March can a time full of emotions: happiness now that the winter is finally ending in upstate New York; excitement for baseball fans as opening day rolls around; stress as the March Madness tournament comes around. But, for some people, in 2019, it brings sadness – especially to those in the professional hockey community.
On March 31, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League announced that, effective on May 1, it will cease operations after being formed in 2007. Now, the only professional women’s hockey league in North America is the National Women’s Hockey League that was founded in 2015.
Outside of the NWHL, all of the other “notable” leagues are developmental leagues for players looking to pursue collegiate hockey, either in Canada or in the NCAA, with Div. I and Div. III.
The CWHL was originally founded by players in the original NWHL from the late 1990s and early 2000s. The league was also monumental, including a team from the U.S (the Worcester Blades), but also from China, the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays. No other major league, with the exception of special one-time games, has included international teams outside of the U.S and Canadian borders.
It will be interesting to see where some of the CWHL players go – whether that be transitioning to a coaching career, or even trying to sign with the new NWHL, maybe expanding the league. It is still under question if the two leagues will simply merge.
With professional women’s sports already being minimal, only the WNBA gaining national recognition in my opinion, the NWHL is going to have to make some big strides to continue this push for equality for professional women’s sports. There are so many talented players in the NCAA, both Div. I and Div. III that will not have a chance to play professional hockey, especially with the CWHL folding.
Expect the NWHL to expand, both with the amount of teams but also the amount of players: women around the world are counting on it.