Is girls’s professional hockey nearing a breakthrough second?
With an alphabet soup of vanished leagues littering its historical past, girls’s skilled hockey continues to be awaiting its large second. The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Assn. believes that second is imminent.
The evolution of girls’s professional hockey has been slowed by an absence of funding and philosophical splits that divide gamers whose finest likelihood for fulfillment is in uniting. Leagues born amid nice optimism have found the cruel realities of a recreation that’s costly to function and stays a distinct segment sport to many Americans.
Financial woes sank the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2019. The National Women’s Hockey League misplaced most of its stars the identical yr after they boycotted to protest an absence of medical insurance and being paid too little to make hockey their solely job. The NWHL continues because the seven-team Premier Hockey Federation, however with out many of the elite American and Canadian gamers.
That breakaway group fashioned the nonprofit PWHPA, which barnstorms across the U.S. and Canada and can stage its championships in Southern California this weekend. The PWHPA, which final yr enlisted Billie Jean King’s funding and consulting agency and the group headed by Dodgers controlling proprietor Mark Walter to discover launching a brand new league, is poised to announce a six-team enterprise, in line with a report just lately aired by “Hockey Night in Canada.”
“That report was not completely accurate but there’s some accuracies in it,” stated Jayna Hefford, a four-time Olympic gold medalist for Canada who’s the PWHPA’s lead operations marketing consultant.
“There’s a priority on doing the work and not getting ahead of ourselves. We have a lot of momentum in what we’re doing. We have a lot of confidence in the work that’s been done and the work that continues to be done, and the investor group we’re working with, I don’t think we could find a better one. We’re excited and we do think we’re getting close to something really significant.”
The PWHPA has 4 groups, every named for a serious sponsor. Its Secret Dream Gap tour will finish with its first championship weekend, a part of an effort this season to create “a league-like look to it in terms of consistent teams and standings and stats and playoffs,” Hefford stated.
“We have a lot of momentum in what we’re doing. … We’re excited and we do think we’re getting close to something really significant.”
— PWHPA’s lead operations marketing consultant Jayna Hefford
No. 1 seed Team Harvey’s (named for a Canadian fast-food chain) will face No. 4 Team Sonnet (insurance coverage) in a semifinal at 4 p.m. Friday at Great Park Ice in Irvine, the Ducks’ follow facility. That will likely be adopted at 7 p.m. by No. 2 Team adidas vs. No. 3 Team Scotiabank. The losers will play a seeding recreation at 6 p.m. Saturday on the Toyota Sports Performance Center in El Segundo, the Kings’ follow facility. The winners will meet Sunday at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert, dwelling of the Coachella Valley Firebirds, the Seattle Kraken’s prime farm crew.
The Kings and Ducks typically put apart their on-ice rivalry to collaborate on selling youth hockey, and each assist ladies’ packages. Both even have hosted well-attended video games that matched the U.S. and Canadian girls’s nationwide groups, the game’s two superpowers.
“The way I look at it, women’s hockey is really developing, and any time we have a chance to help and to be involved, we have to,” Kings President Luc Robitaille stated. “To have an opportunity to host a final weekend in Southern California, which is the area we’ve been pushing to grow the game ever since [Wayne] Gretzky was here, I think it’s a huge event.”
His Anaheim counterpart agreed. “All the teams in Southern California look to move hockey forward,” Ducks President Aaron Teats stated. “Those opportunities to continue to show the girls playing today what the potential future for them is exciting and something that we want to make sure that we advance.”
PWHPA gamers obtain equal stipends, not salaries. In the brand new league, they’d earn a mean of about $55,000 in wage. “That’s a number that we looked at, that we believe is a sustainable model, but that’s not to say that the final version of the league is going to be that,” Hefford stated.
She sees the longevity of the WNBA, progress of the National Women’s Soccer League and wholesome TV rankings for girls’s faculty basketball as causes a girls’s professional hockey league can succeed.
“We definitely feel like the time is now. There is demand. There’s interest,” she stated. “I think we’re in a really good place. We’re doing work. We’re making sure that the foundation is strong. And of course, we want this to happen tomorrow but we can’t compromise on the things that are going to make this league successful in the long-term.”
NHL groups have helped PWHPA and PHF groups — the Arizona Coyotes will host the PHF championship March 26 at Mullett Arena — however NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has held off endorsing one over the opposite in hope they’ll understand they need to work collectively. It will likely be powerful sufficient for one girls’s professional hockey league to be viable in a crowded sports activities panorama. Two leagues competing for expertise and unsure sources would undermine each.
With superior expertise and backing from King and Walter, the PWHPA has one of the best shot to determine a secure league. It may work by beginning on a small scale. It may not work in any respect. Women’s professional hockey deserves a sensible, well-structured effort to find out if it may be viable and keep away from including elements to the alphabet soup of leagues that failed due to poor planning and unrealistic hopes.