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Volume 26 No. 207
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NWHL May Add Canada-Based Teams In Light Of CWHL Folding

The CWHL consisted of six teams based in three different countries this past season
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The CWHL consisted of six teams based in three different countries this past season
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The CWHL consisted of six teams based in three different countries this past season
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The NWHL is "exploring the idea of creating two Canadian-based franchises" in light of the CWHL's news that it "would cease operations," according to Hailey Salvian of THE ATHLETIC. A source said that the NWHL will "'absolutely' look at adding one or two Canadian teams for next season, with the top options being Montreal and one of the Greater Toronto Area teams." The CWHL’s Calgary franchise would "not be viable unless a major donor stepped in to help the NWHL with costs." NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan confirmed the "possibility of expanding the league as soon as this fall." The CWHL had six teams based in three countries this past season. Rylan in a statement said that the NWHL and CWHL "met in January to talk about steps to create one unified league and the two leagues agreed to meet again in April." But CWHL BOD Chair Laurel Walzak and interim Commissioner Jayna Hefford said that the decision to "cease operations was not a coordinated effort with either the NWHL or NHL" (THEATHLETIC.com, 3/31).

OUT OF NOWHERE: Former Gov. General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson said that she is "stepping in to attempt to resurrect" the CWHL. Clarkson, who donated the league’s championship trophy, the Clarkson Cup, said, "I’d like to talk to women to see if we can salvage this." The GLOBE & MAIL's Rachel Brady notes a week after the Calgary Inferno won the Clarkson Cup, the league BOD yesterday said that the CWHL will "cease operations as of May 1 because its business model was 'economically unsustainable.'" The teams were "stunned when they received the news." Hefford and Walzak said that sponsorships were "not generating enough revenue to keep the league going long-term" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/1). In Calgary, Brandon McNeil writes the news is "especially surprising given that the CWHL had some decent numbers for the season." In fact, 175,000 fans "tuned in to watch this year’s Clarkson Cup." Inferno F Dakota Woodworth: "We had no indication that was ... going to happen. With the year that women’s hockey had and the year our league had makes it feel really crazy that it’s happening now" (CALGARY HERALD, 4/1).

NO OTHER OPTION: Walzak said, "We’ve exhausted our options. We’ve spoken to many different constituents, whether that’s sponsors or advertisers, in terms of driving that revenue. Really it was only up until last week when it became clear that additional funding is not available." In Toronto, Kevin McGran notes the CWHL "underwent a sea change over the last 12 months," as founding Commissioner Brenda Andress was "replaced by Hefford." Former BOD member Graeme Roustan, one of the "biggest donors and backers of the league until a falling out last year, was incensed at the decision to shutter its doors" (TORONTO STAR, 4/1). In N.Y., Seth Berkman notes in June '17, the CWHL announced its "expansion to China with the addition of two teams." The move was "intended to present a wealth of sponsorship and other business opportunities." Three months later, the CWHL began "paying players for the first time." Under a salary cap of $100,000 (all figures C), player stipends "ranged from $2,000 to $10,000." That figure was the same this season, but there were "signs that the growth of the league was not as bountiful as had been expected, including the Chinese clubs’ merging into one franchise" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/1).

TIME TO STEP IN? The AP's John Wawrow noted the CWHL’s demise leaves the NWHL as the "only women’s professional league in North America," and it "re-opens questions as to whether the NHL should step in and create one league with teams on both sides of the border." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that the NHL’s position "remains unchanged at this point" (AP, 3/31). ESPN.com's Emily Kaplan cited sources as saying that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has "gone on the record several times to say that he doesn't want to intervene with either league as long as they both exist in their current states." But with one league folding, the NHL "may now step in and have a meaningful contribution to women's hockey." The NHL contributed financially to both the CWHL and NWHL last season, though a source said the amount paid to each league was "less than six figures" (ESPN.com, 3/31).