What the NWHL means for Female College Players

NWHL logos: featured are the Connecticut Whale and the New York Riveters
NWHL logos: featured are the Connecticut Whale and the New York Riveters

The new Nationals Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), is set to hold it’s first amateur draft on June 20th. The league’s four teams; the New York Riveters, Connecticut Whale, Boston Pride, and Buffalo Beauts, will be selecting from a strong pool of women’s hockey talent.

The amateur draft will only be selecting women in their junior year of college, so they can develop for one more season and prepare themselves for their new home (finding a house, second job, etc). Non-college players won’t be excluded from the league, as they can still sign as free-agents, but they will not be eligible for the amateur draft. This means that the NWHL will put the majority of their focus on NCAA players, which begs the question: What does the NWHL mean for NCAA women’s hockey in the future?

With only four teams, and a $250,000 salary cap, this year’s NWHL won’t be making millionaires out of any female athletes. However, if you look a ways down the road, the future is looking bright for women’s hockey.

As of now, each player will earn a pretty modest salary, something around $10,000 – $15,000 in a season. And while that doesn’t seem particularly exciting for some, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. The goal is, of course, to see the league become more and more popular with each season, so that a ways down the road, NWHL teams can dish out full-time pay to their women. But for now, a part-time wage will have to make due.

However, by only selecting women who have completed their degree, the NWHL is securing financial safety for it’s players. On top of making some money playing professional hockey, the women will also have full college degrees to work with, so they can make up for the difference with a second job. The system is not perfect, but it’s certainly a start for professional women’s hockey.

NWHL: Featured are the Buffalo Beauts and Boston Pride logos
NWHL: Featured are the Buffalo Beauts and Boston Pride logos

Nonetheless, the NWHL poses an exciting opportunity for female college players. While the league can only give them a part-time salary for now, that may change a few years down the road. The most exciting thing, however, is the pure hockey aspect of it. Now, women playing at a college level have something else to work toward after they earn their degree. The female athletes that have dedicated their lives to the sport will actually have somewhere to go after graduating, where they can earn some cash doing what they love.

Plus, will further expansion of the NWHL eventually lead to more female college teams? If the NWHL can establish itself as a formidable business a few years down the road, then perhaps more schools will look to create or elevate their teams to Division I.

On top of that, the league could have positive effects for our national team as well. With more women playing at such a high level, the United States national team will have deeper pool of women to pick from. This group will continue to grow as the league does, which means that the United States could become even more deadly as far as women’s hockey goes in the future.

It’ll be interesting to see how the draft goes this weekend, as the NWHL prepares for action. For an NWHL mock draft, check out USCHO.com here.