Sticking Up for....Women's Hockey?
Updated: Feb 21
Let's start with a couple of caveats, shall we? When we talk about women's sports in this specific article, we are talking about TEAM sports. And when we say team sports, we mean PROFESSIONAL teams and not National Teams.
With that being said, what's the best women's team in the world today? 2 answers come to mind, either Olympique Lyon in French soccer or whatever WNBA team Diana Taurasi is on (Phoenix Mercury).
Despite being a hockey fan, I cannot name one female hockey player or one female hockey team. I enjoy high school hockey, college hockey, AHL hockey, KHL hockey & NHL hockey. I am only vaguely familiar with the NWHL and only became aware of women's pro hockey in general with the collapse of the CWHL.
The reason I bring up women's hockey today is because the Hockey News' horrible Ken Campbell wrote a story criticizing the NWHL during a pandemic. Campbell's angle? The NWHL needs to do better. You know who really needs to do better? Ken Campbell.
Right now the NWHL is operating like a newer sports league not unlike the Major Arena Soccer League or Major League Lacrosse. That is the incorrect way to do it.
Moneygrubber Gary Bettman needs to step up and either buy the NWHL or allow the NWHL to fold and then start from scratch with a WNHL. He needs to understand that by promoting women's hockey he is doing what's best for hockey in general. Bettman needs to work a similar plan that his mentor David Stern worked with the WNBA.
Right now, the average WNBA salary is $100,000 a year. Crappy websites claim that the number is way too low, that NBA rookies make an average of $800,000 a year. That's not the right prism to look at the problem through. You want to compare women's sports to women's sports. The average NWHL salary is $15,000 year, hardly a salary you could live on. The average women's pro softball player make $6,000 a year. The Legends Football League, where ladies play football in the equivalent of bikinis and helmets, is currently on hiatus and is being re-branded as X-League football. David Stern made the WNBA a success in the realm of women's sports.
What I didn't realize until researching this article was that the NBA sold off the WNBA a few years back. But my premise remains that the NBA's early template for a female version of the game should be emulated by the NHL. The NHL sets up the new WNHL with infrastructure, television contracts, and tie ins. You build the NHL brand by making the NHL synonymous with pro hockey. In 5 to 10 years, the NHL phases itself out and allows the WNHL to stand on its own 2 feet.
Who won this year's NWHL Isobel Cup? Ha! Trick question. The playoffs and the Cup game were suspended. Does suspended mean cancelled or postponed? Can't find that answer. Is there a rescheduled date? Can't find answer. Does the league still exist? According to their website, yes.
On February 1, the Boston Pride beat the Buffalo Beauts 7-1. Don't be surprised if that ends up being the NWHL's last game.
I was right about Lyon, they have won the last 5 UEFA Women's Champions League Finals. I wasn't right about the Phoenix Mercury, they have had good years and they have had bad years, but Diana Taurasi is almost 40.
But if I don't really like basketball that much, how do I even know Diana Taurasi's name? Because David Stern was able to market the sport and the athlete. That's what women's hockey needs, someone to turn women's hockey players into household names.
The way you do that is either through the NHL route or hope that a billionaire is enough of a fan of women's hockey to bankroll a league. If you don't do that, women's hockey will sadly still be in the conversation with indoor soccer or professional lacrosse.
Addendum 1 Day Later:
Maybe we'll have to wait for the NEXT commissioner to do what's right for women's hockey.
I read this unbelievable quote in the New York Post this morning about yesterday's postponed annual outdoor game in Lake Tahoe:
“We’ve never had a problem quite like this,” Bettman said. “We’ve played in some rain, we’ve played in snow, but sunshine has always been our enemy.
Sunshine is your enemy? So Vampire Bettman set up a game at 1 pm in Nevada knowing that Sunshine could be a problem? Damn, Bettman is such a bad commissioner.