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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sean Hart, 34, unexpectedly left the Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility in Saanich on Nov. 6, 2020 and has now been missing for six months. (Photo courtesy Penny Hart)
Search continues for Saanich man Sean Hart six months after his disappearance

Support from community, police keeps his mother hopeful

Police stopped, then let go this man and his large collection of cans during a stop Monday morning on Resthaven Drive. Police had received a report of a possible theft, but let him go after he had returned the property, which he believed was his to take after being left out in public. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Report of theft, balancing act on Sidney street draws curious onlookers

Incident happened just before 8:30 a.m. opposite of Vancouver Island Regional Library branch

Daniel Foster, last seen in downtown Parksville on Saturday, May 1. (submitted photo)
RCMP seek help locating missing Victoria man, last spotted in Parksville

Daniel Foster, 43, seen via surveillance camera using an ATM

Oak Bay resident Hugh Thompson died Friday, May 7. (GoFundMe photo)
Oak Bay dad dies mountain biking near Shawnigan Lake

Community rallies around family with online fundraiser

Victoria Police Department looks to identify a person of interest after a Friday night stabbing. (VicPD handout)
Police seek person of interest after Victoria stabbing

Friday night assault leaves one with potentially life-altering injuries

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike on Snowbirds plane during training in Comox

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

Most Read