It has now started; a boycott of all women’s North American professional hockey leagues by players in light of claims that their leagues are not receiving the “resources that professional hockey deserves”.
Many players, such as American superstar Hillary Knight, have taken to social media via a coordinated joint message to express their concerns with the league and its treatment of players.
Knight told the Associated Press that “We’re not playing anywhere professionally in North America. We just want to build something better.” She says that the end goal of the boycott is to “promote the growth of the game and increase visibility.”
All this comes after the CWHL ceased operations due to financial issues, leaving the NWHL as the only league in North America.
It’s important to remember that the NWHL is relatively new, having started in 2015, and only has 5 teams. One of those teams, Minnesota, just expanded this previous season. There is still room for development.
The announcement has received an abundance of support from fans, many saying that they “stand behind the players 100%”.
Many fans are also calling for the NHL to step up and take over after the ordeal. As of now, the NHL offers an annual investment of $100,000, up from $50,000 due to the absorption of the CWHL’s now closed doors. That won’t do anything of significance for the NWHL.
But if the NHL is going to, now is the perfect time to absorb the NWHL.
Not only does it create good PR, but it would be a terrific investment. Women’s hockey is a rapidly growing sport, and as displayed at this year’s NHL All-Star skills competition, there’s a lot of untapped talent.
There are also huge markets, especially in the Midwest, where women’s college hockey is growing in popularity. Teams like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Clarkson (Neb.), Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State are perennial powerhouses with very loyal fan bases. Those areas would be ideal for professional teams.
Women’s hockey is a style that anyone can get into, as long as you’re not the guy that claims “I only watch hockey for the fights”. Women’s hockey is less physical, so it’s generally a faster and more fluid game. It’s also generally more wholesome, making it a more family-friendly alternative.
The NHL would be insane to at least not consider providing something more for women’s hockey. Now is a perfect time, and they can really display that they’re committed to growing the game.
This is not to say that the NWHL (or, God forbid, the return of the CWHL) has to be sponsored/funded by the NHL; they simply need someone who is invested in their product emotionally and capable of investing financially.
The NHL simply promotes a certain message that makes it so that their fully backing a women’s hockey league would accurately align with recent shifts in the brand identity they are trying to promote.
We personally don’t care if the NHL or someone else becomes a sponsor, but the league needs to spend money to make money, and it has to get that money first.
The NHL produces an average of $20 million dollars per team per year in profit, and this league in it’s current state could be fully funded well beyond its current means with maybe a third of that.
Even an increase from their current investment would be an improvement over the most recent statement of support the league put out through the NHLPA:
Of course, you support their actions; it would be extremely weird if you didn’t. But verbal support, especially from someone who could solve their problems, is just as harmful as helpful.
We are very proud of these female players who are making a major self-sacrifice for the betterment of both themselves and those to come after them, but now is the time for resources to arrive, not just words of encouragement.
After all, the entire boycott is #ForTheGame, and hockey is for everyone.