Professional Women’s Hockey League: The future of women’s hockey

The PWHL is a new, up and coming league that pays female hockey players at a professional level.

A new all-female hockey league has been established in North America containing six teams, with three teams based in Canada and the other three in the United States. The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) has a 24-game season and had its inaugural draft last month, selecting 90 players from a pool of over 250. The league is also paying players with salaries ranging from $35,000 to $80,000.

The establishment of this league also introduces a new form of hockey culture. The hype of women playing in a professional league of their own with the hope of reaching the same popularity of the NHL with a massive fan base. Claire Senior, who teaches a course about perspectives in hockey at Fanshawe, explained what we can expect of the culture revolving around the new league for both players and fans.

“For a long time there really hasn’t been any recognizable way for fans of female hockey to follow players beyond the Olympic years,” Senior said. “They were a pretty good vehicle for fans to see the top women players. But beyond the [Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association], Nothing really in the way of television coverage. Very few opportunities for fans to watch the game.”

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Fans of female hockey can now follow along and see their favourite players hash it out on the ice as many recognizable Olympian names were signed to the six teams from both Canada and the United States. Players can now have a league of their own where they can make a career out of engaging with their audience and showing off their skills.

“There are a lot of big names in women’s hockey that have been drafted or have already been signed, there’s a sense of stability where women are going to know which cities they’re playing in, having contracts from year to year and hopefully there isn’t going to be the threat of, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re slashing your salaries in half,” Senior said.

The other hope with establishing the female league is to promote an overall positive and fun atmosphere and rid the negative stigma that revolves around hockey culture.

“It is a different culture obviously and as we’ve seen recently with male hockey culture, there is a kind of toxicity that has been sort of brought to the surface, in a lot of ways that aren’t really present in the women’s game,” Senior said. “That’s not something for the most part that women’s hockey has had to deal with. There’s a lot more positivity, there’s a lot more support in the women’s game and there’s a lot of recognition. And I hope that’s something that really shines through for fans.”

The PWHL also offers a chance for the female players to establish a bond with younger fans where they can have strong female role models to look up to.

“These are women who have to work hard, often have to hold down second jobs while raising kids, giving birth and then coming back a couple months later,” Senior said. “I think the main thing that this league is trying to do, or at least one of their goals, is to is to give little girls something to aspire to as the NHL has done that for little boys.”