May 31, 2020

25° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Winnipeg Free Press


Help us deliver reliable news during this pandemic.

We are working tirelessly to bring you trusted information about COVID-19. Support our efforts by subscribing today.

No Thanks Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Women's hockey deserves NHL support


Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/4/2019 (417 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The best female hockey players on the planet are currently pushing themselves to the limits of their abilities at the Women’s World Hockey Championship in Finland.

But what happens when the North American players return home, likely with gold and silver medals dangling from their necks? Will they have a league to call their own, somewhere to showcase their elite skills when not representing their countries?

Chris Donovan / The Canadian Press files</p><p>The Markham Thunder hoisted the CWHL’s Clarkson Cup in 2018.</p>

Chris Donovan / The Canadian Press files

The Markham Thunder hoisted the CWHL’s Clarkson Cup in 2018.

The collapse of the six-team Canadian Women’s Hockey League has plunged the future of the female game into disarray, especially in Canada.

On March 31, just five days before the world championship opened, the CWHL abruptly announced that, because of financial issues, it will cease operations after 12 seasons. The league has four teams in Canada, one in suburban Boston and a sixth in China.

That leaves one remaining professional destination in North America — the rival National Women’s Hockey League, which operates franchises in Boston, Buffalo, Connecticut, Minnesota and New Jersey. The NWHL promptly promised to expand into Canada, adding teams in Toronto and Montreal.

But that doesn’t come close to filling the void that will be left by the death of the CWHL. The bottom line? If the Canadian-based league is allowed to die without a proper replacement, there will be far fewer places for women to play a sport that is considered a birthright on this side of the border.

Hockey analysts who have weighed in on the issue agree there is only one practical long-term solution — a single North American league for women that has the full backing of the National Hockey League. Interestingly, the NHL owns the rights to the trademark "WNHL."

Shortly after the death of the CWHL was announced, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email, "We recognize that having professional options is important to aspiring young women hockey players. If those options were to become unavailable, the NHL would consider helping to create alternatives."

Well, Mr. Daly, the time has come. Last season, the NHL gave $50,000 each to the NWHL and the CWHL. Now, with the Canadian-based loop no longer in operation, the NHL will give the full allotment of $100,000 to the NWHL.

The cash–rich NHL has a moral obligation to do more than simply collect outlandish ticket revenues from its ravenous fan base. It has a vested interest in growing the game, regardless of the gender of the players.

In the world of pro sports, that is just a drop in the proverbial bucket. The cash-rich NHL has a moral obligation to do more than simply collect outlandish ticket revenues from its ravenous fan base. It has a vested interest in growing the game, regardless of the gender of the players. It’s time for the NHL to step up in a more materially significant fashion.

A single league supported by the financial and marketing resources of the NHL would have the potential to develop into a money-making venture, just as the Women’s National Basketball Association has, thanks to the full backing of the NBA.

"An NHL-backed league, like the WNBA or National Women’s Soccer League, is the obvious solution. Everyone knows it," Sportsnet analyst and Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Elliotte Friedman wrote recently. "This puts the female players and stakeholders in an uncomfortable position. They don’t want to say anything that causes a problem, but they want the NHL to stop waiting."

When our best female hockey players return home from Finland, the NHL should be waiting to greet them with news of a brighter future rising from the ashes of a troubled past.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.