As they seek a new league, women’s hockey stars form players association

"It's time for a long-term viable professional league that will showcase the greatest product of women's professional hockey in the world."

Shannon Szabados Canada Women's Hockey
More than 200 of the world's top women's hockey players are joining forces to launch the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association. –The Associated Press

The organization, which filed articles of incorporation on Friday, will be “dedicated to promoting and supporting the creation of a single, viable women’s professional league in North America,” the law firm representing it said in an email. Formation of the union comes after players earlier this month vowed not to compete in any North American league under current conditions, which could leave elite players without a professional outlet close to home for the coming year.

The PWHPA called for a league that will “provide financial and infrastructure resources to players; protect and support their rights and talents; provide health insurance; and work with companies, business leaders, and sports professionals worldwide who already have voiced support for women’s hockey.”

“This is the moment we’ve been waiting for – our moment to come together and say we deserve more,” the group wrote in a statement issued May 2. “It’s time for a long-term viable professional league that will showcase the greatest product of women’s professional hockey in the world.”

The plans for the union, whose members come from the U.S., Canada and Europe, call for it to help “coordinate training needs and opportunities and develop support from sponsors.” Members said they are asking for a league that will promote diversity and inclusion and raise awareness “of hockey as a sport that is open to all,” among other things.

“We are fortunate to be ambassadors of this beautiful game, and it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of players have more opportunities than we had,” Kendall Coyne Schofield, who was part of the U.S. Olympic gold-medal winning team in 2018, said in a statement. “It’s time to stand together and work to create a viable league that will allow us to enjoy the benefits of our hard work.”

“We are prepared to stop playing for a year – which is crushing to even think about – because we know how important a sustainable league will be to the future of women’s sports,” Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, said in a statement. “We know we can make this work, and we want the chance to try.”

The union’s formation has major implications for the National Women’s Hockey League, the top league in North America after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League folded last month. The group of players previously said it would not play for any North American leagues this season “until we get the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves.”

“We cannot make a sustainable living playing in the current state of the professional game,” the players said in a statement earlier this month, pointing to salaries that can be as low as $2,000 per season and a lack of health insurance.

“I mean, we have women who have to work full-time jobs in order to play professional hockey,” Meghan Duggan, a three-time Olympian for the U.S. national team, told The Washington Post in early May. “We, as players, think that the players and the sport deserve more. We have faith there’s a partner who’s going to step up and see the players’ true value.”

The women’s players have been open to the NHL as an option for helping grow their game, but Duggan has indicated that isn’t their only recourse.

“I think if opportunity presents itself for them to step in, I trust they have a vision for women’s hockey. But we have faith there will be a partner who sees the players’ value, whoever that is,” she said. “We’re going to work towards one viable league in North America, and we’ll consider any proposal that can do that.”

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