The Canadian Women's Hockey League was founded in 2007. It's one of the two major women's hockey leagues in North America. The league is comprised of five teams: the Boston Blades (2015 Clarkson Cup champions); the Montreal Stars; the Brampton Thunder; the Calgary Inferno; and the Toronto Furies.
Tickets cost $15 a pop, and the concessions are reasonably priced. It's more affordable to take the family to the Centre Etienne-Desmarteau to watch the Stars play than to go to a movie. The players take the time to meet fans after the games, and sign autographs. And yet, with the exception of the sold-out games after the ladies returned home from Sochi, attendance isn't always the greatest.
Most of these women are Olympic athletes, who played for either Team Canada or Team USA in Sochi, and Vancouver.
Most of these women are gold and silver medalists.
Most of these women bust their butts working regular 9 to 5 jobs during the week, so they can play hockey on the weekends.
Most of these women don't get paid for playing their sport at the highest level.
Most of these women don't have endorsement deals.
It's worth having a conversation about what we can do to improve attendance. It's worth making efforts to shine a spotlight on this incredible product. It's worth discussing why so many people still don't respect women's hockey before or after the Olympics. But the solution does not lie within the NHL.
While I appreciate the idea that the highest quality hockey league in the world should give back to grow the game at the grass roots level, I don't think that the NHL has any responsibility to support, financial or otherwise, the CWHL. In fact, it's downright insulting to imply that the only way the women's game can grow is with the support of the men's. Yes, finally! What women everywhere have been waiting for! Men to validate them! Women simply can't do anything unless a man says they can!
Okay, enough with the snarky sarcasm. What we need are realistic solutions. Here are a few ideas:
- Go to a Montreal Stars game. I guarantee that once you go, you'll be hooked.
- Encourage others to support their local CWHL teams.
- Read blogs about the CWHL, and follow people on Twitter who talk about the CWHL.
- Go to a McGill Martlets game. You'll see a lot of past, present and future Olympians playing.
- Call and email local mainstream media demanding more women's hockey coverage. If program directors and sports editors believe that there is a market for it, they'll provide it.
If you build it, they will come. Yes, that's true. But you have to tell them about it. And you don't need the NHL to do that.