In the world of professional women’s hockey, a new dawn is breaking, and it’s coming in the form of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL). This league, set to debut in January, has been a long time coming, and it’s poised to revolutionize the landscape of women’s hockey.
The Genesis of PWHL
The PWHL has its roots in a tumultuous history of women’s professional hockey. After the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) folded in 2019, many players, including Olympians like Sarah Nurse and Kendall Coyne Schofield, faced a crossroads. They chose not to play in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) and instead formed the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), with the hope of eventually establishing a truly professional league.
Fast forward to 2023, and their dreams have finally crystallized in the form of the PWHL. Sarah Nurse, reflecting on the journey, said, “I feel like we’ve been everywhere, had our hand in a whole bunch of different pots. But I think it’s been pretty exciting, and I’m so happy that we’re finally at this point.” Kendall Coyne Schofield echoed this sentiment during a PWHL Minnesota press conference, stating, “This has been a whirlwind of a journey, and I think this is something that everyone in hockey has wanted to see for a very long time.”
The Stars Align
Two of the first 18 players to sign with the PWHL were none other than Sarah Nurse and Kendall Coyne Schofield, both Olympic gold medalists. What’s even more impressive is that they were instrumental in negotiating the PWHL collective bargaining agreement. These athletes aren’t just paving the way on the ice; they’re shaping the league’s future off the ice as well.
Nurse and Schofield each inked three-year contracts, and while the exact figures of their salaries are undisclosed, they are likely among the top earners, with some players potentially making $80,000 or more per season, as per the collective bargaining agreement. With no salary cap in place, the league’s minimum salary in the first season will be $35,000, while the average salary is set at $55,000, with some wiggle room for variations.
A Historical Moment
The PWHL’s journey mirrors the struggles faced by other women’s professional sports, such as basketball and soccer. It’s a story of persistence, determination, and the refusal to settle for anything less than a truly professional league. The PWHL emerged as a result of the acquisition of the Premier Hockey Federation (formerly the NWHL) by PWHL owners, ultimately consolidating women’s pro hockey in North America.
While the PWHL may be a relatively new player in the game, it has already significantly reduced the number of available roster spots compared to the previous leagues, with 138 spots in total. This is 115 fewer spots than the combined total of the PHF and PWHPA in the 2023-24 season.
The Draft Dilemma
With no combine held before the Draft, general managers are tasked with assessing players based on an internal talent assessment system and word-of-mouth recommendations. The list of registered players has been finalized, but the rankings and the attending players remain a mystery.
The Draft itself is a unique challenge, as 85% of the draft pool comprises players with professional experience. Yet, evaluating talent beyond Olympic and college hockey statistics is challenging, as the value of championships in previous leagues is still a subject of debate.
A nine-person committee with deep ties to women’s hockey has ranked the talent, but the specific metrics and information used for ranking players remain undisclosed. It’s a process that has left many players, like Kaleigh Fratkin, hopeful but curious about how they were evaluated.
The Road Ahead
As the inaugural season of the PWHL approaches, there are still many unanswered questions and logistical challenges. The compassionate circumstance waiver, a unique feature of the league, offers players who cannot relocate for various reasons the opportunity to play in specific markets. However, the specifics of this waiver process are still evolving.
Despite the uncertainties, there’s an air of excitement and hope surrounding the future of women’s hockey. Players like Madison Packer acknowledge the trailblazers who came before them, and the potential impact of the PWHL on future generations of young athletes.
In the words of Liz Knox, a former CWHL goalie and interim board member of the PWHLPA, “I feel for the players who have spent the last five, 10, 15 years pulling the ship along and making this work that might not reap the benefits of it. But I think that there is a message of hope that our kids or our friend’s kids will grow up in a world where young boys and girls will watch professional women’s hockey on TV, just like any other sport.”
As the puck drops in January, the PWHL is set to make history and inspire a new generation of women’s hockey enthusiasts, ushering in a new era of professional women’s hockey. It’s a moment that has been a long time coming, and one that promises to be worth the wait.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Women’s Hockey Revolution
Q: What is the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) all about?
A: The PWHL is a groundbreaking women’s hockey league that aims to provide a truly professional platform for women athletes. It’s the result of years of advocacy and determination by top players like Sarah Nurse and Kendall Coyne Schofield, who also had a hand in shaping the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Q: How does the PWHL differ from previous women’s hockey leagues?
A: Unlike its predecessors, the PWHL represents a consolidation of women’s pro hockey in North America. It emerged after the acquisition of the Premier Hockey Federation (formerly NWHL) by PWHL owners, reducing the total roster spots available but aiming for higher professionalism and sustainability.
Q: Who are some of the star players in the PWHL?
A: Olympic gold medalists Sarah Nurse and Kendall Coyne Schofield are among the first players to sign with the PWHL. They played key roles not only on the ice but also at the negotiating table for the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Q: What can we expect in terms of player salaries in the PWHL?
A: While exact salary figures remain undisclosed, it’s likely that top players, including Nurse and Schofield, could earn $80,000 or more per season. The league has no salary cap, with a minimum salary of $35,000 and an average salary of $55,000 for the first season.
Q: How is talent assessed for the PWHL Draft?
A: The league didn’t hold a combine before the Draft. General managers rely on an internal talent assessment system and word-of-mouth recommendations. A nine-person committee with ties to women’s hockey has ranked the talent, but specific metrics and information used for ranking players are undisclosed.
Q: What is the compassionate circumstance waiver, and how does it work?
A: This waiver allows players facing circumstances beyond their control that prevent them from relocating to play in specific markets. The specifics of this waiver process, including how many players applied and were accepted, are still evolving.
Q: What does the future hold for women’s hockey with the PWHL?
A: The PWHL promises to inspire a new generation of women’s hockey enthusiasts and potentially change the landscape of women’s sports. It’s a historic moment that has been a long time coming, with the potential to impact the future of professional women’s hockey.
More about Women’s Hockey Revolution
- Professional Women’s Hockey League Official Website
- [PWHL Collective Bargaining Agreement](Link to the CBA if available)
- [Sarah Nurse’s Profile](Link to Sarah Nurse’s profile, if available)
- [Kendall Coyne Schofield’s Profile](Link to Kendall Coyne Schofield’s profile, if available)
- [Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) History](Link to PHF history, if available)
- [National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) History](Link to NWHL history, if available)