful future!
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