Pay cuts leave NWHL players reeling

The last thing anyone expected was a pay cut.

“When you’re told there is going to be a pay cut, it’s heartbreaking,” said Kaleigh Fratkin of the New York Riveters. “The league started just last year and we have great sponsors and publicly it seems like there is a bunch of support. But when something like this happens, it’s heartbreaking. That’s the feeling.”

The National Women’s Hockey League is in its second year and, for most teams, it is just five games into the 2016-17 season. The Boston Pride starting the season 5-0-0 and looking to defend their title and rookie Haley Skarupa taking the league by storm should be the storylines.

Instead, on Friday morning, the only story anyone is focusing on is the news that broke about the league’s players having their salaries cut.

“We were told in a meeting yesterday,” Fratkin said. “It’s the last thing we expected. The reaction was: this is the harsh reality. When we signed up to play in a new league, these were the risks. This can happen. When you’re playing in games, it’s not something that crosses your mind.”

The NWHL announced on Friday that players would have to take pay cuts for the league to be able to continue operations this season. Most players make somewhere between $14,000-$17,000. The league minimum is $10,000.

Obviously, that all changes.

“We got to the point of, what do we do next,” said Fratkin. “In the meeting yesterday, our coach was saying, some of us can’t afford to be here, and no one will judge them. That’s just the reality. The meeting was before practice, and every one of us stayed and we practiced. No one left. We all want the league to succeed.”

With the season still slated through April, there is still plenty of hockey to be played, and the collective mind of the players is focused on what they can do to keep the league afloat.

“We’ve been brainstorming,” Fratkin said. “Finding ways to fundraise and legally how we can work with the league so revenue goes to salaries. However many players are in the league, it’s making sure we are all on board.”

There are two games scheduled for this weekend in Newark and Buffalo. And right now the goal of the league is to keep playing hockey. Players and executives throughout the league will continue to seek out support to make that happen.

“We work just as hard as the men,” said Fratkin. “But we’re not compensated like them. We need all supporters right now.”