It has been a long and strange few days for the NWHL.
Midway through the second season, the league officially announced that the players’ salaries will not be paid in full. Nobody saw this coming- not the players, not the fans, not the reporters. As time has gone on, more details have started to trickle out and we can piece together a clearer picture of what’s going on.
But how did we get here?
Let’s go back to the beginning.
Friday, November 18
At about 1:20 a.m. on Friday morning, The Fourth Period published the first report about the salary reduction. Once everyone woke up, Twitter was abuzz with the report, especially since Jen Neale posted an article about it on Puck Daddy.
No official comment came from the league until later that afternoon in the form of a conference call at 1:30 p.m., where New York Riveters’ player Ashley Johnston and commissioner Dani Rylan spoke with media. There, Rylan confirmed the reports: the league would be cutting player salaries by an amount she declined to say, citing lower attendance and no media deal as some of the reasons that led to the decision. She also said that all other avenues were exhausted before cutting player salaries.
A few other interesting points from the call: Rylan said that sponsor Dunkin’ Donuts offered to give $50,000 to the league to go directly to the player’s salaries. She also said the NWHL Player’s Association was not involved in the decision. Players must sign addendum to their existing contract for the reduction, but according to Madison Packer, who we talked to on Saturday about the cuts, the players have not received them yet.
To say players were caught off guard would be an understatement. Riveters’ defender Kaleigh Fratkin shared her feelings on the cuts with TIG. Mike Murphy summarized Johnston’s feelings from the call on Blueshirt Banter.
Saturday, November 19
After the initial shock wore off, a large majority of the players tweeted the same request to the league on Saturday afternoon:
The four requests they sent out were agreed on by a group of players, and were sent to the league prior to players tweeting the statement out publicly.
Later that day, Rylan released a statement that apparently isn’t in response to the player’s requests that had been released earlier (though that’s definitely what it reads like).
In an interview with Mike Murphy for FanRag Sports, Riveter’s Madison Packer revealed that the NWHLPA was not involved in creating the list. According to Packer, each team captain and a few other players had conference calls to discuss their next steps. The request, that was also sent to Rylan and others in the front office, was the outcome of those calls and talks with the teams. Packer also discussed a few other points in her interview with Murphy, including how often the players get paid. The biggest thing: the players will play, at least on Sunday.
(Although apparently, not all players hit the ice Sunday...)
Meanwhile, more players began to speak out about how the cuts impacted them personally- Riveters’ Tatina Rafter blogged about her thoughts in her Stanley Cup of Chowder blog, and she was brutally honest in how the salary cuts means she’d be putting herself in debt if she continued to play for the NWHL.
Don't let people push you around. Stand up for what is right— Megan Bozek (@meganebozek) November 20, 2016
In semi-related semi-unrelated news, a certain hockey writer commented that the CWHL was not planning to pay its players. That’s not true, according to Brenda Andress as of September 30 of 2016:
Commissioner Andress, on Sept. 30, about the CWHL’s plan to begin paying its players in 2017-18: pic.twitter.com/XB6CrvDaWX— Blinn and Juice 📎 (@NHLBlinn) November 20, 2016
What we know now
As of today, these are the main points we’ve gleamed from the situation. In order to remain “financially viable,” the league has decided to cut player’s salaries. Madison Packer explained that player’s would be making whatever percentage they were making of the prior salary cap, applied to a $5,000 per game.
“We have a $270,000 salary cap per team. Of the $270,000 I contracted for $15,000, which is about 5 and a half percent of that $270,000. So now we’re getting [a total of] $5,000 per game, [per team]. I’ll make 5.5% of that $5,000. Whatever percentage of that whole salary cap a player was making, they will now make of the $5,000.”
Packer also confirmed that players were originally paid for games and practices, but now players would only be paid for games they participated in.
We know that Dunkin Donuts has contributed $50,000 that should go straight to player salaries, it’s not clear if other sponsors have contributed anything extra to the league.
The players (not the NWHLPA) have released their statement, agreed to play the following games immediately after the announcement was made, and are waiting to hear back from the league.
The addendum that the players have to sign has not been given to players, as of Saturday afternoon.
There’s a lot of uncertainty. There’s a break after this weekend for (American) Thanksgiving holiday. The teams are set to return on Dec. 3. But if they do remains to be seen.
In her statement, Rylan mentioned that two-week timeline that the league would be working with the players on, and Packer mentioned that the players were hoping for a response around early December. If the league can’t meet the requests the players put forth....there will probably be another meeting between captains to discuss the players’ options, Packer told TIG. From there, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.