Women's Hockey Players Hoping Boycott Spurs NHL To Get Involved
The pro women hockey players hope their announcement about not playing in North America this coming season will "apply pressure on the NHL to act," according to sources cited by Emily Kaplan of ESPN.com. Many players have gone on record "to say they want the NHL to support a women's league with financial and infrastructural resources." The NHL on Thursday said that it will "further explore the situation privately before determining any next steps." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman previously has indicated that he "didn't want to intervene" with either the NWHL or the now-defunct CWHL "as long as they both existed in their current states." Sources said that stance was "mainly because the NHL didn't want to look like it was choosing sides." U.S. F Meghan Duggan: "We've certainly seen a lot of the NHL's statements that have mentioned they would be prepared to step in if there is no viable option for women's ice hockey in North America. If that opportunity presents itself, I trust that they have a vision as well." Duggan added that getting the NHL's support for a women's league "makes a lot of sense." But she added that the women "want a partner that will see the players' value and share their long-term vision" (ESPN.com, 5/2). NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan met with Bettman in early April and said the NHL has committed to become "one of our biggest financial sponsors." In Minneapolis, Randy Johnson notes Rylan has not revealed "specifics of the arrangement." But full financial backing from the NHL "appears to be a goal of the boycott" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/3).
NHL STILL STANDING PAT: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that he "doesn't anticipate 'at this early stage' having women's pro hockey placed on the agenda" for the league's BOG meetings next month. Bettman earlier this week reiterated his position on the women's game, saying, "If there turns out to be a void -- and we don't wish that on anybody -- then we'll look at the possibilities and we'll study what might be appropriate. But at the end of the day, we're not looking to put anybody out of business. And if the NWHL can make a go of it, we wish them good luck." CWHL Players' Association co-Chair Liz Knox: "The NHL's saying, 'Until there's a void in women's hockey we're not going to step in.' Well, here's a void. Here's the players saying this is not enough. We've earned better than this. We've earned the respect we have, and we deserve what we're asking for" (AP, 5/2). Former Canadian national team member Cassie Campbell-Pascall said, "A sustainable league comes probably with a WNHL, and to me anyone who stands in the way of something more powerful and bigger than that has some ulterior motives" (Sportsnet, 5/2).
ISSUES TO WORK THROUGH: NWHL officials in a statement Thursday said that they "intend to begin their new season in October, despite the promised boycott, and are open to discussions with the players." The league added that it "intends to offer increased salaries and a 50-50 revenue split from sponsorship and media rights deals" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/3). However many players have "indicated a lack of faith" in the league with their "refusal to play in it" (CP, 5/2). In Boston, Marisa Ingemi notes some players over the past couple of years have "not-so-quietly expressed reluctance to participate in the NWHL." U.S. LW Kendall Coyne Schofield, who played last season with the NWHL's Minnesota Whitecaps, outlined some of the league's issues -- "The business model itself, the way the players get treated, the compensation piece." She said, "The product on the ice is not the best product in the world. If we come together as players, we can create the best product in the world." Ingemi notes in the NWHL's second year, player salaries "were halved, which caused a divide between the players and the organization." U.S. RW Hilary Knight: "I understand the growth with any startups, but we're going into Year 5, and a lot of issues (from) the first year are still around" (BOSTON HERALD, 5/3). Coyne Schofield said transparency from the NWHL is "not something I've been aware of through my experience, and the business model of that league I do not feel is sustainable" (Sportsnet, 5/2).
SEEN THIS BEFORE: In N.Y., Seth Berkman writes Thursday's decision "echoes a move" by the U.S. women's national team in March '17, when they "threatened to boycott a world championship tournament until they received more equitable support from USA Hockey." Social media was a "key tool in spreading their message, which ended with increased salary, medical and travel benefits." NWHLPA Dir Anya Battaglino "held several calls with the Canadian league's counterpart in recent weeks." She said that Thursday's announcement was "frustrating and counterproductive and that the players did not make their demands clear to her." Battaglino said that she "would be willing to keep dialogue open with the Canadian league's players association" and added that she was "confident that the NWHL would have many returning players and that the league would grow in its fifth season" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/3).