If you haven’t been living under a very large rock, you’ve probably heard something about the state of women’s professional hockey in North America. With the dissolution of the CWHL last spring a series of events began which led to hundreds of professional women’s hockey players choosing not to play in North America.
This decision was greeted by also sorts of opinions, but the simple fact remains that these ladies are entitled to a collective bargaining process the same way the men who play in the NHL are. I mean how many lock outs have there been since 2000?
And, let’s be honest, they’ve got a whole hell of a lot more reason to be unhappy.
Many individuals have proposed that the NWHL may be a viable solution as a professional league for money, but that remains to be seen as this collective action occurred with several high profile players from the NWHL choosing not to return to the league. Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados is one such player.
So, where does this leave women’s hockey in North America?
The NWHL has continued to operate. It features five teams. The Minnesota Whitecaps are the league’s newest addition and current champions. They are also the team located furthest west as the majority of NWHL teams are centred on the eastern coast of the United States. The NWHL streams their games via Twitch.
The players who are currently participating in the North American boycott have also been participating in various events. These events have been labelled as The Dream Gap tour and have begun to gather increased attention and notoriety. Several events have been streamed through some form of CBC streaming and have garnered corporate support.
The majority of these events have also been located in eastern cities in North America. The Greater Toronto Area has hosted several events. There have also been events in Montreal, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Hampshire.
Players from both the Canadian and American National teams, many of which are part of the collective action, will participate at the 3 v 3 women’s event which has been scheduled for the NHL All Star weekend.
In Edmonton, at least, the landscape remains unchanged. There are several very strong university and college programs which play in either the Canada West conference of U Sports or the ACAC. The ACAC regular season will finish near the end of February. Currently, both Grant MacEwan and NAIT are positioned to compete in the ACAC playoffs.
The University of Alberta Pandas are currently first in the Canada West conference and on an 11-game winning streak. They haven’t lost a game since November 15, 2019. The Pandas regular conference season will end in the first week of February.
Why focus so much on women’s hockey in Edmonton if so much of the focus is on building a new type of professional league in North America?
The answer to this is simple. Because support starts at the grassroots level and teams like the university and college teams here in Edmonton. This support will allow women’s hockey the resources it needs to continue to advocate and grow at all levels. If hockey is to maintain its almost mythical position in Canadian society, it is important that all aspects of society be able to fully participate in the game they love so well.