In shocking news, it was announced yesterday that the Canadian Women’s Hockey League will be ceasing operations effectively May 1st, 2019.
A key note from the press release was this:
“Unfortunately, while the on-ice hockey is exceptional, the business model has proven to be economically unsustainable.”
This is an interesting note indeed given the recent success of the Clarkson Cup the weekend prior which brought in 175,000 viewers, a record for Professional Women’s Hockey.
Since the announcement the NWHL has issued a series of statements starting with the following:
A major takeaway from the statement is that it acknowledges the fact that the two leagues were meeting, and had more meetings planned for this month. However, with the recent announcement by the CWHL those meetings have been canceled.
When reached for comment about the players and fans up in Canada, NWHL Commissioner and Founder Dani Rylan had the following to say:
“We will pursue all opportunities to ensure the best players in Canada have a place to play. Those conversations have started already and have quickly become a priority.”
With these comments a lot of speculation has begun in regards to what the NWHL will do. While a major theme to this past season was the players wanting one league, the more likely preferred scenario would have been for the two leagues to merge. However, given that both leagues have differing business models, logistically there would be a lot of hurdles both sides would have to overcome including the ultimate goal of having all of the players paid a living wage and how that would be accomplished.
A while back during this past season comments by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman were made noting that both the CWHL and NWHL business models were not ideal to how the NHL would like and insinuated that if both leagues were to fold then the NHL would step in to create a professional women’s hockey league of their own. Obviously these comments, or at least the way the comments were made, did not sit well with many. It also shows how out of touch Bettman is when it comes to the women’s game and why their business models are constructed the way they are.
Now with the NWHL as the only professional women’s hockey league, whether Bettman likes their business model or not, it is time for the NHL to embrace them and get behind them 100 percent to help them grow.
Currently the NWHL has five teams based in Buffalo, Minnesota, Boston, Metropolitan (New Jersey), and Connecticut. Of the five, three have partnerships with NHL franchises while the Buffalo Beauts are owned by the Pegula Family who own the Sabres. The only franchise to not have a partnership with an NHL franchise is Connecticut.
For the CWHL they have three teams with NHL partnerships that could come into the NWHL to make it an eight team league starting this upcoming season if the NWHL chose to. Those three teams would be Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary. It also helps as they are three of the four most marketable teams in the CWHL. The fourth being Markham.
With the World’s starting on April 4th, one would have to agree that the timing is horrible to announce this news. The CWHL has 25 players playing in the tournament, and now instead of being asked on ice World’s questions, instead they will be bombarded with off ice questions pertaining to the CWHL folding. It’s not fair to the women, the game, and their mutual growth.
In due time we will see what both the NWHL and NHL will do in regards to this latest news, but one thing we must be is patient. There are a lot of moving parts right now, and we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.
As more information becomes available, we will report on it.
We also highly recommend reading this amazing article by Michelle Jay of The Ice Garden: