There is a battle going on in the professional women’s hockey ranks. The Professional Women’s Hockey Player Association (PWHPA) and the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) have been at odds since the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) folded back in May of 2019. There were plans in place by the NWHL to have franchises in Toronto and Montreal join the league with the backing of the NHL, but a player boycott scrapped all those plans. Regardless of how the friction was created and who started it is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the tension between the two organizations has a chance to destroy the women’s game forever.
From the start, fans had to choose allegiances instead of rooting for the sport of women’s hockey to succeed. Why should fans have to choose? Why can’t fans enjoy both? Why can’t both organizations exist? One thing is for sure: if the NWHL does fold, the chance of seeing another professional women’s hockey league is not good.
The trend continued over this past weekend in an article that came to light from the Victory Press talking about conditions in the NWHL by former players that would not give their names. It was an eye-opening article that if you have not read, you should check out. However, when one does not put their name to it as, Herm Edwards once said, you begin to question the motive behind it. And that is how the NWHL viewed it.
From the Victory Press, the NWHL’s Response to the Article:
This is part of a continuous smear campaign by the PWHPA, which for more than a year has tried to eliminate the NWHL because they have told players that if our league folds, others would start a league for them. In a wide array of forums, including indirect discussions with PWHPA leadership, we have regularly discussed and responded to these allegations.
Although our work continues, we are proud of the progress of a league that started just five years ago. We are proud of the ongoing positive experiences of our players, the daily signing of high-level and accomplished new and returning players, expansion to Minnesota and Toronto, the significant investment in player salaries and player development, and the major business strides the NWHL made last season as everyone worked constructively and collaboratively. These steps forward serve as our statements in response to this destructive and false narrative.
Even when the NWHL expanded to Toronto for their sixth season, the PWHPA had a response for it claiming there is no us versus them mentality. When that has been the agenda since Day 1.
What people do not realize is that all eyes are on these organizations. Especially so when it comes to investors and advertisers looking for a place to spend their money. The sports world is a tough place with everyone looking for a piece of the pie. While I understand the PWHPA’s position in looking for a sustainable league with backing from the NHL, it will not come easy. As we have seen with the NWHL through the past five seasons. They are plugging along and doing their own thing. If the NWHL were to cease operations, credibility for women’s hockey goes out the window. Do you think a major sports league or an investor would want to invest in something after seeing it fail twice? Probably not, that is why the women’s game is dependent on both organizations succeeding.
While I understand the PWHPA and NWHL do not want to work together as one league, they should work together to promote the game. Both organizations need to leave the game in a better place than they found it. That takes time and hard work. Nothing will happen overnight or be handed to you on a silver platter. Go out there and show the world the product is good. Make the people want to come and invest their hard-earned money on women’s hockey. The longer the infighting goes on, the harder it will be for there to be a sustainable league for these women to play in.
There is a lot of work coming from one side and there is a lot of talk coming from the other side. However, having seen both products live, there is a lot of great talent between the two organizations. I am a proponent of women’s hockey and will not choose one over the other. That is the overwhelming sentiment I get from the people I have spoken with who love women’s hockey. They go where the game takes them.
Continually having one organization played against the other is just bad for business, to coin a WWE phrase. The constant jabs and ploys through the media have to come to an end. There will never be a winner in that game. As a matter of fact, everyone will be losers because there will be no place for any of these ladies to play if the NWHL goes away. If an outsider sees that one side is trying to sabotage the other, they will not want to do business with that party. Which hurts the game for everyone.
While I understand why the PWHPA is doing their thing, they need to stick to their business and let the NWHL do their thing. This is not a competition. Regardless of what we are told on social media. This is about bringing eyes to the sport of women’s hockey. In order to do that, outside of the Olympics, there needs to be less smearing and more growing the game. Let the play speak for itself. It is time to end the bickering and start showing unity because that is the only women’s hockey survives.