Interesting times in the world of professional women’s hockey. Less than 24 hours after a group of 200 players completed the first stop in the PWHPA Dream Gap Tour, the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) put out a few tweets as a de facto response of sorts. The Professional Women’s Hockey Player Association (PWHPA) is a player advocacy group backed by over 200 female hockey players who have decided to sit out of this season in North American hockey to find solutions.
Back when the PWHPA started there were two women’s hockey leagues in North America but after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) shuttered earlier this year, all that is left is the NWHL. On Monday morning, the NWHL official Twitter account sent out a thread of tweets to tell their side of the story amidst criticism over livable wages.
The thread starts off reiterating the 50/50 sponsor related revenue split that starts this upcoming season. Later on, they mention the higher end of their salaries being $15,000 for the upcoming season. With the 50/50 split, they expect a 26% increase in wages meaning the $15,000 for a top of the league player would become $18,900.
Overall the salary cap has risen from $100,000 to $150,000 from season four of the league to season five, which is a 33% year-over-year increase which for any league is an impressive jump. It is unclear what the average player would be paid based on that with the league stating that each team will have between 20-22 players. Assuming the $150,000 is used for 21 players the average wage would be $7,142, accounting for the current 26% bump from the 50/50 split and the wage would rise to roughly $9,000.
Opportunity Is There to Earn More
The thread talks about a $15,000 player but the reality is the average player is likely below that figure but has the opportunity to earn more through the 50/50 split. The NWHL season is six months long with 24 regular-season games, and a handful of playoff games if you make it that far. The league promises to share the final details on salaries at the end of the season as additional sponsorship dollars can be added on.
Now that the CWHL has folded, the NWHL has received all of the allocation money from the NHL and also has the opportunity to pick up the sponsorship money as they are the only “game in town” for the moment.
This sequence of tweets from the NWHL comes out of course a day after the PWHPA finished the first weekend of a three-weekend tour. The tour features a number of the sports top athletes who are looking “to create a sustainable league for women’s hockey”. They are looking for liveable wages that have up until this point alluded women’s hockey in North America. In order to promote their efforts, they have kicked off the Dream Gap Tour this past weekend in Toronto.
Struggles of Livable Wage Not New in Sports
To be fair to the players and their efforts, the NWHL wages even on the high end are not high enough for someone to do that as their full-time gig. They admitted that they have more work to be done and scaling up revenue to support that many athletes, coaching staff, front office, and more is not an easy thing to do. The struggles of NWHL players to work other jobs are not a new thing in professional sports with many athletes in the Major League Lacrosse League also having to work day jobs to make ends meet.
With the exhibition games and the sponsors that the PWHPA has set up on their traveling tour, they might find a way to model what the Premier Lacrosse League has done in their first season. Keeping more of the revenue with the players at the start and going city to city building up a fanbase. Again, hard to blame the NWHL who has the tough task of building a professional league in a time where many of the smaller ones have failed. The league does appear to be trending in the right direction but at some point, the PWHPA and the NWHL have to face their issues.
Tanner covers the business of hockey of The Hockey Writers in addition to running his own New England sports website, Trifecta Sports.