Monday is shaping up to be a historic day in Canadian hockey with the first draft of the new Women’s Professional Hockey League.
The league was formed over the summer and details were announced on August 29.
“We have never seen so much enthusiasm and demand for women’s sports, and through the launch of this league, the best players in the world will have the opportunity to reach even greater heights,” said Jayna Hefford, PWHL senior vice president of hockey. operations, at that time.
Interest in women’s football is high.
Last year, 2.7 million people in Canada watched the Olympic gold medal match in Beijing between Canadian and American women. AND The Athletic reported that the game averaged 3.54 million viewers in the US, more than any NHL game televised in the US in the 2021-22 season.
So… how did we get here? And what could this mean for women’s professional teams in terms of salaries, stability and coverage?
Here’s a quick introduction to help you get up to speed, even if you’ve never stepped foot on the ice.
What is the PWHL?
The Professional Women’s Hockey League was created over the summer, after the Premier Hockey Federation, another professional women’s hockey league that started in 2015, was purchased in July.
Things moved relatively quickly.
The new league was officially announced on August 29 after ratifying a collective agreement with the owners in early July.
The league and its six teams are owned by Mark Walter, president of the Los Angeles Dodgers and owner of the Mark Walter Group. Tennis legend Billie Jean King sits at the board.
“Having the backing of people like that, who bring experience, resources, capital, who are committed to doing it right from the beginning, that makes a difference,” said Hefford, also a former Canadian national team player. player, in an interview with CBC’s Devin Heroux in late August.
Longtime NHL executive Brian Burke, who also served on the board of directors of the former Canadian Women’s Hockey League (which folded in 2019), heads the PWHL players union.
What cities will have teams?
There are six teams, including three Canadian franchises: Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
The American cities of Boston, Minnesota and the New York City area will also have teams in the inaugural season.
Team names have not yet been announced.
Who is on the teams?
There will be a total of 150 players, mostly former members of the Professional Hockey Players Association and the Premier Hockey Federation, as well as European players from neither organization.
Each franchise has already signed three players, including women’s national team players Emily Clark and Brianne Jenner and Emerance Maschmeyer in Ottawa; Sarah Nurse, Blayre Turnbull and Renata Fast in toronto; and Marie-Philip Poulin, Laura Stacey and Ann-Renée Desbiens in Montreal.
The first overall draft will take place on Monday, September 18 at the CBC Broadcast Center in Toronto, during which 90 players will be distributed among the six franchises during a 15-round selection period.
Undrafted players will become free agents and will be able to negotiate a tryout or player contract with a team.
Minnesota won the first overall pick in a lottery.
How to view the draft:
Live stream coverage of the event will begin at 1 pm ET on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.
Coverage will also be available on radio-canada.ca/sports and on the Radio-Canada news app, and on the CBC Sports and Radio-Canada YouTube pages.
Hefford says that in the past, women’s teams might have been formed based on where a player lived and what was convenient, but this will be about where they “best fit into a puzzle to win a championship.”
When does the season start?
Training camp begins the week of Nov. 13 and the inaugural 24-game season begins in January.
There will also be a Championship Cup up for grabs. There is no name yet either.
How can I watch?
Broadcast and/or streaming deals are still being worked out, but the league says its goal is to have all games available.
Other women’s hockey leagues have failed. What’s different this time?
Hefford says he hopes the new league will “set the bar.”
She says the PWHL is looking at the WNBA and the National Women’s Soccer League and learning from their experiences about what has worked and what hasn’t.
“I really think we’re going to set the standard,” he said. “We have a group behind this that is committed to many things beyond women’s hockey, but also to equality and equal opportunity.”
The key this time, he says, is the collective agreement.
“It provides certainty to the athletes. It provides certainty around working conditions, player safety, meals and accommodations. For the ownership group, it’s sustainability. It’s ensuring that we’re on the path to making this successful at long term.“
Are women paid the same as men in the NHL?
Not even close.
According to the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, the minimum player salary for the 2022-23 season is US$750,000. But some of the players in the league make millions.
The PWHL has said its player salaries will be between $35,000 and $80,000, with six players on each team earning no less than $80,000.
Brianne Jenner, who was part of the Players Association negotiating committee, told CBC Radio Tomorrow in Ottawa they wanted to make sure there was “good parity” in the league and “a minimum player limit.”
Tomorrow in Ottawa7:59Brianne Jenner on joining Ottawa’s PWHL team
When asked what pay equity means to her, she admitted it’s a tough question.
“I think we have a long way to go,” he said. “We recognize that our players are putting in a lot of time, sacrificing as much as any male counterpart and putting, you know, effort and dedication into their job. So to see that our sport has an opportunity where players can earn a salary, a salary “Just, it’s huge. And, you know, it’s just the beginning.”
He added that it is now up to the players to “build those fan bases, attract them and continue to excite investors, to become part of our sport.”
SEE | Why professional women still earn less than their male counterparts: