The NWHL (National Women’s Hockey League) was established in March 2015. The League is made up of four teams: the Buffalo Beauts, Boston Pride, New York Riveters and the Connecticut Whale. It will have something in common with the NHL in that the championship trophy is called the Isobel Cup, named for Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy, the daughter of Frederick Stanley, the 16th Earl of Derby and the donor of the Stanley Cup!
Dani Rylan, the League’s founder and commissioner, boasts that it holds the distinction of being the first-ever women’s professional hockey league to pay its players a salary. Before the League was formed, top level professional players only had the CWHL (Canadian Women’s Hockey League), which did not pay its players, to aspire to in North America.
The League has a salary cap of $270,000 max per team and $10,000 min per player. Each player can subsidize her salary by getting an additional 15% of the profits from the sale of her jersey, and the League provides all of their equipment. The placement of the teams is significant because they are in traditional hockey markets where fan support is strong.
Additionally, since this is a paid league and the team location is prime, it has attracted the attention of many top level U.S. women’s national ice hockey team stars from the CWHL such as Hilary Knight and former Team USA captain Meghan Duggan, as well as many top graduating players from the NCAA and international players.
The NWHL is already recognized by USA Hockey as the top women’s professional league. Not bad for only being in existence for seven months! This is another big step in a year that has seen women advance and make great strides. I’m eager to see what 2016 with bring!