The Status of Professional Female Hockey: A Student’s Perspective

0ca0a2aBy Bailey Lane

Growing up as a female hockey player, I always knew that my playing days would end after my last collegiate game.  As my senior year was coming to an end I had an idea that, hey, there was a league out there called the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.  So, I thought what the heck, I will sign up for the draft and see what happens, maybe I can play “professional” women’s hockey.  Towards the end of August 2013, I get an e-mail saying I was drafted 5th to Toronto!  I was so happy, right away I got a call from a reporter and I was feeling really good about myself. At that moment I felt like I was on top of the world!  After the phone call, I realized what was actually happening and I thought, wait a minute.  I can’t do this.  I can’t move to Toronto.  Most people would think why? Why not? You just got drafted to play a professional sport! Well, the reason being is because while it is a professional league the players actually don’t get paid! So moving from Denver, Colorado to Toronto, Ontario, finding a place to live and a job to support myself was unrealistic.  In fact, without money it was impossible.  This is exactly why currently the CWHL is trying to reach out to the NHL for support.  They are trying to make it possible for women to play hockey professionally full-time instead of having to work full time to support themselves and play professionally.

In fact, there is an article called “The NHL’s treatment of the CWHL is embarrassing” that gives an example of what the NHL thinks.  According to an NHL official, “While it was determined the overall development of women’s hockey at the grass-roots level through the college level isn’t at a point where a professional league is viable, we very much believe in the importance of the women’s game,” he wrote. “But it’s going to take some more time, more development.”  More development?  The league has been around for 7 years already and is composed of the best female hockey players in the world!  For 7 years, women have left their families to play the game they love at the highest level for free!  Who wouldn’t want to invest in people that have so much passion for the game they love?  These women often times, pay for their own equipment.  The article shares the story of Janine Weber who plays for the Boston Blades in the CWHL.  Weber scored the game winning goal in overtime during the Clarkson Cup Finals (Stanley Cup of women’s hockey).  The Hockey Hall of Fame asked for her stick to put in the Hall of Fame, but she couldn’t do it because she only owned two sticks.  See, these women pay for their own sticks (unlike the NHL where guys get sticks in bulk for free) so she had to decline.

Some people may argue that the NHL shouldn’t feel obligated to support the CWHL just because they play the same sport.  They may also say that it is a business and the ultimate goal of a business is to make money.  If the NHL supported the CWHL, then they would lose millions of dollars.  My question is, why wouldn’t they want to make history now and join in with the NBA/WNBA to promote women’s professional sports?  The NHL has that opportunity right at their door step and they are choosing to look the other way.  As a female, I grew up an avid fan of the NHL supporting my favorite players and team!  Maybe I should rethink my own support of the NHL until they learn to play nice.

*The above post does not represent the opinion or stance of the Department of Kinesiology, Health, and Sport Studies nor does it represent the opinion of Wayne State University*


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