Talks with select NHL teams and major corporate sponsors have intensified as part of the Women’s Professional Hockey Players Association’s bid to form a league within the next year, The Associated Press has been told. two people with direct knowledge of the discussions.
Although progress is being made, one of the people said that an announcement was not imminent, while warning against setting a timetable on when a proposed league made up of the best players in the world could be ready for the opening of the face-off.
“No timeline, but we’re getting closer,” said the person, who like the other AP source, spoke only on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private.
In a text, PWHPA director Jayna Hefford declined to comment on Wednesday.
Details on how the proposed league will operate are unknown, although the most ideal scenario would involve NHL franchises on both sides of the border co-sponsoring women’s teams competing in a regular-season schedule followed by playoffs.
Also unclear is when and how long a PWHPA league season would last. Top players have commitments to the U.S. and Canadian national teams, including competing at the Women’s World Championships in August, as well as an as-yet-unscheduled series of rivalry matches slated to be played in November.
The NHL, as an entity, forfeited funding for a professional women’s league after the coronavirus pandemic blew a major hole in its budget. That hasn’t stopped the league from supporting women’s hockey, which recently included the USA women’s team competing in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 and paying for a charter flight for the team to travel from its base in Minnesota to Los Angeles on the way. at the Beijing Olympics last month.
It also hasn’t stopped NHL franchises from forming their own partnerships. The PWHPA lists 10 NHL teams as partners, including Washington, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Chicago and Philadelphia.
The creation of a league partially supported by the NHL and attracting the best international players would be seen as a game-changer for women’s hockey.
It would be separate from the six-team Premier Hockey Federation, which was founded in 2015 and remains the only women’s professional hockey league in North America. In January, the PHF announced it was expanding to eight teams and would more than double its salary cap per team to $750,000 next season.
PWHPA members have mostly been reluctant to join the PHF as they seek to establish their own league in which players receive a decent salary, health care and have dedicated access to training and sports facilities. coaching.
The PWHPA was formed three years ago following the demise of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. During that time, the association has attracted enough corporate and media broadcast partnerships to base players in five hub cities – two in the United States and three in Canada – to train and compete without fresh in a series of assault weekend events. across the continent.
The most recent stop on the “Dream Gap Tour” was in Ottawa last weekend, with another scheduled for Washington, DC, this weekend.
The PWHPA is also hosting a “Rivalry Rematch” game between the United States and Canada scheduled for Pittsburgh on March 12. It will be the cross-border rivals’ first meeting since Canada won Olympic gold with a 3-2 victory over the Americans last month. .
The buzz around the PWHPA moving closer to forming a league grew immediately after Canada’s victory.
Canadian striker Brianne Jenner cited corporate support from the PWHPA and PHF saying, “I think we’re not that far off.
“I think there’s a market there, and a lot of people want to see that level of women’s hockey on a regular basis,” she added.
Canada’s coach, Troy Ryan, urged corporate sponsors to join us.
“Girls deserve an opportunity to be professional athletes,” Ryan said. “I think if anybody is smart, sponsors or donors or business people, they would support it as a business plan because I think there’s a viable market for it.”
U.S. captain Kendall Coyne Schofield spoke emotionally about how important it is for women’s hockey to capitalize on the post-Olympic attention to the sport.
“Women’s hockey cannot remain silent after these two weeks,” said Coyne Schofield. “We have to keep pushing for visibility. We have to keep fighting for women’s hockey because it’s not enough. It can’t stop after the Olympics.
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