After 12 years as one of the world’s premier professional women’s sporting leagues, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League announced on Sunday that it will discontinue operations on May 1.
The CWHL was founded in 2007, and had six teams in North America and China during its final season.
The league included 120 players from the United States, Canada, Finland, Japan and China.
CWHL player’s salaries ranged from $2,000 – $10,000, out of a total budget of $3.7 million.
The addition of two expansion teams in China, which eventually amalgamated into one — was believed to have injected a lot of money into the league.
A week before the announcement, a record-175,000 fans tuned in to watch the Clarkson Cup final.
“Unfortunately, while the on-ice hockey is exceptional, the business model has proven to be economically unsustainable,” the board of directors said in a statement.
“It’s something I just never expected,” CWHL co-founder Sami-Jo Small said. “I thought the season was great and we just had no inclination that this was coming down the pipeline. It’s hard to not have been part of that conversation.”
But the league lost a major financial backer in November when longtime supporter Graeme Roustan withdrew sponsorship from his venture capital firm, Roustan Capital.
The announcement came as a shock to many players fans and players alike. There was a flurry of responses from hockey fans and analysts on Twitter.
To all of you talking about how "the CWHL had it coming," or "now One League can happen," shut up, people have lost jobs, a place to play, a community, this isn't the time or place right now and you're being an awful person. Just Shut Up.
— Alice (@yolowoho) March 31, 2019
The announcement by the CWHL is devastating. Women's hockey deserves better.
To fold because there isn't money indicates we need to INVEST.
The league had the best players in the world playing and inspiring thousands of girls and women.
What a travesty. #CWHL
— Shireen Footybedsheets Ahmed (@_shireenahmed_) March 31, 2019
The CWHL was one of two professional women’s leagues in North America. With its closure, the US based National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), established in 2015, becomes the only remaining women’s hockey league in North America. The decision re-opens questions as to whether the NHL should step in and create one league with teams on both sides of the border.
Toronto Furies forward Natalie Spooner said, ‘’it’s important women’s hockey continues to find a way to showcase its best players in order to provide role models for future generations of girls and women.’’
Inferno player Dakota Woodworth said that many players remain optimistic about the future of the sport.
‘’Fully confident and fully hopeful that something better is definitely coming just because it has to,” Woodworth said.
Hockey is Canada’s national sport. If the CWHL’s abrupt shutdown leads to a new league rising from the ashes, players and enthusiasts are still unaware.
“I think our product is just too good to go away,” Woodworth said.