CWHL State of the Union: League Continuing to Grow

Commissioner Brenda Andress Hopes to Pay Players Soon

  • The Canadian Women’s Hockey League is continuing to grow and evolve for the better, through partnerships—most recently with the National Hockey League Player’s Association, according to league commissioner Brenda Andress. Courtesy Chris Tanouye/CWHL

The Canadian Women’s Hockey League is continuing to grow and evolve for the better, through partnerships—most recently with the National Hockey League Player’s Association, according to league commissioner Brenda Andress.

Andress announced the deal during Friday night’s Frozen Fantasy Draft. She said the deal came about as a result of a team effort from both sides.

“The NHLPA and all our sponsors are partnerships we use to help us grow the game,” said Andress before the start of the CWHL All-Star game on Saturday afternoon. “We utilize them to make sure that our players are communicating and have access to research and contracts.”

“We’re working towards making sure that all the players have a voice and that their opinion is being heard,” said Calgary Inferno defender Meaghan Mikkelson.

The partnership with the NHLPA follows individual agreements between four existing NHL franchises: the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, and Ottawa Senators. It is not out of the question that the league may partner with the NHL as a whole in the near future.

“When we pay our players, we will continue to pay them. It’s not a one-time thing. It continues to be our intention.” CWHL Commissioner Brenda Andress.

A major point of contention is the league not currently paying its players. The CWHL’s strategic plan has the league remunerating its players next season. Although refusing to say whether or not the league will meet its goal next year, Andress reiterated the intention of the league to meet the objective.

“We will follow our strategic plan, which says that we will pay our players,” said Andress. “When we pay our players, we will continue to pay them. It’s not a one-time thing. It continues to be our intention.”

The All-Star game was televised on Rogers Sportsnet. It was one of many being broadcast on the specialty sports channel this season, including a tilt last weekend between the Toronto Furies and Canadiennes.

Andress said last week’s broadcast set a ratings record and generated a mass following. She was “bloody amazed” at the interest in the game.

The CWHL will hold its Clarkson Cup final on March 5 at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. This year’s final marks the last year of the league’s agreement with the Senators to hold the event there. The league held its finals there last season.

Andress says the league is evaluating its options for the coming season, with Montreal a potential host destination.

“We will take a look at many options for next year, where to grow,” said Andress. “Montreal’s Bell Centre game had 6,000 fans and from that point on, the Montreal games have been sold out. This is an opportunity that we take a look at to see where we can grow the game next and how to involve young women into seeing what we are about.”

All in all, the players are excited about what the future may hold for the league and the future young girls aspiring to join its ranks.

“The CWHL is something that we want little girls to come to and dream of being a part of that league,” said Toronto Furies captain Natalie Spooner. “We want them to be able to come out and see the calibre of the hockey. Hopefully, we can spark their dream.”

“I hope that it is a legitimate career for women,” said Furies defender Carlee Campbell. “When the NHL first started, I don’t think their first ten years were anywhere near what the growth of the CWHL has been.”

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