Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman pushed women’s hockey into the national spotlight again on Hockey Night in Canada this past Saturday night when he reported that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is aware that “if something changes, he has to have a plan.” While Friedman confirmed that Bettman still will not comment on the issue, he said “there is word that the NHL is working on a women’s league if it ever becomes necessary and it is, I think, six teams, maybe two in Canada.” He continued “It sure sounds like there is a plan being worked on and put in place in case the NHL needs to step in.”
For people who have been following women’s hockey closely, and more so since the CWHL announced on March 31 that it would close its doors, this isn’t exactly news. It’s long been known that the NHL holds the rights to the name “WNHL” and has for years. Former CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress said at one time that she’d seen NHL plans for a league, but it was all tentative. “Six teams with at least two in Canada” is not an original concept, in fact PWHPA spokesperson and former Canadienne Karell Émard was talking about a six team league, playing 20 or 30 games in the 2020-21 season as an obtainable goal just this past week as the PWHPA Montréal chapter prepared to take on Team South Korea. The CBC article went as far as to say that according to their sources, there were already 8 to 10 cities who had shown an interest in joining the new league. Émard didn’t make reference to NHL support, but most PWHPA players will tell you that they want the NHL involved in a new league in some capacity.
When on record, most players haven’t gone as far as saying the NHL is the end-all and be-all—some have said that if the NHL isn’t willing to step up, they’ll find another way, and some would prefer NHL involvement over outright control. On the other hand we have Noora Räty in the Finnish press, Natalie Spooner just yesterday on Sportsnet’s Ice Surfing and last week John Langel, an attorney at Ballard Spahr who has been working with the PWHPA, directly and publicly calling the NHL out with phrasing like “We think the one viable option is the WNHL. And that’s what we’re moving towards.” As an organization of 170-plus players, the PWHPA is naturally representing players with different ideas of what the best case scenario looks like and they will have to decide for themselves what compromises they are willing to make to get a real world solution. But there’s a definite theme that whoever partners with them in a new league, there’s a preference for people who have “already been there” and know how to do it right. Theoretically, the NHL fits that bill.
Whether the PWHPA has been in definite talks with the NHL or has simply been knocking on the door is unclear. They have plenty of NHL-related support, though. The NHLPA is a backer, and the moves from the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres to cut ties with the NWHL as the #ForTheGame movement got off the ground were not exactly subtle, whatever the public reasoning was. As well, the Toronto Maple Leafs were a sponsor of the Unifor Showcase in September, the San Jose Sharks have hosted a game between PWHPA players and their alumni, and PWHPA player Amanda Kessel was on the ice playing with the New York Rangers alumni in a game against the Bruins alumni just this past weekend. (This isn’t even all of the NHL support we’ve seen, it’s just the stuff I can remember offhand.) It’s not unlikely that there’s also still support within the Calgary Flames and Montréal Canadiens organizations, both strong supporters of their local CWHL teams. So it’s no surprise that someone has been in Bettman’s ear long enough to get him to dust off those old WNHL plans.
The biggest surprise is that someone is telling Elliotte Friedman, one of the most well-known NHL insiders, that he should say something about this during what is traditionally the most watched hockey broadcast in Canada. That suggests that there’s more going on than just contingency plans in case of emergency.
The wording of Friedman’s quote is also ambiguous. “If something changes”, “if it ever becomes necessary”, and “if the NHL needs to step in” never directly defines what the “something” is. Has pressure from the PWHPA and their supporters been enough to move the goalposts from Gary’s April quote of “if there’s no opportunity for women to play professional hockey, then we would explore what would make sense” to another “if” scenario? (Did Noora Räty’s much-maligned tweet about the dictionary definition of “professional” make an impact?)
A timeframe that was mentioned in September at the Toronto showcase as when the PWHPA had to really “get serious” and start working on plans for 2020 involved January. So maybe we’ll see something then. The NHL All-Star Weekend takes place January 24-26 in St Louis. Just saying.
The NHL’s best and worst this week – John Carlson’s budding Norris Trophy candidacy
At the espnW summit in Newport Beach, California, this past week, Kendall Coyne Schofield and John Langel spoke on a panel about equal pay.
Hockey féminin : une nouvelle ligue pourrait voir le jour en 2020 | ICI Radio-Canada.ca
Un nouveau circuit de hockey féminin serait créé en 2020. Six mois après la dissolution de la Ligue canadienne , l’Association des joueuses (PWHPA) est en bonne voie de réaliser ce projet, qui semble déjà avancé.
Q&A: Jayna Hefford on the slow fight for equality and the Dream Gap Tour – Sportsnet.ca
We’re going to have a number of new events for 2020. This will be the end for 2019. We (will spend) the next five-to-six weeks doing some other training within the regions, but we’ll be announcing some new events in the new year
PWHPA pros hope game against Team Korea this weekend will give a boost to women’s hockey | CTV News
The PWHPA has been quite busy over the past few months with the hope of expanding women’s hockey and getting fans, especially young ones, to the rink.
NHL making plans for potential women’s league when time is right – Sportsnet.ca
As hundreds of women’s hockey players continue their boycott, the NHL is preparing for every scenario in case the matter needs resolving.
Question Jenga with Marie-Philip Poulin and Karell Emard – The Ice Garden
The two PWHPA players play jenga and answer some questions
Minnesota-Duluth Wins Inaugural Women’s College Hockey IceBreaker
The inaugural Women’s Hockey IceBreaker tournament brought together representatives from four Division I conferences. Minnesota-Duluth won both of their games, beating Mercyhurst on Friday night and Colgate on Saturday, to capture the tournament title.
NCAA Denies Women’s Hockey Selection Committee Request For Additional Tournament Flight – BC Interruption
The NCAA tournament will remain status quo for now
Women’s DI: Robert Morris’ tough start will set them up for last season success | College Hockey | USCHO.com
Despite pushing some of the best teams in the country to their limit, the Colonials have just one point to show for their efforts.
Women’s Hockey Preseason Primer: What to Watch for During the 2019-20 Season | The Cornell Daily Sun
Expectations are high for Cornell women’s hockey following an appearance in last season’s Frozen Four.
First Damkronorna roster after the conflict | Aftonbladet
Head coach Ylva Martinsen gathers 25 players for a camp in Falun on November 4-8.
Swedish Women In Hockey Disappointment Impact On Naisleijonat Season – Team In Rehabilitation Sets Missing Practice Matches | Yle Sports | yle.fi
The preparation of the Naisleijonat for next spring’s World Cup differs significantly from previous years.
Bonhomme admits it’s emotional reflecting on gold in 2010 Olympics – Video – TSN
Great stuff here from both Tessa Bonhomme and Jayna Hefford, especially the part where Tessa talks about Geraldine Heaney.
Interview with Women’s Hockey Trailblazer Justine Blainey
Justine Blainey’s fight resulted in a heroic Supreme Court victory, increasing awareness of women’s hockey & winning the right for girls to play on boys’ teams.
European club hockey
Behind the Glass: Brooke Stacey is on fire – The Ice Garden
The Beauts’ rookie is proving to be a big-time scorer
SDHL standings week 7
Sofia Reideborn saved 64 of 65 shots – lost | Aftonbladet
Luleå fired 65 (!) Shots against SDE goalkeeper Sofia Reideborn. She took 64 of them, but ended up as a loser after the penalty.
HV71’s dominance continues – outclassed Linköping | Aftonbladet
5-0 at home against Linköping and superior series lead in SDHL. Despite that, there is more to come from HV71, according to trainer Lucas Frey.
Brynäs pressed by Leksand: “Extremely uneven” | Aftonbladet
Two in the table and two new points against Leksand. But Brynäs team captain Erika Grahm is not completely satisfied.
HV71 won against Modo in SDHL after Wikner-Zienkiewicz goal | Aftonbladet
Ahead of the season, HV71’s Felizia Wikner-Zienkiewicz realized that her shot wasn’t good enough.
Ronja Savolainen continues her career in Sweden: “Today Luleå feels more at home than Finland” | Yle Urheilu | yle.fi
Ronja Savolainen has signed a two-year extension agreement with Luleå.
Vote: Goal of the week – SDHL.se
This week your options are a couple of rockets by Sabina Küller and Andrea Dalen, and a nice tip by Josefine Persson beautifully set up by Petra Nieminen.
Top 10 Tuesday — U SPORTS
Concordia stays on top, Lethbridge makes their first appearance this season.
Mustang’s women’s hockey season off to a hot start | Sports | westerngazette.ca
Western’s women’s hockey season got underway on Friday with a big win in their home opener against the York University Lions.
Glaciers defeat Melbourne Ice Women | Ice Hockey News Australia
The Melbourne Glaciers have defeated the Melbourne Ice Women 12-2 in an exhibition game at the O’Brien Icehouse.
NWHL: Whitecaps Snap Streak, Pride Stay Perfect
Following another busy weekend in NWHL action, the Boston Pride remain undefeated after sweeping the weekend against the Metropolitan Riveters. Elsewhere, the Minnesota Whitecaps snapped a three-game losing skid with a pair of wins over the Connecticut Whale.
On (McKenna) Brand: the NWHL’s Boston Pride’s Rising Superstar – The Ice Garden
McKenna Brand has been unbelievable at even strength for the Pride through the first three weeks of the season
NWHL’s Whale captain Shannon Doyle’s Blocks for Books spreading positivity – The Ice Garden
Hockey fans and book lovers, unite!