Will NWHL expand to more teams – and bigger salaries – in the near future?

Matt Larkin
Dani Ryan, NWHL commissioner and New York Riveters GM.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The NWHL is the newest pro hockey circuit on the block. But it sure is making up for lost time in a hurry.

It’s already North America’s first paid professional women’s hockey league. And, this week, it did something even the NHL took decades to do: publish complete salary breakdowns for every player and roster. We revealed the league’s 10 highest-paid players Monday. On Tuesday the NWHL published the full list with help from CapPro. You can peruse the one-year salaries here. They’re sortable by name, team, nationality and cap hit.

The social media reaction upon learning the salary numbers has ranged from optimistic, viewing the shift from no pay to at least $10,000 per player as a huge victory, and pessimistic, noting the athletes will still earn less than minimum wage.

Dani Rylan, the NWHL’s commissioner and founder, sees the glass as half full and perhaps even overflowing. After all, she points out, it’s a sixth-month season. Every player earns five figures and has another six months of the year to supplement that income.

“This is a great first step, and we would love to see it eventually get to a point where it can be a one-and-only job,” Rylan said. “But it is pretty special that a lot of players in the league will be making up to or over a thousand dollars per game, which is pretty remarkable.”

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And the highest-paid player in women’s hockey is…

Matt Larkin
Kelli Stack of the Connecticut Whale.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

The battle for women’s hockey supremacy has begun. The brand-new National Women’s League has commenced pre-season play, while the Canadian Women’s League just announced new branding tying its Toronto and Montreal franchises to their NHL counterparts.

The off-season divided the talent pool between the upstart NWHL, North America’s first paid professional women’s puck circuit, and the established CWHL, which has operated as the world’s top women’s league since its 2008 inception.

The first hurdle for the NWHL in establishing itself as legit competition for the CWHL was, of course, landing some big names. The NWHL has done that. Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker signed with the Boston Pride, Meghan Duggan with Buffalo Beauts, and so on. The next big summit: revealing exactly what its players stand to make. Will the NWHL athletes earn enough to sustain themselves full-time in Season 1?

It’s been common knowledge for several months the league would have a $270,000 salary cap per team, as the NWHL made that number public in March. A $270,000 cap for 18-player rosters averages out to $15,000 per player. But a source close to the league has revealed to THN some additional details about the breakdown. The top 10 highest-paid NWHLers, all on one-year deals:

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Top 10 women’s players from last season

Jared Clinton
Brianna Decker (Harry How/Getty Images)

The entire landscape of women’s hockey changed this off-season with the creation of the NWHL and now the women’s game is growing in North America — at least on a professional level — at a pace that has never been seen before.

With new opportunities and more competition for jobs in the women’s pro game, there might now be a struggle between the CWHL and NWHL to keep top-tier talent. Consider this: of the top-three women’s players on our list, all three played in the CWHL in 2014-15. This upcoming season, however, the top two have jumped ship to play in the NWHL.

Brianna Decker and Hilary Knight signed contracts with the NWHL’s Boston Pride after suiting up in 2014-15 for the CWHL’s Boston Blades.

Decker and Knight are, without a doubt, the two premier players in the women’s game right now and have immediately become the faces of the NWHL. They’ll make the Pride top contenders for the first NWHL championship, too. Read more

CWHL’s Montreal Stars rebrand as Les Canadiennes de Montreal for 2015-16 season

Jared Clinton
Les Canadiennes de Montreal featured

The CWHL announced earlier this summer that the league’s teams would be undergoing a rebranding, and the Montreal Stars are the first club to officially announce a change for the 2015-16 campaign.

Thursday evening the Montreal Stars announced they will now be known as Les Canadiennes de Montreal and the team will take the ice under the new moniker in time for the 2015-16 season. The name was born out of the partnership between the NHL’s Canadiens and the Stars and the name change has been in the works, Canadiennes GM Meg Hewings said, since the partnership became a reality in March 2015.

“History is being made today as there is no better partner in Quebec hockey than the Montreal Canadiens,” said CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress in a statement. “As a league, we are proud to have reached this point, where a female hockey player can finally realize her dream of becoming a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization.” Read more

Olympian, women’s star Brianna Decker signs with NWHL’s Boston Pride

Jared Clinton
Brianna Decker (Harry How/Getty Images)

After much speculation about where she would play in 2015-16, it has been confirmed that Olympian and women’s hockey star Brianna Decker will be heading to the NWHL.

Decker, 24, spent the 2014-15 campaign with the CWHL’s Boston Blades, but it was announced Wednesday that she will be jumping ship to the NWHL for the league’s inaugural season to suit up with the Boston Pride.

“It’s an honor to sign with the Boston Pride,” Decker said in a statement. “I love living in the city of Boston and I know a lot of the other girls on the team and we gel really well. I think that we have a lot of skill on this team that is going to get us through a great first season.” Read more

Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps and Catherine Ward announce retirement from Team Canada

Jared Clinton
Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps and Catherine Ward celebrate their gold medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

When Team Canada takes the ice to defend its Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang, South Korea, they’ll have to do so without the help of three women who have won a combined nine Olympic golds.

Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps and Catherine Ward each announced their retirement from competitive hcokey Thursday, which means they won’t be back when the Canadian squad attempts to win its fifth consecutive Olympic gold.

Hefford, 38, is one of the greatest women’s players to ever lace up the skates and it’s hard to imagine what Team Canada will look like without her.

Her first appearance in a major international tournament was at the 1997 World Women’s Championships. In what would be foreshadowing for the rest of her international career, Canada won gold at the tournament. Read more

NWHL opens shop and reveals jerseys, portion of profit goes to players

Jared Clinton
The NWHL unveiled its jerseys for the 2015-16 season and opened its online shop. (via NWHL)

Fans preparing for the inaugural NWHL season can finally get their hands on replicas of the jerseys which will be worn by the league’s Founding Four.

As of Thursday, the NWHL’s online store is open and jerseys for all four teams — the Buffalo Beauts, Boston Pride, Connecticut Whale and New York Riveters — are available for sale. Better yet, though, fans can support their favorite players through picking up the jerseys.

In a partnership with Pop Tops, the sportswear manufacturer which will be providing teams with the official jerseys and fans with replicas, the players will receive 15 percent of every jersey sale which bears their name on the back. So a Janine Weber New York Riveters jersey, for instance, will net Weber 15 percent of the profit. That’s a fantastic deal for the players and a great addition to what is already the first paid professional women’s league in North America.

“We love everything about the philosophy of Pop Tops as a small business,” said NWHL Commissioner and New York Riveters GM Dani Rylan. “We like that they are family owned and manufacture here on U.S. soil, and they’ve been willing to work closely with us to bring our ideas to life.” Read more

Shannon Szabados forgoes NWHL opportunity to re-sign in men’s pro league

Jared Clinton
Shannon Szabados. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Shannon Szabados has her eye on a starting job this season, but that doesn’t mean she’ll have to leave the SPHL to play in either of North America’s women’s leagues.

In an interview with the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson, Szabados said she was given the opportunity to join the NWHL — the newest professional women’s league in North America and one that will pay its players — but she has instead chosen to return to the Columbus Cottonmouths for her second full season in the men’s league.

“I definitely thought about (the NWHL),” Szabados told Matheson. “I wasn’t contacted directly by a team, but I was by the league. I got all the information about the draft and signing up and, yeah, I read it all.” Read more