Wednesday December 6, 2023

NHL Backs Unified Women’s League, Though Without Money

  • Leagues working together on numerous operational components
  • Walter-backed PWHL remains independent financially
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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The NHL has long advocated and pledged its support for a strong, unified women’s pro league. Now, commissioner Gary Bettman and his staff are making good on that promise.

As the Professional Women’s Hockey League — formed this summer from a merger of two prior entities that was led by Los Angeles Dodgers controlling owner Mark Walter — prepares to start play in January, the new league is working extensively with the NHL on various operational elements, including scheduling and crossover promotions.

“It’s really to be there in any way we can to help facilitate the progression of the league,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Associated Press. “They’re working on a very ambitious timeline to get a league up and running and do all the things you need to do to make that happen.”

Further signaling the historic growth of women’s sports, the PWHL will begin with six teams, all located in current NHL markets. Those teams will have 23-player active rosters, each earning salaries ranging from $35,000 to $80,000.

The NHL’s support, however, doesn’t extend to financial backing, as both sides concluded it was best for the Walter-owned PWHL to ultimately stand on its own. Still, the arrival of the league signals a new moment for women’s pro hockey in an otherwise choppy history.

“There’s a lot more alignment, I suppose, with the NHL to be able to know that we are in NHL markets,” Jayna Hefford, PWHL senior vice president of hockey operations, told the Associated Press. “The teams that we have been in contact with in those markets have been incredible and really want to help be a part of this and build it.”

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