Catch up on The IX: Hockey Edition

Hello all:

It’s almost time for the second installment of The IX Newsletter: Hockey Edition. Every Friday, I curate a list of the best women’s hockey tweets, articles, and podcasts. I’ll also add my insight on the state of the sports, and each week I will conduct an interview— the “Five at the IX”—with different women’s hockey coaches, players, executives and more.

Tomorrow’s edition will feature a short interview with Jamie Lee Rattray ahead of the 2018 Clarkson Cup Final between the Markham Thunder and the Kunlun Red Star. Rattray also dishes about her fondest NCAA Frozen Four memories.

Be sure to SUBSCRIBE NOW to receive Friday’s newsletter. In the meantime, here are a few hits from the first hockey edition.

Your Curated Guide to Women’s Sports

Mondays: Soccer
By: Anne Peterson, AP Women’s Soccer

Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, The Summitt

Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, NWHL Broadcaster

The Big Picture

First, I must say how thrilled I am to work alongside Annie and Howard for The IX Newsletter. Suffice it to say, we all have a passion for seeing women’s sports and female athletes, coaches and executives get adequate coverage. While that often includes Twitter rants (that can now be threaded together), it also means uplifting excellent reporters and their work.

Now, on to the hockey news. From college to the professional ranks, it’s an exciting time to be a hockey fan. The postseason is upon us and already brought us some surprises, such as Ohio State advancing to the Frozen Four (links below).

However, as to not bury the lede, the biggest hockey news of late is gold medalist Hilary Knight returning to the CWHL for the remainder of the 2017-18 season. The former member of the Boston Blades (CWHL) and the Boston Pride (NWHL) is taking her talents north to play for the Montreal Les Canadiennes.

Women’s hockey, like most things, always has a few ripples in the water. The latest: #OneLeague. Since the NWHL came on the scene in 2015, there have always been questions as to whether women’s hockey could sustain two professional leagues. In the wake of another successful women’s Olympic tournament, heavy hitters in the hockey community have revived the urgency of one league.

In many ways, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman revived the #OneLeague conversation by way of his comments on The Big Show podcast (link below) on March 2. Bettman offered his concern that women’s hockey doesn’t have enough talent to field two competing leagues. He added, if the CWHL and the NWHL didn’t exist, the NHL could create a league of their own.

An interesting comment, especially since the NHL has held the rights to the WNHL since 1999. That’s one year removed from the first women’s Olympic hockey tournament, and eight years before the founding of the CWHL. So, forgive me if I question the sincerity of Bettman’s interest in women’s hockey. Especially when he follows up with, “I don’t want to take ownership over it unless I take ownership over it! I don’t mean that from an economic standpoint, I mean that from a control standpoint and building it.”

While Bettman might find the current landscape difficult, former Hockey Canada star Cassie Campbell certainly does not. “Enough is enough. Let’s take women’s hockey to the next level,” she told The Big Show on March 8.  “I know all the issues from behind the scenes and I’m not going to point fingers at one league or another. But it’s time the two commissioners wake up, get into a room together – 24 hours, seven days a week or whatever it takes – and make this one. Figure out a way you can do it.”

If Campbell ignited the flame, the news that 2018 Olympic gold medalist Hilary Knight would return to the CWHL for the remainder of the 2017-18 season fanned it. I’ve heard just about every take regarding the Knight news. What does it say about the CWHL? What does it say about the NWHL? What does it say about her loyalties to USA Hockey?

Overall, what people are not discussing in the #OneLeague conversation is what the players want. Not just in the future as some concept floated by daddy’s money, but now.  What do players want now? Knight is not the only player to try her luck elsewhere this season. She’s not even the only Olympian to relocate.

It is completely reasonable for a player to select a team based on their ability to afford top-tier players. Equally as important is the fact that neither league can pay for the loyalty of top players. Whether one league or not, any professional job paying less than a livable wage is lucky to be in business. The loyalty of top talent should be considered a gift, and one of great value.

But ultimately, to be sustainable, hockey leagues need to subsist on financial autonomy, not the leaps of faith by another generation of players.

This Week in Women’s Hockey

Shannon Miller wins in court, jury orders the University of Minnesota Duluth to pay $3.74 million after an eight-day trial in the discrimination lawsuit filed after her termination in 2014.

NWHL media member Dave Pendrys collected responses from fans about the state of the league. Read what fans say is working well, and what needs to improve.

After her hockey program at UMD was abruptly cut, Kristen Campbell looks to advance to the Frozen Four Championship with Wisconsin (flip to page 30-31).

As the 2018 Paralympics come to a close, read about the lone woman competing in Sledge Hockey, Lena Schroeder.

The #OneLeague Roundup:

For my fellow podcast listeners:

Here are the international playoff previews from The Ice Garden:

Five at The IX:
Keira Goin, NWHL Players Association Communications Chair

ERICA: The CWHLPA recently called for #OneLeague in response to comments from the NHL regarding women’s hockey. Has the NWHLPA discussed reaching out the CWHLPA (Either in response to the latest tweet, or generally)?
KEIRA: The NWHL and NWHLPA is working with the CWHL and the NHL to grow women’s hockey in the long-term.  Although the idea of “OneLeague” is the ultimate goal, we remain determined to organize said partnership at the league level and in a way that allows us to be seen as valued business partners to our NHL counterparts.
ERICA: Regardless, the United States winning the gold medal likely gave women’s hockey a great deal of exposure. What needs to happen between now and the 2022 Winter Games for you to confidently say women’s hockey is thriving?
KEIRA: I think, in order to really consider women’s hockey a thriving sport, you need to look at the grassroots. At the most superficial level, and the most apparent, is how our league and other leagues are “succeeding” or “not.”  That will always be a topic for debate, but in order to confidently say that women’s hockey, in general, is thriving, we need to take a look at the number of girls playing hockey at the youth level.  How are they being developed? How many of them continue to play hockey after their childhood? These are the questions that will determine if what we are doing now has any real significance going forward.
ERICA: With the NWHL regular season now complete, what has been the most surprising or unexpected thing about your rookie season?

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