Brenda Andress Advocates For Patience to Guarantee CWHL Success

CWHL Commissioner Addresses Player Compensation, Flights to China, NWHL Relationship

  • During her stop in Montreal to assist the unveiling of an agreement to bring Les Canadiennes de Montreal to the Verdun Auditorium, Canadian Women’s Hockey League commissioner Brenda Andress doubled down on her process of moving slow. Photo Tristan D’Amours

During her stop in Montreal to assist the unveiling of an agreement to bring Les Canadiennes de Montreal to the Verdun Auditorium, Canadian Women’s Hockey League commissioner Brenda Andress doubled down on her process of moving slow.

For the first time in its history, the CWHL will start paying its players—something that the league was called out for not doing many times. However, Andress remained committed on her plan to only start financially compensating her players by the start of the upcoming season.

“I think that is one of the things over the past few years that we’ve taken some heat from is why we aren’t paying the players,” said Andress. “And the CWHL board has always made a very strong statement that we would do what would be sustainable and we would do what’s in our plan, and that’s why it’s this year and not the year before or the year before [that].”

According to Andress, the same process went for the league looking into infrastructure for its teams. Being able to have teams that have an arena and training facility that they can call home is another step for Andress and the CWHL.

“This infrastructure that we are creating here with the Mayor of Montreal and the Mayor of Verdun is step one in providing a real home, a real facility for our team, showcasing the players and creating that history,” said Andress. “I think it’s very important and it’s one of the next steps that we’re doing and I’m so happy that this is the first step.”

One Flight to China Per Year

Another big addition to the CWHL in the upcoming season is the arrival of the Kunlun Red Stars and Vanke Rays, two teams based in Shenzhen, China. With players not earning enough to play CWHL hockey full-time, the concern many held was for players to take flights to China and ultimately put their hockey playing and second jobs at risk.

Andress explained that she and the CWHL executives responsible for scheduling have worked to alleviate the pressure of players. Each team based in North America will travel to China once a year for a period of seven days.

“It’s not a heavy schedule that we have, we’ve made sure that it’s what’s best for our players,” said Andress. “It’s a heavier schedule for the Chinese players for sure, but when you start to grow something and you learn lots of ways to try to facilitate success and I think that this is a great learning curve for us this year.”

The commissioner highlighted that branching out to China was high on the league’s pecking order. She added that the Chinese expansion created opportunities that the CWHL did not have in the past.

“[…] growing the game China was essential to us. Our mission is always to grow the game on a world level and also to make an impact and there’s nothing better than to make an impact in China for women,” said Andress. “With that partnership came a lot of different opportunities for us as well to open ourselves to the footprints of different businesses [and] different sponsors. It was a win-win for all of us.”

Differing Opinions with the NWHL

The CWHL operates alongside the United States-based National Women’s Hockey League, which started only two years ago compared to the CWHL which was established in 2007.

The NWHL entered the hockey world with a bang, announcing that they would pay their players from the start. Andress stressed that the arrival of the new league did not steer them away from their plan to develop slowly before compensating their players.

However, as the CWHL is expanding to seven teams across Canada, the United States and now China, the NWHL remained a four-team league located in the northeastern states of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Having both leagues join to create a larger one was an idea that crossed Andress’ mind in the past but it never came to fruition.

“Anybody would tell you that one league is the right way to go. The NHL did this with the World Hockey Association many years ago because one league is what benefits everybody,” said Andress. “However, right from the beginning we always had intentions of working with National Women’s Hockey League and they chose to go their own way.”

Andress admitted to have had “open discussions many times” with the NWHL but said that both league had “different visions.”

“But we all know at the end of the day what the CWHL has always done is what’s best for its players and what’s best for the growth of the game and we still would do that.”

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