The Canadian Women's Hockey League plans to start paying players for the 2017-18 season, Habs Eyes on the Prize has confirmed.
While not official or guaranteed, the CWHL is working towards putting a sustainable plan in place, and will become the second women's hockey league to pay its players after the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) started doing so in their inaugural season with four teams in the Northeastern United States.
When Les Canadiennes de Montreal's re-brand was announced at the Bell Centre back in September, Canadiens executive vice president and chief operating officer, Kevin Gilmore, speaking on the Habs' behalf, said several times — unprovoked — that the team would work with the league to get a model in place that sees players getting paid.
"It’s an exciting sport and we hope that our association makes people realize that this is very exciting hockey and we want to see them play, and ultimately that will create an environment where a business model exists that helps support the girls financially," Gilmore said.
The CWHL, throughout the last few years, has emphasized that they are taking a calculated approach to growing the league and the women's game. It started with opening the door to expansion earlier this summer, and you can definitely say that the decision to start paying players is not one they are taking lightly.
When the NWHL announced it would be paying players, it was met with excitement and skepticism. But both camps could agree on one thing: hope that a model would exist to pay women's players to play hockey. The NWHL's salary cap for each team is $270,000, with a league minimum salary of $10,000 and maximum of $25,000.
While CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress wasn't as open about it as Gilmore, she also emphasized growth and staying power at the Canadiennes announcement.
"Each year as we go forward we become a little more successful," Andress said in September. "We have a little more to offer, a little bit more to be proud of. We look back at eight years ago and the stories I can tell you behind the scenes were pretty funny but we’re sitting here. We are extremely proud. It’s what our league is about and we want to make sure we’re here for the long haul."
The league is officially a non-profit, so there are no ownership stakes in any of the league's teams. It shows the importance of a clear business model because the league needs to support all the teams, not an NHL-type business model where individual owners are in charge of their own teams.