The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, April 30, 2021

What is good enough? — Interview with Anya Packer — Must-click links

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What is good enough?

I’ll cut to the chase here. If you click the links below, you’ll read that the NWHL has increased team salary caps by 100% to $300,000. You will also read that Shannon Szabados is still waiting for the model league.

So my question to the WoHo world is, what is good enough?

I am not here to argue that anything in women’s hockey, women’s pro sports, or even boys’ pro sports (hehe, I couldn’t help myself) is good enough.

Take the NFL, for example. If “good enough” is a 3-day draft on ABC, a $12 million contract, and a $6 million signing bonus, then women’s hockey has a LONG—and I mean a freaking LONG—way to go.

I personally don’t watch the NFL for the following reasons:

  • I’m Black

  • I’m a woman

  • The league suppresses Black voices

  • The league suppresses and downright abuses women (I am talking about the treatment of cheerleaders and media members, not even the numerous players accused of violence)

However, the league seems content to hire and take millions of dollars from problematic people and doesn’t miss my support. I personally think it would be sad to see WoHo be so detached.

So let’s use a women’s sports league as an example. The WNBA is celebrating its 25th season in TWO WEEKS!!!! The league negotiated its first 50-50 revenue split in 2019 (I’m doing some digging on this, though. The split was contingent on the 2020 in-market revenue numbers … and then COVID).

Salaries for the WNBA started at $15,000 to $50,000 in 1997. Today, the max salary is $221,450 (up from $117,500 in 2019). By these numbers, WoHo has some catching up to do compared to the inaugural WNBA season when it comes to player payouts. It is also worth noting that a WNBA roster caps at 12 players. NWHL and PWHPA rosters cap at 25 players.

Therefore, at the 1997 WNBA salary range, WoHo teams would need $375,000 – $1.25 million per team to pay players. Under the new $300,000 NWHL salary cap, if each player was paid the same salary, athletes would earn $12,000 per season.

Further, the revenue share bonus a player receives is the exact percentage of their salary compared to the team cap. Thus, if a player earns $12,000 in salary or 4% of the salary cap, they receive 4% of that team’s share of the revenue split.

As of now, the PWHPA players do not receive salaries. The players competing in 2021 will be eligible for cash prizes made possible by increased sponsorship. The last I heard from Jayna Hefford about the maximum a player could earn, that was still contingent on how many Dream Gap Tour stops were held.

The PWHPA played games in New York/New Jersey and Chicago. The St. Louis stop was postponed because of COVID. The PWHPA has not yet been able to host events in Canada, thus the Montreal, Calgary, and Toronto teams have not been activated and will likely not be eligible for any money until that changes.

So right now, the choices in North America are games and a cash bonus or roughly $12,000 in salary and revenue split bonus. Neither is the $15,000 – $50,000 range that WNBA players had 25 seasons ago. Nor is it the $50,000 max salary that National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) players can earn.

On the surface, the NWHL is much closer to paying a livable wage. It is unclear what more is needed for the likes of Szabados and others to consider the NWHL viable. It is also unclear what the NWHL and/or Women’s Hockey Partners (owners of four of the six teams) are going to commit to when it comes to:

  • Transparency

  • Antiracism

  • Anti-trans policies

So that begs the question, what is good enough? Eager to hear your thoughts!

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This week in women’s hockey

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Must-click links

Mikyla Grant-Mentis becomes the first Black MVP in professional hockey.

Women’s Worlds rescheduled for the end of August, IIHF announces.

Cornell athletes Finley Frechette & Khary Pryce start AMPED, a podcast aimed at amplifying “the voices of women, people of color and other underrepresented groups in athletics.”

NWHL open to conversations with the PWHPA; Shannon Szabados still waiting for a league good enough for her daughter:

“Until I see a league in North America that I would want my daughter to play in, my stance with the PWHPA remains united to create a better opportunity for future generations.”

Getting to know Saroya Tinker!

U.S Senate honors the Wisconsin Badgers women’s ice hockey team.

NWHL Montreal expansion placed on ice.

Updates on the new UConn women’s and men’s ice hockey facility.

There is a lot in the latest NWHL story from The Victory Press. Most of the topics mentioned are worth taking bird by bird, as Ann Lamott once said.

For anyone reading about the 50/50 revenue share, in 2019, the AP reported the revenue split would be effective “once the league meets its operating expenses.” Much more to digest, but have a read and then we can discuss.

Anya Packer is ready to lead the Riveters as the new general manager. More from Anya below.

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Tweet of the week

Five at The IX: Anya Packer

I had a chat with Anya Packer about her new role and what will happen with the NWHLPA now that she’s moving on. Note: Anya Packer is a member of The IX Newsletter.

On transitioning to GM of the Riveters

Listen to me: there is so much in women’s hockey to be proud of, to be critical about, to be everything. And for me, every time I get to a new stage of the game is how I find something that I can put my stamp on, to change, make better, innovate. I got to the point with the PA where I feel like I brought the PA as far as they possibly could go without somebody with a law degree … I think at every point, we have to look at what we’ve done and recognize that it might be the ceiling for us.

When I started looking at ways to continue to grow and expand within the league … I found I really loved the business side of what we were doing. I really wanted to get involved and I really wanted to own a brand … all of that net sum brought me to a place where I knew I had to move on. I knew the PA needed better than me. There needed to be a smarter person in that room.

On what happens to the PA

Stronger than ever. I think the NWHLPA is comprised of 10, or 12, excuse me, with the Toronto Six, incredible women that are doing so much. They’re still obviously meeting regularly. They were clued in well in advance to everybody else on our salary cap increase. They are in lockstep with the league … so when I leave them, they aren’t now leaderless. They’re going through the process of finding the right new leader. We’ve just watched the NWSLPA go through a very similar shift that was away from an athlete leader and more towards the traditional leader that we see across players associations.

They’re going to get to a very exciting new height without me.

On which Packer gets to claim the Riveters (Anya is married to Riveters forward and captain Madison Packer)

You have now a Packer mind-meld of leadership in one team. (Author’s note: well played, Anya.)

I actually said to Ivo, our head coach … ‘I need you to build me the best possible team, and I will be your ally in all things player development.’

I was like, ‘You focus on the ice … what I want to do is get the Riveters brand to scale.’ I think it’s the best brand in hockey. I think that there’s nothing stronger than what we can produce as the Riveters brand. So there’s a lot of creativity that I’m giving to him and that I want him to do on the ice. I don’t want to be involved with that. As a hockey player, you’d assume or people would assume that the first thing that I’m going to start doing is like getting involved in all these player conversations and trying to change the system. Like, that’s not my hustle.

What we’re doing isn’t innovative enough. And if you’re in a women’s sports or minor league sport or something that’s not, you know, one of the top four, you need to be so innovative that it’s crazy. And we haven’t been there in the past and I’m excited to bring us there for the future.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Sarah Kellam, @sarahkellam, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08, NWHL Broadcaster
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer

Written by Erica L. Ayala