Over the last 36-ish hours, the he members of the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) have been subject to nothing short of a roller coaster of emotions.
On Wednesday, the team announced a boycott of the upcoming World Championships if USA Hockey didn’t meet their demands for equal pay, promotion, organizational support and more.
On Thursday, USA Hockey stated the team had a deadline of 5:00 p.m. EST to tell the organization if they truly intended not to play. Which was later walked back by USA Hockey somewhat in a conversation with Chicago Tribune reporter Chris Hersch.
After all that, a majority of the national team had to take to the ice for an NWHL winner-take-all semifinal playoff game between the Boston Pride and Connecticut Whale.
Recognizing the importance of the moment, the NWHL ditched their normal introductions for a special ceremony.
The NWHL dropped a few major announcements on Thursday evening that gives a glance into what the league’s plans are going forward.
The biggest change impacts the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. Instead of the regular season ending on April 16, it will now conclude on March 12.
The season bleeding into April was due to a three week league-wide break for national team players to play at World Championships and an increase in the number of regular season games played.
Now the three week break is gone as are 12 regular season games that would have taken place had the playoffs not been moved up. Boston and Buffalo will miss out on four games each while New York and Connecticut will lose two each.
As for the playoffs, they will take place between March 17-19. Biggest change here is compact schedule.
Last year, the Isobel Cup semi-final and final took place over two weekends with each round featuring a best-of-three series.
That’s gone now.
In the wake of the National Women’s Hockey League’s announcement of salary cut and the departure of three players (thus far) positive news is hard to come by.
On Friday, the league announced a bonus program for players directly tied to ticket sales.
From the NWHL press release:
For each game, players will receive 100 percent of ticket revenue after 500 tickets are sold. There will be a 50/50 split between the home and road teams participating in the game. The bonus is for every regular season game at every venue, and went into effect on Dec. 1.
“The decision to have the players benefit from strong attendance came out of recent discussions about how we can grow our league and business together,” said NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan. “We’re very happy to offer this to the players and be the only women’s hockey league in North America that not only compensates its players, but provides attendance-based bonuses. The players make our league, and they deserve this. Our fans should know that when they come out to see NWHL games and fill the stands, they are supporting our amazing players in a big way.”
As an example, when the Boston Pride hosted the Connecticut Whale on Dec. 3 and drew a capacity crowd of 750, the players from both teams shared all of the revenue from the 250 tickets sold over the 500-seat mark. The attendance-related payout is a bonus beyond each player’s salary.
Connecticut Whale captain Molly Engstrom became the third player to leave the NWHL following the announcement of salary cuts.
Per a league press release, Engstrom played her last game for the Whale this past Sunday, and head to Sweden to play in the professional women’s league.
Sources tell Puck Daddy, Engstrom will join Djurgårdens IF. Looking at SWEHockey.se, it appears her new team will play next after the new year.
This was Engstrom’s second season playing for the Connecticut Whale. She signed in the first year for $12,000 and produced 5-points in 15 games played. For year two, she earned a $6,000 pay increase to $18,000. At the time of her departure, the defenseman had recorded 3-points through nine games.
On Friday, the National Women’s Hockey League confirmed reports that the league was cutting player salaries in order to keep the league afloat for this season.
With few exceptions, a majority of the players in the league stayed relatively silent following the official announcement. Saturday a group of players released a list of demands from the NWHL.
Mostly legitimate questions raised by the players, especially the insurance one. The only slightly eyebrow raising demand is the audit of the books. Who is going to pay for that? Accountants don’t like to do comprehensive business audits for free.
It has been a rough 24 hours for women’s professional hockey.
Late Thursday night, David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period broke the news that the National Women’s Hockey League – the first paid professional women’s league – would be cutting players salaries in half.
NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan held a conference call with reporters on Friday to discuss the announcement. We wrote a quick recap of what was covered; however, there is so much more to unpack.
Here are six questions surrounding the NWHL as we try to make sense of what happened.
1. How did this catch everyone off-guard a month and a half into the new season?
According to Rylan the league ‘fell short on some projections’ and ‘had to pivot and make a business decision.’ The decision appeared to come down to folding the league entirely or cut the salaries of the players in order to stay viable; the NWHL chose the latter.
General managers were informed first of the change, followed by player representatives from each team, and finally the group as a whole.
The second season for the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) appears to be off to a rocky start, financially speaking.
Reported by David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period the first professional women’s hockey league to pay their players is allegedly cutting salaries to remain afloat:
As per information obtained by TFP, the NWHL informed its players on Thursday that they will be receiving a pay cut — believed to be 50% — in order to sustain the longevity of the League.
In an email sent out to athletes and league staff, [NWHL Commissioner Dani] Rylan notified everyone that players will be paid on a game-by-game basis. Players’ insurance will still be held up, and the 2016-17 schedule will still be played.
It’s believed Amanda Kessel is the NWHL’s highest paid player, earning $26,000 per season, while most players receive between $14,000 to $17,000 per year. The minimum salary is $10,000. Well, that all gets cut in half.
The season is already well underway and for most players, finding an alternative is next to impossible.
The NWHL could be facing its first labor battle as the deadline for free agency nears a close on Sunday, July 31.
As of the evening of July 30, the league has 17 total spots over four teams left to fill. They could easily fill the paid positions with any number of the unsigned players from the inaugural season, and would have done so by now if it weren’t for players from the US Women’s National Team (USWNT). All 11 returning and three draft picks from the USWNT roster are not under contract.
Waiting until the last hour to sign the USWNT members isn’t something new to the NWHL.
After the league was announced, the players for the USWNT decided to leave the CWHL for the newly formed NWHL that paid it’s players. Free agency closed on August 17 with the NWHL announcing they had filled all their roster spots, but would not disclose any players not previously named. From a league statement: “The NWHL still plans to announce the final team rosters and contract details as soon as the players are ready.”
“Ready” meant freed from the obligations of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). It took over a month before the issues were resolved and the all the new players announced. The season went on as planned and the heavy USWNT-laden Boston Pride went on to win the inaugural Isobel Cup.
In March 2016, the first ‘leaked’ National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) emails made their way to the inboxes of several women’s hockey writers. Others followed. They alleged unpaid debts, mismanagement behind the scenes and general chaos for the first-year league.
How did NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan feel about this campaign?
“Someone has a lot of time on their hands to try and undermine the NWHL and all the hard work we’ve put into this league,” she said in an interview with Puck Daddy. “I would much prefer to actually handle a problem someone has with me rather than hear about it through a blog post.”
What a difference a year makes.
Congratulations, you’ve graduated college! With your degree in hand, you’ve got years of memories and a bag of hockey gear that’s seen its full potential as an NCAA student-athlete. You were a good collegiate hockey player but not, like, national program good.
What’s next for you? The NHL? NOPE. Overseas? Too complicated. Southern Professional Hockey League? Unlikely, but not impossible.
Oh, forgot to mention: You’re a women’s hockey player.
How about the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL)? That’s an option, but you’re not sure if you can afford it, time and money wise. They don’t pay their players. You’ll have to provide most of your own gear, among other expenses, and somehow work in a full-time job in order to support yourself just to play the game you love.
Looks like your hockey glory days are coming to a beer-league-only end…
At least they were, until now.