Women’s hockey players have filed paperwork to form a union with the goal of helping to establish a sustainable professional league in North America.
Earlier this month, more than 200 female players vowed to sit out the upcoming season in any pro league in an effort to force team owners and leagues to give women’s hockey the resources the players demand.
The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, according to a press release, will be comprised of players from the U.S., Canada and Europe. The members will lobby for a league that offers training opportunities, sponsorships and health insurance.
“We are fortunate to be ambassadors of this beautiful game, and it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of players have more opportunities than we had,” said Kendall Coyne Schofield, a 2018 Olympic gold medalist who most recently played for the Minnesota Whitecaps in the National Women’s Hockey League. “It’s time to stand together and work to create a viable league that will allow us to enjoy the benefits of our hard work.”
The NWHL, which formed in 2015, remains the only women’s pro hockey league in North America after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League announced it would cease operations in March. The six-team league shut down in May.
In addition to Minnesota, there are NWHL franchises in Buffalo, Boston, Connecticut and Newark.
Shannon Szabados, a Two-time Olympic gold medalist for Canada, called the decision to stop playing “crushing to even think about” but acknowledged the decision would help create a “sustainable league” in the future.
“We know we can make this work, and we want the chance to try," she said.
Philadelphia-based law firm Ballard Spahr is working on behalf of the PWHPA pro bono. According to USA Today, the firm helped the U.S. women’s national team negotiate for better pay two years ago. Ballard Spahr partner Dee Spagnuolo told USA Today that the goal for the PWHPA wasn’t necessarily to get the NHL to support a league, but acknowledged that the NBA’s backing of the WNBA is a “successful model.”
“We can’t speak for the NHL,” Spagnuolo said. “The singular focus of the PWHPA is to create a sustainable league for professional women’s hockey in North America. It’s the NHL’s decision and we don’t speak for them.”
Last week, the Devils announced they were ending their relationship with the Metropolitan Riveters based in Newark, according to ESPN. They were the first NHL team to partner with an NWHL franchise. Earlier in May, the owners of the Sabres ended their relationship with the Beauts, the NWHL’s Buffalo franchise.
The NWHL has said it intends for both the Riveters and the Beauts to play next season.
Hilary Knight, who plays for Team USA and was a member of the CWHL’s Canadiennes prior to the league’s folding, told Sports Illustrated last month that neither the NWHL or CWHL model is perfect for the future of women’s professional hockey.