Gina Mei
April 01, 2015 8:21 am

It’s been a huge month for women’s hockey. Just a few weeks ago, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) awarded its Clarkson Cup to the Boston Blades, which is basically the professional female hockey league equivalent of winning the much-coveted Stanley Cup. And now, there’s a new league coming to town — and it’s a huge deal for professional women’s athletics everywhere.

Founded by Dani Rylan and retired USA Hockey team superstar Angela Ruggiero, the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) will be the first paid professional league of its kind for women in the United States, and it’s set to start its inaugural season later this year. The NWHL will consist of four teams — the New York Riveters (yes, as in Rosie), Boston Pride, Connecticut Whale, and Buffalo Beauts — each of which will have a $270,000 salary cap to pay its players. It’s not a ton (evenly split between 18 roster players, it’s about $15,000 each), but it’s a start, and the league will be the equivalent of a part-time job when it comes to commitment hours (two practices and one game a week). All players are responsible for their own contract negotiations, however; which also means some will receive less than the average and others more.

“I know there’s a lot to prove,” Rylan told Stanley Cup of Chowder, “and I can’t wait for puck drop this October.”

According to Yahoo, the league will operate as a dual-entity: league operations, where cash flow will come in via sponsors, and the NWHL Foundation, “a charitable wing meant for spreading women’s hockey through grassroots efforts.” And unlike the CWHL, the NWHL will provide all the necessary gear for its players.

“Nope, this a professional league,” Rylan told Yahoo. “The women will have their equipment provided to them. The equipment, tape, sticks, the necessities to play will be given to them.”

Free agency for college seniors and players no longer in college will start this May, and there will be a draft in June for college juniors (like the NHL, players will have a year to complete their NCAA contracts before signing with a team). According to the NWHL, they’ve already received over 20 verbal commitments to the league, but there has yet to be any official announcements.

The season will start in October and go until March 2016 (early enough that players will be able to compete in global tournaments with other leagues). All four teams will play nine home games and nine away games, each of which will be themed based on where the game is played in order to sell more seats.

“The marketing is really just a means to communicate the passion involved with the league,” Rylan continued. “The game of hockey has given me so much in my life and made me the person I am today. Marketing to me is just about communicating that passion.”

The new league hopes to be able to coexist with the CWHL, and we’re interested to see how they work together in the future (especially given all of the NWHL’s sweet incentives). Either way, we can’t wait to tune in this fall. — and in case you need more proof that the NWHL will be worth watching, check out this insanely epic promo video that they released last month and get ready to get pumped.

(Image via.)

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