Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

July 18, 2015 — A war on the ice

Since the Boston Blades defeated the Montreal Stars 3-2 in overtime to win the Clarkson Cup, emblematic of supremacy in women’s ice hockey, there has been an interesting little conflict looming about the direction of professional ice hockey, one which could result in salaries paid to players, but could also have consequences about the control of any potential cash flow.

In April, a new initiative called the National Women’s Hockey League (not to be confused with the old Canadian NWHL which ran from 1999-2008) was announced for four major American markets: Buffalo, Boston, New York, and Connecticut. None of the four home rinks are anywhere near the capacity of their NHL or even AHL bretheren, but it is expected that the NWHL would be able to pay its players $15,000 for a 28-game regular season.

And herein is a problem. Ice hockey is a pretty expensive sport because of equipment and infrastructure. And the largest of the four rinks for the NWHL teams is only about 2,000, so ticket revenue is not going to be the main source of revenue. Of course, there will have to be a lot of legwork done by the league and the four front offices for the new NWHL to survive.

That is because there is already an established league, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Despite its name, it also has a team located in Boston, one which is already on the league’s schedule for 2015-16.

However, the CWHL terminated the contracts of general manager Aronda Kirby and head coach Digit Murphy during the offseason and sought control of the team’s trademark, which Murphy owns. And lest we forget, this is the team that won the Clarkson Cup last winter.

This whole thing is likely to play out like a soap opera. Will there be two teams in Boston? Will players currently with CWHL teams jump for the possible riches of the NWHL? Will nationalism be the determining factor, with Canadian players playing for the the CWHL and Americans populating NWHL franchises?

For the survival of both, I hope the bosses know what they’re doing. The CWHL found itself a partner recently in Toyota, but there’s going to have to be a lot more money coming in to ensure the survival of women’s ice hockey as a business.

And infighting won’t help


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