April 06, 2019

The Future of Women's Professional Hockey

The 12 year old Canadian Women's Hockey League collapsed this past week, leaving more questions than answers for everyone involved.

But the key question is what is the future of women's professional hockey?

Everyone seems to agree that the women's game is better off with only one league instead of two. Of course, the National Women's Hockey League, established in 2015, remains. They are also apparently taking quick steps to fill the void by announcing immediate expansion into CWHL markets where viable. This will give the best players, managers, officials etc jobs.

The CWHL cited an unsustainable business practices as why they could no longer carry on. They were a non-profit organization where the league owned all the teams. Their heart seemed to be in a genuine good place, putting women's hockey and the good of the game first and foremost. Bottom line appears they just could meet the bottom line without major cash infusions.

The NWHL operates with a more traditional business model. But they, too, lack major cash.

Everyone wants to see the National Hockey League step in and operate a women's hockey league. After all, they have the cash, and it is in the NHL's best interest to grow the game. As far as women's hockey has come, there is still tremendous growth opportunities to be had, particularly commercially.

But the existing NWHL basically is hoping the NHL just gives them big bucks, or maybe yet, just buys them all out as if this a venture capital operation.

So far the NHL has refused to get significantly involved with either league, saying they dd not like the business models of either. They also have said time and again they will not get involved in women's professional hockey as long as there are existing leagues operating. Gary Bettman has always said the NHL will not interfere with such leagues.

But I do believe the NHL has interest in running it's own women's hockey league. So while everyone agrees that the future of professional women's hockey involves only one league, it would seem the game would also be best served if the existing NWHL collapsed, too, leaving women with no professional hockey options in North America. That seems to be the only way the NHL will get involved.

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