The National Women’s Hockey League: Impatience Is A Virtue

Posted by Amey Doyle on April 16, 2015
The National Women’s Hockey League: Impatience Is A Virtue

The National Women’s Hockey league held its launch party Monday night at Chelsea Piers in New York City. The NWHL only announced its existence last month via Yahoo’s Puck Daddy and social media sites were immediately set ablaze by a small contingent of thrilled fans. The information available was limited, but seemed reasonable, and even hopeful to many who want to see more media and fan attention dedicated to the women’s game.

The NWHL would pay its players, in direct opposition to the North American pro women’s league already in existence, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. They wouldn’t be able to pay much to start, but any payment at all was a step forward. TheCWHL players earn nothing from their on-ice work, and in fact each team is required to pay $35,000 in order to participate in the CWHL’s playoffs in March.

After eight seasons in existence, it’s not unrealistic to say players had hoped to earn some financial compensation for their expertise and work game after game, year after year. CWHL players are often responsible for their own equipment (outside of pads, as the CWHL has a partial sponsorship deal with Bauer).

In contrast to the CWHL’s model, NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan told Puck Daddy author Jen Neale that not only would the women in the NWHL be paid, but there would be sponsorship deals in place for equipment.

While fans were promised more information upon the launch party, and many were hoping for information on sponsorship deals,the draft, team ownership or GM hirings, the main announcement was the naming of the league trophy.

The trophy, which will go by the moniker the Isobel Cup, harkens back to the NHL’s Stanley Cup in history and in name.

Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy was the daughter of Lord Stanley, for whom the famous Stanley Cup is named, and to whom the trophy — that started life as a fruit bowl — originally belonged. Gathorne-Hardy’s love of hockey (not fruit) convinced her father, then-Governor General of Canada, to donate his fruit bowl as the prize in an ice hockey tournament.

Without Isobel Stanley, at least one NHL tradition would not exist. The Library and Archives Canada site reveals that she was an avid hockey player and would wear a white dress to play shinny on the rink located next to the Government House in Ottawa with other women. In fact, the earliest known photograph of women playing hockey, taken in 1890 at Rideau Hall, is said to contain Lady Isobel playing in her iconic white dress amidst the others.

As interesting as the history behind the trophy is, the naming of the Isobel Cup drives further home the point that those in charge of the NWHL see their mission as one to unite the men’s and women’s leagues, much as the NBA partnered with the WNBA.

That has been made clear time and again.

The NWHL league has four teams: the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale and New York Riveters. The Whale and the Riveters have received perhaps the most attention for their logos: the Whale, of course, hearkens back to the Hartford Whalers, and the New York Riveters logo features Rosie the Riveter.

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