FILE - Connecticut Whale defender Maggie LaGue (12) moves the puck up the ice as Minnesota Whitecaps forward Haley Mack (19) defends during the first period of a semifinal in the NWHL Isobel Cup hockey tournament in Boston, in this Friday, March 26, 2021, file photo. The National Women’s Hockey League made a potentially game-changing decision for the sport in approving to double its salary cap to $300,000 for each of its six teams on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, based on projections it is making strides in achieving financial stability entering its seventh season.(AP Photo/Mary Schwalm, File)

FILE - Connecticut Whale defender Maggie LaGue (12) moves the puck up the ice as Minnesota Whitecaps forward Haley Mack (19) defends during the first period of a semifinal in the NWHL Isobel Cup hockey tournament in Boston, in this Friday, March 26, 2021, file photo. The National Women’s Hockey League made a potentially game-changing decision for the sport in approving to double its salary cap to $300,000 for each of its six teams on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, based on projections it is making strides in achieving financial stability entering its seventh season.(AP Photo/Mary Schwalm, File)

NWHL doubles salary cap to $300K, delays Montreal expansion

NWHL was established in 2015 as a four-team league and North America’s first to pay female players a salary

The National Women’s Hockey League announced Wednesday it is doubling its salary cap to $300,000 for each of its six teams based on projections that it is making strides in achieving financial stability entering its seventh season.

“Making an investment in those players by doubling the salary cap we believe is a very strong signal that we’re serious about this,” Boston Pride chairman Miles Arnone told The Associated Press. “This is something we can afford to do. It’s substantial, yet it doesn’t mark the end. It marks the beginning of a process we expect to go on over the next number of years.”

At the same time, Arnone said the league is putting off adding an expansion franchise in Montreal until the 2022-23 season because of continuing uncertainties due to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in Canada. Arnone has a stake in the BTM ownership group behind the Montreal expansion bid and operates the Toronto Six, which completed its first season.

The decision to increase the cap from $150,000 means salaries will average $15,000 based on 20-player rosters. Arnone estimated salaries will range between $10,000 to $35,000, not including additional bonuses that come with the league’s revenue-sharing agreement with its players.

Though the NWHL is not yet turning a profit, first-year commissioner Tyler Tumminia cited inroads made in generating major sponsorship deals — including a high-six-figure agreement with Discover — and growing its fanbase despite playing a shortened two-week season that was disrupted by a COVID-19 outbreak and forced a near two-month postponement of the playoffs.

“In a very challenging year for all sports, I think this is a very exciting announcement, and something we’re proud of as a league, frankly being at the point where our goals are literally becoming reality now,” Tumminia told the AP. “If you go to project out, we’re confident that the model and the revenue stream is going up.”

Arnone said the decision to increase the cap and delay expansion are unrelated.

Aside from the challenges of establishing a new team amid COVID-19 restrictions still in effect in Canada, Arnone noted he would prefer to focus on developing the Six’s infrastructure and fanbase. The Six have yet to play a game in Toronto after spending their first season exclusively in the United States due to the border being closed.

“We will expand. And we have very concrete plans to do that, and I think you can expect very clearly that there will be expansion for Season 8,” Arnone said. “Our view is that it’s a little better to take more time, build up better infrastructure for that new team, get the right people in place and really have a good go at that.”

Arnone, the managing partner for Cannon Capital investment firm, has played a key role in transforming the NWHL’s leadership since purchasing the Pride two years ago. In that time, the league has restructured its executive model by establishing a board of governors made up of owners, investors and shareholders in a move that led to league founder Dani Rylan Kearney stepping down as commissioner last autumn.

The NWHL’s four other teams, based in Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey and Buffalo, New York, are operated by W Hockey Partners, which is actively seeking to sell the franchises to private ownership groups.

The NWHL was established in 2015 as a four-team league and North America’s first to pay female players a salary. It has endured growing pains and nearly shuttered a month into its second season when the NWHL made the drastic decision to slash player salaries nearly in half because of projected shortfalls under a then-$270,000 per team salary cap.

The cutbacks led to numerous high-profile players leaving the NWHL to play in Canada.

Tumminia and Arnone said the NWHL is better positioned to not have a repeat of what happened in 2016 because the league no longer operates its teams and has a better grasp on its cash flow. Though still dependent on gate revenue, the NWHL has secured longer-term deals with corporate partners and has increased its visibility.

The boost in salary has the potential of drawing additional players to the NWHL after a majority of America’s and Canada’s top players balked at joining the league, instead forming the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association following the demise of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2019. The PWHPA’s objectives are to establish a single North American women’s pro league capable of paying a living wage and with a long-term sustainable economic model.

“We would hope that this will, on the margin, make a difference. We’ll see, right?” Arnone said, referring to the split between the NWHL and PWHPA. “We’d love to see some reconciliation.”

The NWHL nearly tripled its viewership this season with over 2 million views on its streaming platform, Twitch. The Isobel Cup semifinals and final were broadcast nationally for the first time and averaged more than 100,000 viewers on NBCSN.

“We have a much better handle (on economics). We’ve been through six seasons, one of which was of course historic on its level of disruption to understand what the business looks like,” Arnone said, referring to this past season. “If we can make it through that, doubling the salary cap is like a walk in the park.”

___

John Wawrow, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

hockey

Just Posted

A grant from the Okanagan Basin Water Board has allowed the historic O’Keefe Ranch in Spallumcheen to construct and complete its rain gardens project. (O’Keefe Ranch photo)
Spallumcheen ranch protects ecosystem with water grant

Historic O’Keefe Ranch receives $20,000 to construct and complete rain gardens project

Michelle Jacobs receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 28, 2021. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
126 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

There are 22 individuals hospitalized due to the virus, and 13 in intensive care

(File photo)
Repeated cougar sighting on Okanagan Rail Trail

Plenty of bear sightings around the valley too

Vernon local Ryan Lazar – who specializes in 2D background design and 3D animation – is ready to start his career after a tough yet rewarding two years of studies. (Contributed)
Okanagan College students get animated at graduation

‘The pandemic has resulted in more video consumption and the animation industry is so hot right now because of it’

An e-scooter and a car bumper make for a narrow passthrough on a sidewalk out front of the Kelowna Law Courts on Wednesday, April 28. (Michael Rodriguez/Black Press)
E-scooters ready to roll in Vernon

Final bylaw changes in place to allow personal use and for companies to operate a rental program

WildSafeBC is reminding residents to keep manage wildlife attractants on their property. (WildSafeBC Central Okanagan)
WildSafeBC reminds residents to manage attractants as bears spotted in Okanagan

The most prominent reminder is to keep garbage secured indoors until collection day

Barriere RCMP nabbed two suspects who were allegedly breaking into cabins in McLure. (File photo)
Thieves nabbed by Barriere Mounties during McLure break-ins

Police Service Dog Kody instrumental in making the arrest

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

RCMP vest
Penticton beach brawl results in one arrest but no charges

People took to social media after a fight broke out at the fire pits at Okanagan Lake Saturday

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

A single motorcycle parked outside of the Kelowna Hells Angels clubhouse at 837 Ellis Street on July 9, 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna Hells Angels prospect sentenced to 9 months in jail for aggravated assault

Colin Michael Bayley pleaded guilty to the downtown Kelowna assault earlier this month

Most Read