In a piece from the Associated Press released Wednesday morning, NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan commented that women’s hockey will eventually move to a one-league model. Currently, there are two in North America, the National Women’s Hockey League and Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Buried in the piece about the idea of one women’s league is a vital nugget: the NHL helped end the wage dispute between Team USA and USA Hockey so they could play at the 2017 World Championships.
— Satchel Price (@SatchelPrice) October 17, 2018
From the AP:
The NHL’s support of women’s hockey included the league stepping in at the last moment to end a wage dispute between USA Hockey and U.S. National team women players threatening to boycott the 2017 World Championships on home ice. Two people familiar with the situation said the NHL agreed to pay USA Hockey to help fund the four-year agreement. The people spoke to AP on the condition of anonymity because the league and USA Hockey have not made that information public.
It’s unclear why the NHL wouldn’t make their payments to USA Hockey public information, but it is concerning that USA Hockey required the NHL’s assistance in funding the Women’s National Team.
Bettman also mentioned that he doesn’t believe either business model for the CWHL or NWHL would work. Commissioner Rylan was quick to push back on that assessment.
“What’s it like when Gary Bettman tells the media the model for our women’s league doesn’t work? Of course, it’s really disappointing,” said Rylan, who nonetheless called Bettman a “gracious adviser.”
“Can we improve? No question about it,” she added. “If Gary and more NHL owners want to get involved in women’s hockey, that’s an awesome an exciting thing. Let’s get started now.”
Let’s back up to 2017 for context and why it’s a massive deal the NHL is inserting itself into this situation with USA Hockey.
In March 2017, the US Women’s National Team boycotted the International Ice Hockey Federation Championships, which were held in Michigan, due to unfair treatment from USA Hockey. The women were barely paid a living wage, had to ride cattle class and share hotel rooms while the men’s team had singles and flew business class, didn’t have their disability insurance covered, and weren’t allowed to bring guests to attend when the men could.
At the time, the women were ranked number one in the world, having come off a 2016 IIHF World Championships victory against Canada.
Because the two parties couldn’t come to an agreement, USA Hockey started reaching out to other USA Hockey registered players to fill out the roster, including high schoolers.
This backfired spectacularly. Not only were USA Hockey unable to recruit scabs to fill out the roster, but 20 US senators stood behind the women.
The NHL Players’ Association also stood behind the women.
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) March 24, 2017
The dispute was resolved with a new four-year deal three days before the World Championships were set to start. It included a $70,000 stipend per year and $100,000 in Olympic years for the women, and the same travel accommodations and insurance as the men’s teams.
It appears that the NHL is the organization that stepped in to provide payment.
That investment from the NHL paid immediate dividends for the US women’s team, who won the 2017 World Championships thanks to an overtime winner from Hilary Knight. It was the team’s fourth consecutive World Championship gold.
The team then went on to win gold at the 2018 Olympics, again against Canada, thanks to this disgusting dangle from Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson against Shannon Szabados. It was their first Olympic gold medal since 1998.
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisNHL) February 22, 2018
A few NHL teams have existing partnerships with teams in the NWHL and CWHL, and it looks like the leagues could be working even more closely together soon.
Headline photo: @HilaryKnight
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