This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ each day e-mail publication. Stay on top of things on what’s taking place in sports activities by subscribing right here.
While most hockey followers are centered on the beginning of the brand new NHL season, the ladies’s pro recreation is returning too. On Saturday and Sunday, Montreal will host the fourth-season opener of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association’s barnstorming Dream Gap Tour. In three weeks, the Premier Hockey Federation begins its eighth season.
The optimism inherent within the begin of any sports activities season is tempered right here by the persistent uncertainty concerning the future of girls’s pro hockey. Here’s a take a look at the place issues stand with the 2 principal factions:
Formed from the ruins of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League after it folded in 2019, the PWHPA’s oft-stated goal stays the formation of a “sustainable” North American ladies’s pro hockey league — ideally one funded by the NHL (very similar to the NBA subsidizes the WNBA). But, regardless of having practically each participant from the dominant Canadian and U.S. nationwide groups on its roster (in different phrases, practically the entire world’s greatest gamers), the PWHPA has been unable to realize that objective.
Back within the spring, the NHL brokered talks between the PWHPA and PHF in hopes that they may collaborate on a unified league. But the PWHPA walked away. Following that, reviews urged a PWHPA-run pro league may launch this January, but that risk has since been dominated out. “I believe our imaginative and prescient with the PWHPA has remained the identical since we had been based, and that is to construct a league that is skilled in all points, not simply in wage but in the way in which that gamers are supported — the amenities, healthcare, all avenues of that,” Canadian star Brianne Jenner instructed CBC Sports’ Myles Dichter. “We still do not feel that there is that skilled league on the market that has all the things that we really feel makes a league skilled.”
In the wake of these failed makes an attempt, some tweaks had been made to this yr’s Dream Gap Tour in order that it’d higher resemble a standard league — as an example, season-long standings and constant rosters for the 4 groups. But it stays basically a collection of exhibitions. Still, if you wish to watch established Olympic and world-championship stars like Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin, Sarah Nurse and Jenner or the United States’ Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight and Kendall Coyne Schofield on a extra common foundation, the PWHPA’s Dream Gap Tour is the one place to do it. (If you are searching for Canadian rising star Sarah Fillier, who led the workforce in scoring en path to its world-title victory in Denmark this summer time, she performs for the University of Princeton.)
For the upcoming season, the PWHPA has a take care of CBC Sports to live-stream each Dream Gap Tour recreation worldwide on its digital platforms. Coverage of the Montreal cease begins Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app, CBC Gem and CBC Sports’ YouTube channel.
The PWHPA’s use of the phrase “sustainable” leaves lots of room for interpretation, but the rival Premier Hockey Federation seems — on the floor, not less than — to be on respectable footing. The league, referred to as the NWHL earlier than rebranding final yr, has added a seventh franchise for the upcoming season, with Montreal becoming a member of Toronto, Boston, Minnesota, Buffalo, Connecticut and a New Jersey-based workforce referred to as the Metropolitan Riveters. The PHF lately signed a two-year extension with ESPN that can see the sports-media big proceed to live-stream video games (TSN has the Canadian rights). Last season, the Isobel Cup championship ultimate was broadcast on tv on ESPN2.
The PHF additionally raised eyebrows lately when former league MVP Mikyla Grant-Mentis signed with the Buffalo Beauts for a reported $80,000 US — believed to be the largest wage ever for a ladies’s pro hockey participant. Several others are reportedly set to make north of $50,000 this season, and workforce wage caps have elevated to $750,000.
And but, the PHF’s elementary downside stays: practically the entire world’s greatest gamers still refuse to affix. For now, anyway. The canary within the coal mine would possibly develop into Brianna Decker, the American national-team star and former NWHL MVP who starred within the NHL All-Star Skills Competition just a few years in the past. Decker will not play this season as a result of devastating leg damage she suffered on the Olympics final February, but over the summer time she left the PWHPA to take a front-office job with the PHF, turning into the primary high-profile participant to leap ship. Decker later instructed Sportsnet’s Kristina Rutherford that she would “completely” play within the PHF this season if wholesome. She added that she felt the PWHPA had “hit a little bit of a standstill” and that lots of its gamers “had been at midnight quite a bit.” Read extra concerning the battle between the rival organizations and the upcoming Dream Gap Tour right here. Learn extra concerning the state of girls’s pro sports activities in Canada by watching the most recent episode of Bring It In with Morgan Campbell on CBC Gem.