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NWHL

NWHL-Bauer emails reveal disorganization, financial struggles

Dani Rylan, Chad Wiseman and Mark DeSimone at the NWHL New York Riveters Media Day. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini
Photo Credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini

Wednesday morning, Today’s Slapshot was BCC’d on an anonymous email to the CWHL, the NWHL’s direct competitor, detailing more of the struggles the new league has had with paying vendors, and particularly with paying vendors in a timely fashion. The author of the email requested they have their name withheld from publication.

The email, titled “NWHL LIES,” while histrionic at times, went into many problems the league has had, some real and some imagined. It included screen shots of internal emails between the NWHL and Bauer Hockey between December and January, detailing the NWHL’s failure to pay Bauer and Bauer’s requests for payment for goods sold, many of which were delivered.

The CWHL, the original recipient of the email, had no comment on the matter.

For background information for our readers: in February, Cherie Hendrickson, a practice player on the Boston Pride, tweeted out that she and her fellow players were missing their promised Bauer equipment. Kelley Steadman, practice player for the Buffalo Beauts and one of the top scorers in the league, was also down to only one Bauer Hockey stick, which sparked this article, asking whether players had been playing with old or unsafe equipment for the entire season, as it appeared many of them had.

Bauer Hockey referred media to the NWHL. NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan responded to requests for comment on the tweet with the following statement:

“Bauer Hockey has gone above and beyond what is outlined in our official partnership to ensure we meet the equipment needs of our elite athletes,” Rylan said. “They have been a great partner and supporter of the NWHL in its inaugural season, and we thank them for their continued support of our league as well as women’s hockey in general. We continue to work closely with Bauer to ensure our players continue to receive the equipment they need to play at the highest level possible.”

At the time of the initial article, it seemed unlikely the fault lay with Bauer. Bauer is a company that makes its living through selling and delivering on the promise of equipment. The author of the email sent Wednesday, however, made it very clear both that the fault lay with the NWHL and that the author had a bone to pick with the league.

Readers can peruse the anonymous email below, which has not been edited at all. Any typos or missing punctuation are original to the email.

“I work for the NWHL and this was hard for me to write because I believe in women’s hockey, but I have to tell someone because so many people can get hurt because of what is going on behind closed doors at the league office. Please don’t share my name I want this to be anonymous

“Why is it that every time the NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan says something its a lie?  

“Kate cimini’s article below asks why the players didn’t receive the gear they were promised.  Dani’s response doesn’t answer the question she politically skirts the question, and lies about the relationship with her and Bauer Hockey. The fact is that Bauer Hockey at the time of the Article had the NWHL in collections and was threatening a law suit. See the emails below as proof.

“Everyday I hear that the league has no money to pay its bills, While the players have been paid, and that is great but every payday is a struggle the only reason the players were paid this year was because of Joel Leonoff and George Speirs, no one else has ever helped.” [Author’s note: I assume this “help” referred to is specifically money.]

“Anyone unlucky enough to have entered into a business deal with Dani and the NWHL have been stiffed.  All of our vendors the Arena’s, Equipment companies, clothing vendors, people who have given loans no one has been paid. The league owes hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the companies are lining up to sue

“Dani says  the investors want anonymity that is a lie, she has one main investor Joel Leonoff.  Dani scrambles to get money to pay the players every payday, some paydays are late and she blames holiday’s or the general managers the truth is she didn’t have any money to pay them. she has no money for next week let alone next season, her and Skillan laugh about it ‘if we can pull it off were good if not there is always vegas,’  [Author’s note: the “Skillan” the email writer refers to here is Steve Skillen, NWHL CFO.]

“Now we find out that Chad Wiseman was denied access to the country a week ago because he was here illegally he never had a visa for the whole season and Dani has been paying him cash no taxes, now Immigration and IRS is investigating us, how are we going to expand into Canada? when is this all going to stop? [Author’s note: the assertion that Wiseman was working illegally for the league has been refuted by the NWHL; Wiseman is likely a 1099, or independent contractor, meaning taxes will not be withheld from his salary. S/t to Puck Daddy’s own Jen Neale for the explanation of what a 1099 contractor is.]

“This isn’t right there are a lot of people counting on this league and she lies about everything, she tells investors that she has other investors and its a lie. 

“I have included emails to back up what I’m saying.  

“All of the vendors are lining up to sue the league. And she doesn’t seem to care she has not paid anyone in full.”

The writer of the email clearly has an agenda, though what emailing the CWHL will do other than ensure negative feelings continue to flow between the two leagues is unclear. The CWHL is not typically in the business of smear campaigns and it itself is not a vendor. Emailing media, however, is a different matter.

This anonymous email does do serious damage to the NWHL’s reputation with vendors and paint Rylan and the league in an unflattering and disorganized light.

The screen shots of emails below assert that the NWHL never paid for any of its $83,000 worth of equipment from Bauer Hockey — not the 50 percent up front it promised the company nor any of the payments it was supposed to meet. This modus operandi, while very bad for business, is not uncommon among small businesses and start-ups. When money is this tight payment is regularly prioritized and the NWHL was more focused on paying its players than it was on paying this vendor.

However, the picture these few emails paint is one disorganization and failure to execute grand ideas, a theme with the NWHL this season.

Per these emails, the league has already had its account blocked from further orders and Bauer appears to be threatening the NWHL with a lawsuit, in not so many words.

These actions can do serious harm to future dealings with Bauer but also with other vendors. Should Bauer agree to work with the league again, it is unlikely they will agree to expedite the fitting or shipment of new equipment, or, indeed, agree to sell anything to the league without a “show me the money” moment.

The emails from Bauer to the league can be read here.

It is important to note that the anonymous email-sender did not include the league’s responses to Bauer, or any information on plans the league had going forward.

Today’s Slapshot reached out to the NWHL and Bauer Hockey for comment on the emails. The league and Bauer responded with the a statement agreed upon by both parties and put forth by the NWHL:

“Bauer Hockey has been a great partner and supporter of the NWHL in our inaugural season,” said league Commissioner Dani Rylan. “From the beginning, the NWHL was founded on the principle of paying women to play hockey. In our dedication to pay our players first, we missed a payment with Bauer. We have since paid them and are looking forward to working with Bauer Hockey again this season.”

One refreshing thing to come out of all of this is the league’s willingness to admit to past mistakes and show that it is taking steps to remedy them. Though the NWHL is not yet in its adulthood it has taken a step out of infancy, at the very least.

In an interesting turn of events, however, Bauer did send 88 sticks to the league for the express purpose of use during the postseason, which was supposed to be broadcast on ESPN3. Players from all four teams, however, did not confirm the arrival of missing equipment with media. As such, it is unknown if the league received all the equipment — and paid for all the equipment — it and Bauer had agreed upon at the beginning of the season.

Today’s Slapshot inquired as to whether players had received all their Bauer equipment; the league is in the process of finding said information out.

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