The status of the National Women’s Hockey League, which is facing a boycott from top players, “doesn’t look good right now,’’ according to the co-coach and founder of the successful Minnesota Whitecaps franchise.
“I don’t have any idea at this point in time what the situation is going forward,’’ Jack Brodt told the Associated Press, adding that he wasn’t speaking for the league. “With the players not willing to play and so forth, I don’t know if there’s going to be the ability to have a league.’’
Brodt’s comments come less than a week after more than 200 of the top women’s players in North America, including several Whitecaps and members of the gold medal-winning 2018 U.S. Olympic team, vowed not to play in the 2019-20 season until a financially stable league is established. Players listed salaries as low as $2,000 and lack of health insurance among their concerns.
Brodt didn’t immediately respond to a request from the Star Tribune for comment.
The NWHL’s stability took another hit Wednesday when Pegula Sports and Entertainment, owner of the Buffalo Beauts, announced it was returning the team to the NWHL. The Beauts were considered by many to be the model franchise among the five in the league because of their independent ownership, their title game appearances in all four years and cooperation from the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.
“Our main goal has always been fostering the growth of women’s hockey across all ages,” Kim Pegula, president and CEO of Pegula Sports and Entertainment, said in a statement posted on Twitter. “We thank our Beauts players, staff, and fans for their support this past season. We will continue to look for ways to successfully grow the women’s game.”
NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan thanked Pegula Sports and Entertainment for its stewardship of the Beauts, and the league also issued a statement saying it was pleased to regain operating control of the team.
Pegula Sports and Entertainment also owns the Sabres and NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Terry Pegula, Kim’s husband, has been a longtime hockey supporter, and the Pegulas donated more than $100 million to Penn State to establish men’s and women’s varsity hockey programs and build Pegula Ice Arena.
The Beauts were league champions in 2017. They lost 2-1 in overtime to the Whitecaps in this year’s NWHL title game. Minnesota led the league in attendance, selling out all 10 games at 1,200-seat Tria Rink. Buffalo ranked second with 1,101 per game.
With the folding of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League on May 1, the NWHL was the only pro league left in North America. The boycotting players aren’t satisfied with the NWHL and want a league that is financially stable. Full backing from the NHL appears to be the goal.
“What’s happening in that league is something that we are not willing to go back to,” former Minnesota Duluth standout Zoe Hickel told KTUU-TV of Anchorage, Alaska. “We don’t want anything from the NWHL, we are not holding out for anything. We just want to close that chapter and start a new one.”