In the game of women’s hockey, there was really only one major women’s professional hockey league, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). The CWHL was the natural choice for any female hockey player to go and play after their college careers. That was until last March, when the news broke about the inception of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).
To date, there have been three NWHL summer training camps, held in Connecticut, Boston and New York. CWHL alumni and current CWHL players have been present at all three camps. So what would it take for a CWHL player to want to move to the newly created NWHL?
Here are four reasons to stay in the CWHL and four reasons to make the jump.
NWHL…No thanks, I’ll stick with the CWHL
1. Familiarity: The CWHL has been in operation since 2007, and since then, the league has established a very respectable fan base. The five teams (Toronto, Brampton, Boston, Calgary and Montreal), have been in operation for quite some time now, and have become benchmarks for women’s hockey in their communities. There’s a sense of stability in the CWHL that just doesn’t feel the same in the NWHL.
2. NHL Support: Even though the NWHL has a statement of support from the National Hockey League, the CWHL has the contracts to prove that very support. Three of the five CWHL teams (Toronto, Montreal, Calgary) have sponsorships from their respective city’s NHL clubs.
The NHL has promised the league support via marketing and promotion, but they’re also mentoring their female counterparts when it comes to the business aspect of the franchise. For example, the Toronto Maple Leafs in partnership with the CWHL, hosted the very first CWHL All-Star Showcase in Toronto last December. Not only did the event showcase the best female talent in the league, but it also served as a promotional tool for the CWHL. Sure the event was free, but nearly 7,000 took in the game at Air Canada Centre. Surely many new fans were created that day and it wouldn’t have happened without the support from the NHL.
3. Sponsorship: When it comes to sponsorship, the NWHL doesn’t even come close to comparing to the CWHL at this point. The CWHL has deals in place with some big-name brands such as: Tim Hortons, Westjet, Porter Airlines, Metroland Media, Bauer, Molson Coors, Under Armour, Gongshow, and Scotiabank. Not to metion that Sportsnet is not only a sponsor, but also the official broadcaster of the CWHL.
The network broadcasts the Clarkson Cup, as well as the CWHL All-Star Showcase in national primetime. Sportsnet also gives the feed to the NHL Network, which makes the league accessible to viewers stateside. The CWHL has very reputable brands supporting the league, something that defiantly attracts talent deciding between the two leagues.
4. The Best Competition There Is: Even though the NWHL has some amazing players hitting the ice, so does the CWHL. Caroline Oulette, Julie Chu, Natalie Spooner, Bailey Bram and Genevieve Lacasse are just some of the names making headlines in the CWHL. Hilary Knight is expected to make the transition to the NWHL, and Kelli Stack has already made the jump. But for the best competition in women’s hockey, the CWHL is still the go-to place, at least for the time being.
“ NWHL… Here we come!”
Thank you hockey world for all the love today! A lot of exciting things on the horizon. #NWHL #HistoryBegins
— NWHL (@NWHL_) March 27, 2015
1. Payment: This will be the first time women can play professional hockey, and get paid for it. Reports suggest that the salary cap per team will be set at $270,000, which works out to about $15,000 per player. It’s not a whole lot, but a start.
It’s important to note that just like other professional leagues, general managers do not have to pay their players equally. It’s not quite clear yet how commissioner Dani Rylan plans to pay all the players, but it appears that the franchises will be owned by private entities, unlike the CWHL which owns all its teams. However you look at it, this is a game-changer in female hockey.
2. Visas: With the payment that comes with playing in the NWHL (more info below), it makes obtaining a workers via easier for players and the league. The CWHL was never able to assist international players with visas, because they don’t pay the players. The player would have to get a “real job” in the country in order to allow them to compete in the CWHL. That’s an issue the NWHL won’t have to deal with.
3. Equipment: While the CWHL has a deal with Bauer, the players still need to pay for the majority of their equipment. Dani Rylan is promising to change that. She says since it’s a professional league, the players shouldn’t have to pay for their own gear. Players in the NWHL will have all gear provided to them.
You’ll remember the Janine Weber situation. The Hockey Hall of Fame wanted to house the stick she scored the Clarkson Cup winning goal with. Problem was, she only had two sticks, and couldn’t afford to give up the stick. Fortunately a last-minute deal was struck with a stick company, and Weber was able to give her stick to the HHOF. It’s situations like those that Rylan wants to avoid.
4. An Opportunity To Be Part of History: This is truly an opportunity for the women playing in the very first season of the NWHL to open doors for the daughters of tomorrow. This is the chance for these women to prove to the world that women’s hockey is just as good as men’s, and the girls of the future should never be brought up thinking they cant be a professional hockey player.