Earlier this afternoon, the NWHL and its commissioner, Dani Rylan, announced that the NHL is increasing its financial investment in the league. Meanwhile, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet and Pierre LeBrun of the Athletic both reported that the NHL’s financial support of the NWHL will increase from $50,000 to $100,000.
The minimum annual salary for an NHL player is $650,000.
Friedman further clarified in his 31 Thoughts column that, before the decision made by the CWHL’s Board of Governors to discontinue operations on May 1, the NHL had been giving the CWHL and NWHL $50,000 each. In other words, the NHL’s new commitment to the NWHL is more-or-less the addition of funds that were previously going to the CWHL.
But how much more the NHL is willing to do is still unclear. Up until now, the league has made it very clear it will not step in as long as there are options for women to play at the professional level, which is the case now. It does not want to be perceived as picking favourites or bullying. An NHL-backed league, like the WNBA or National Women’s Soccer League, is the obvious solution. Everyone knows it.
There have been mounting concerns expressed by fans about an NHL-backed professional women’s hockey league — or “WNHL” — due in no small part to the NHL’s track record with its own players. The NHL has had three lockouts as a result of labor disputes between the league and its players since 1994, the latest of which took place during the 2012-13 season.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met with Rylan on Monday. Rylan shared that her fellow commissioner approves of more NHL ownership groups following in the footsteps of Kim and Terry Pegula. The Pegulas, owners of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, bought the Buffalo Beauts last season.
“Gary [Bettman] and the NHL have blessed us to continue those conversations and endorses the idea of NHL teams owning NWHL teams,” Rylan explained in today’s conference call with a select group of media members. “That’s very much a part of our business model.”
For a league that has spent $2.5 million in player salaries in its first four years of operation, $100,000 should go a long way. With that being said, that amount seems as though it would be utterly inadequate to help the NWHL expand to Montréal, Toronto, and potentially other Canadian markets that CWHL teams have called home.
So, where will that money come from? The most likely source seems to be new sponsors and partners. It appears that there is now more interest than ever before in the NWHL now that it’s rival north of the border has closed shop.
“Even in the last 48 hours we’ve had interest from new expansion markets, new sponsors, new partners,” Rylan shared earlier today. “Our board is stepping up.”
NHL salary information courtesy of CapFriendly.com.