Woho Schedules & why Gary Bettman is no Simon Basset — Interview rewind with Jayna Hefford — Must-click woho links

The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, August 6, 2021

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Woho Schedules & why Gary Bettman is no Simon Basset

If you’ve been reading the links on Hockey Friday — please click and read our curated stories — you have likely noticed were starting to get WoHo schedules. College schedules, the Women’s Worlds schedule, twice! Now, we can add the NWHL schedule to that.

Here’s what we know about the NWHL Schedule:

  • Each team will play 10 home games and 10 away games

  • The Riveters will play the majority of their home game in Newark, their home when they claimed the 2018 Isobel Cup

  • The Toronto Six will have their first-ever home game on November 20 against the Connecticut Whale

  • Buffalo will host another outdoor game on February 21

The league is selling tickets to fans this season and say they will release COVID protocols at a later time.

The PWHPA hasn’t released a schedule, but they have released that they will move forward with a season in 2021-22.

Here’s what we know about the PWHPA Cycle 3:

  • There will again be five hubs

  • As I’ve reported, signs were pointing to the New Hampshire hub being done. Boston returns and NH is out.

  • There will again be prize money on the line. We still don’t know how much money was offered last season.

  • Due to COVID, nothing is set in stone regarding cross-border competition.

On that last point, if the PWHPA separates its championships again, I wonder if they will do a better job getting United States sponsorship. The Canadian Tour was head and shoulders above the U.S. leg due to resources made available by Secret.

Lisa Reid, the Brand Director of Secret Canada, said the following to me during a phone interview in June:

“We didn’t have a national sponsorship of the broadcast in the US. I think it’s something we can certainly look at as we go forward.”

The PWHPA Tour has effectively raised the visibility of women’s hockey. However, it’s not hard to see the Canadian hubs get more in the way of resources. In this way, the PWHPA must be careful not to fall into the traps that limited the CWHL and eventually sent the U.S. national team players to the NWHL.

After the U.S. exodus of 2015, the national team players once again disrupted women’s professional hockey by refusing to play in the NWHL after the season 2 salary cuts. That was more of a passive move, but when the CWHL folded in 2019, players made it clear they would not play for the NHWL.

The PWHPA was to be the solution, but as of yet has not:

  • Aligned with the (M)NHL

  • Established a viable wage, or any salary

  • Have a consistent schedule, though the PWHPA was only one year in when COVID struck. Despite your favorite celebrity saying otherwise, we’re not in the clear on this front.

In seven seasons, the NWHL has made several missteps, including with its management of COVID. But it has shifted to an ownership model — although the ownership is incestuous at the moment. The same holding company is involved with three of the six NWHL teams and is said to be on target to expand to Montreal next season.

Fore those wanting #OneLeague, I will continue to tell you not only are we not even close to that, we don’t need it. Instead of getting caught up in silly turf wars, players should take advantage of the market. There is nowhere, not even a national team, that is going to treat hockey players like the full-time professionals they are right now.

Therefore, the best fit for any given player is going to be made on other factors. Where do they want to live? Who do they want to play with? Where can they get another job?

As much as the PWHPA tries to own the “for the future” narrative while the NWHL want to own the “we’re a stable business model” narrative, both operations have their limitations.

Instead of using the shortcomings of each as fuel against them, hockey players should take control of their own destiny. The formation of the PWHPA was that! However, I am of the opinion that they haven’t pushed the needle in the way they promised mostly because they’ve spent too much time trying to woo the NHL.

I mean, maybe it could happen! I’m of the opinion it would take a Daphne-like pursuit for the PWHPA to land their Simon (the NHL). But let’s be real, Gary Bettman is about the farthest you can get from Regé-Jean Page or his Brigerton character Simon Basset.

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Week in Women’s Hockey

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Five at The IX: Jayna Hefford Rewind

A reminder of what Hefford said about the PWHPA heading into its first Olympic year.

From June 11, 2021:

I spoke to Jayna days after the Canadian leg of the 2021 PWHPA Dream Gap Tour concluded in Calgary. Here are excerpts from a forthcoming report of the financial investments to players from the most recent PWHPA cycle.

Jayna’s thoughts on the PWHPA Dream Gap Tour – Canada

It was a really great week. Obviously, I think it was a little, I don’t know if hesitancy is the right word, but the players have been through so much with postponements and cancellations and everything else. That was what it was all about. It was really good getting them on the ice, seeing the excitement for them to be back on the ice, and then the level of intensity and competition. It was really great from our perspective.

On whether Minnesota & Montreal will face-off for claim to the ultimate PWHPA champion title

As of now, no. It was always our goal to have a cross border championship, but now we’ve really run out of time with a number of players going in to the summer with their national programs. So the teams that we can put on the ice wouldn’t replicate the teams that competed all year. We would have loved to, but we’re gonna turn our focus to the next season.

On what are the plans for next season are looking like, especially given 2022 is an Olympic year

Yeah, of course. We always are looking towards what’s next and how do we continue to move the game forward. We had about 125 players this year on active rosters. I believe we have about 45 that will be centralizing. So that leaves a big number of players but we have a lot of depth in our organization.

I know it likes to be reported that it’s all about National Team players, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. We still have 80 members that were with us this year that we want to take care of next year, should they continue to play.

On the payouts to players for the 2021 cycle

We can’t disclose the the financials, but the one thing I can say is that for both the Canadian and the US tour, players were able to earn money every single game. There was the additional bit for the champions, on each side. So even though we didn’t have the cross border championship team, there was no money left on the table, we were able to redistribute the overall number over the games (played) and over the winning of each tour on each side of border.

On the range of the entire prize pool for players

Yeah, we’re not able to disclose that based on our contract with Secret. We obviously know there’s interest in knowing that but they haven’t given us the ability to disclose it.

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Written by Erica L. Ayala