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Women’s hockey players announce boycott of any North American pro league

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2016, file photo, National Women’s Hockey League All-Star players take time
National Women’s Hockey League All-Star players pose for a selfie Jan. 24, 2016, in Buffalo, N.Y.
(Gary Wiepert / Associated Press)

More than 200 female hockey players issued a collective statement on Thursday to say they will no longer play in any professional league in North America until they get “the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves.”

The National Women’s Hockey League is the only remaining women’s professional league, following the recent dissolution of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

Unlike the WNBA, which was launched with logistical and financial support from the NBA, the NWHL has operated independently of the NHL. The NWHL has had a small reach — it had five teams last season and plans to launch two more next season — and it has offered low salaries because it lacks the lucrative broadcast and sponsorship support that sustain the operations of other major professional sports leagues.

In addition, its teams play in small arenas, limiting revenues from sources such as ticketing, suites, concessions and merchandising.

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The players’ group issued a news release headed by the words, “We may represent different teams, leagues and countries but collectively we stand as one.” Many individual players tweeted the statement on their individual Twitter accounts.

The statement read in part:

“We are fortunate to be ambassadors of this game that we revere so deeply and yet, more than ever, we understand the responsibility that comes with that ambassadorship: To leave this game in better shape than when we entered it. This is why we come together, over 200 players strong, to say it is time to create a sustainable professional league for Women’s Hockey. …

“We cannot make a sustainable living playing in the current state of the professional game. Having no health insurance and making as low as two thousand dollars a season means players can’t adequately train and prepare to play at the highest level.”

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Bill Daly, deputy commissioner of the NHL, said his league could not comment on the women’s decision.

“There is a lot more we need to know before we would be prepared to weigh in at this point,” he said via email. “The NWHL is an existing league with an existing organization and business plan. We do not intend to interfere with their business or their objectives. At the same time, we continue to support the objective of allowing for the opportunity of the best Women Hockey Players in the world to play the sport at the professional level. We will further explore the situation privately before taking any affirmative position on next steps. And we do not anticipate this being an agenda item for the Board of Governors at this early stage.”

The NWHL said it will go ahead with its plans for its fifth season. “After a series of highly constructive and positive discussions with the NWHL Players’ Association over the last month, we are offering increased salaries and a 50-50 revenue [split] from league-level sponsorships and media rights deals. Coming off an incredible 2018-19, we are confident another fantastic season is ahead,” the league said in a statement attributed to commissioner Dani Rylan and other league investors and officials.

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“Of everyone working in women’s hockey, we are among the players’ biggest fans. In 2015, there wasn’t a professional women’s hockey league in the United States. Prior to our launch just four years ago, there was never a movement for others to take over women’s hockey, or for any wide-scale league in North America. In a challenging climate for women’s sports, our leadership has been proud to invest a great deal of time and resources in women’s hockey and these athletes. We believe in them …

“Thanks to you, the NWHL’s efforts to advance the sport, build the value of women’s hockey players, and show future generations that they can See It, Dream It and Be It, will continue for many years to come. We are excited about the future, and we welcome everyone who wants to join us.”

helene.elliott@latimes.com

Twitter: @helenenothelen

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