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The Canadian Women’s Hockey League is closing up shop

By in Sports & Health
The Toronto Furies in 2015.

On Sunday morning, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League shocked our country’s hockey landscape with their decision to discontinue all operations beginning May 1.

The announcement comes just a week after the Calgary Inferno captured the championship trophy in the six-team league. The timing of this decision makes it quite unexpected as the Clarkson Cup drew a league-record of 175,000 viewers tuning into the championship final.

Hundreds of female professional athletes will be dramatically affected, many of whom have Olympic-calibre talents as the league has featured numerous Canadian gold medalists, most notably Marie-Philip Poulin and Hayley Wickenheiser, throughout its 12-year history.

Like many others around the league, former Huskie captain Kaitlin Willoughby will be left wondering what lies ahead with seemingly few alternatives as it stands today. To say this decision is a shame is an understatement as a talent like Willoughby, who stands as the Huskies’ second all-time leader in points, should not have to worry about a place to play.

CWHL players, including Willoughby, took to Twitter on Sunday to express their displeasure with the decision.

“This morning we were informed the #CWHL is folding. As players, we will do our best to find a solution so this isn’t our last season of hockey, but it’s hard to remain optimistic. #NoLeague,” Willoughby wrote.

Numerous other players tweeted out the exact same message. It’s a hard pill to swallow for these world-class athletes, left without a platform to improve their talents. The CWHL has been the only professional option for these women who can now only hope for a new opportunity to seemingly come out of nowhere.

Back in 2017-2018, the league made quantifiable progress with its decision to pay their players. And yes, previous to that season, the players did not receive any compensation for their professional work. The league set each teams’ salary cap at $100,000 with the annual salaries ranging between $2,000 and $10,000. This is quite a stretch from the $700,000 minimum salary that the National Hockey League offers its players.

The news is undeniably disappointing as many of these athletes will have to put their life’s work on the shelf until further notice. Natalie Spooner, a member of Team Canada’s 2014 and 2018 Olympic team, took to Twitter and added some perspective to the situation.

“Today, the hockey league we played in and relied on to improve as players folded. The support we felt throughout these years was tremendous, and we would love to keep this momentum going,” Spooner wrote. “The future generations need to be able to see their role models on the ice.”

Spooner touched on the consequences of the decision. The CWHL provided young girls around the country with someone to admire and career goals in which they could aspire.

One of those young girls includes eight-year-old Jordyn whose letter to Spooner got posted by The Sports Network’s official Instagram account.

“Natalie Spooner is my hockey hero. I’m sad to hear the news about the CWHL… All of the teams and players inspired so many girls like me. When I’m older, my dream is to play for the Furies one day and sports broadcast for [the] CWHL. I really hope we can keep the league going… Keep your head up. I hope they can fix this soon,” Jordyn wrote.

Jordyn’s note tells the tale of what really matters coming out of this decision. Let’s all hope that a sustainable opportunity opens up for these athletes as the future of Canadian female athletics is much better off with a recognizable platform for influential role models to lead the next generation.

Tanner Michalenko

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons


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