Brock expert says women’s pro hockey league failure sets the stage for stronger future

A day after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) announced it would cease operations, a Brock University professor of Sport Management says she hopes the best is yet to come for professional women’s hockey in North America.

The CWHL launched in 2007 and had been operating with six teams spread across the country. In a media release Sunday, the league said it had to fold because the “business model that has been the foundation of the League is not sustainable financially.”

Associate Professor of Sport Management Julie Stevens, a recognized expert in the governance and organization of women’s hockey, says she believes the dynamics that have unfolded will change the landscape.

“The CWHL’s not-for-profit model was unique as it emphasized developing hockey and serving the broader good of the female game,” she says. “The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) model was based upon private ownership and a return on investment. The way revenue is used in each model differs, but there is one similarity — each model must have money to survive.”

Stevens says the closure of the CWHL is a catalyst for other key actors to enter the scene — which has happened many times in the past for men’s professional hockey, where leagues have come and gone over time.

“You have to hope there is some kind of strategy behind all these changes,” she says.

Stevens says leadership for the two leagues had been discussing working together since the fall, while the National Hockey League and NHL Players Association announced the formation of a Female Hockey Advisory Committee last month.

“I believe there is more to come on this issue,” she says. “The closure of the CWHL has created a vacuum and something must fill the space. There are simply too many elite female hockey athletes in need of a place to play. This is an opportunity for women’s hockey to move forward.”

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