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Women’s Hockey Wednesday: Where does professional women’s hockey go from here?

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With the Isobel Cup this coming weekend and the Clarkson Cup the weekend after, it’s time to pause and take a look at where the leagues stand right now.

2019 SAP NHL All-Star Skills - Puck Control
Rebecca Johnston shows off her edgework demonstrating the puck control drill at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Story of the week

Inside the frustrating, inspiring mess that's women’s pro hockey - Sportsnet
With the momentum behind women’s hockey at an all-time high, decision-makers must get their acts together or risk blowing a huge opportunity. This is why.

There are a few articles this week that deserve a bit of the spotlight: Kirsten Whelan’s entertaining recap of the Canadiennes’ adventures prior to game one of the semi-finals, the NHL.com article about the new Female Hockey Advisory Board that was short on details but intriguing by its mere existence, Team Canada’s silver medal at the 2019 Universiade, and Gabs Fundaro’s article on Katie King-Crowley and Courtney Kennedy’s coaching relationship at Boston College.

However the “Big Read” this week, promoted all over twitter, including by some CWHL players, was Kristina Rutherford’s piece on the current state of professional women’s hockey in North America. It’s not perfect -- the article has trouble deciding whether it’s about where women’s pro hockey is right now or if it’s a Kendall Coyne Schofield profile, and there are a few times where facts are skimmed over a bit for the sake of the narrative -- but it’s probably the best and most in-depth mainstream article about what’s actually going on right now.

The whole article is well worth reading, but here are a few excerpts that deserve either notice, or clarification, or a bit of both.

”“I was told numerous times from numerous players that Hockey Canada said, ‘We’re not stopping you from going, but if you leave, we can’t guarantee you a spot on the Canadian national team.’”

The GM of Canada’s women’s team, Gina Kingsbury, denies this. “

Gina Kingsbury was not the GM of Hockey Canada in 2015. Frankly ‘We’re not stopping you from going, but if you leave, we can’t guarantee you a spot on the Canadian national team.’ sounds very similar to things I’ve read about when girls choose to play on a boys team instead of with girls — “we can’t guarantee we’ll have the resources to scout you” if they choose that route. Shannon Szabados can now and has always forged her own path, but I don’t know if a Canadian player who was more on the bubble of the national team could have the same confidence that signing with the NWHL wouldn’t negatively impact her career.

Rylan declined Sportsnet’s request for an interview.

This was a mistake by Rylan, I think. If she really can “sell snow to a Siberian” surely an interview would be a good way to sell a Canadian audience (and all the NHL-affliated people who read Sportsnet articles) on her point of view and vision for moving forward. More and more often players are coming out in articles to say things either obliquely or directly that aren’t entirely complimentary about her and her league.

Like many in the hockey world, she’s of the belief that players have to drive the move to one league. If Coyne Schofield could make it work logistically — as much as she’s enjoying her time in Minnesota — she says she would make the move to the CWHL. Not only because it’s home to more Olympians, including fellow Team USA players like Knight and Decker and Kacey Bellamy, who recently jumped ship from the NWHL, but also because she believes “there’s one league that is willing to turn over to the NHL and there’s one that’s not,” as she puts it. This is a popular thought among players, but neither Andress nor Hefford have ever said the CWHL would roll over and fold if the NHL stepped up.

This is a big deal. Though Coyne Schofield isn’t the first to express the idea that players are going to have to pick a side if they want one league, she’s the first to straight out say one is preferable to another. Hilary Knight hinted somewhat obliquely in the 2016-17 season that she wanted to play “best on best” but neither she nor any of the other USWNT players who have come (or come back) to the CWHL recently have outright stated it’s because they prefer the C over the N.

Ask Toronto Furies star Natalie Spooner what she’d like to see if the NHL got more involved and the first words out of her mouth aren’t “more money,” they’re “more ice time.”

On one hand it’s easy to pass this off as the sentiment of a very driven, competitive hockey player who, as an Olympian, has both Hockey Canada funding and personal sponsorships. On the other hand... the Furies play and practice at the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence, which is the practice facility for both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Marlies. This season they’ve played two games a weekend and had three practices a week -- all evening practices, and the third practice often optional. That’s more ice time than most of the CWHL teams—the CWHL covers the cost of two practices a week and the Furies raise money for the extra ice time by holding skill sessions for rec level adult women’s hockey players. Surely it wouldn’t be that hard for MLSE to reach out and cover the cost of ice time for that extra night a week, or more. It certainly wouldn’t cost them much. But it’s one of a myriad of little things that the Leafs *could* do as part of their partnership with the Furies but don’t.

It’s also interesting that later in the article it’s mentioned that “an investor” (which, I’ve been told repeatedly, is not the correct term for someone who financially contributes to a non-profit organization) had to step up and pay the Inferno’s ice time debt and not their NHL partner, the Flames.

According to an industry source, the NWHL schedule will expand next season,

This is news, and NWHL fans should pay attention. Granted, the NWHL has promised things in the past that haven’t come to fruition but an expanded schedule would be a big deal.

One player says many of her peers are scared to speak their minds, but wonders whether “exposing these insulated issues that have never come out” would help move the needle towards one league.

I’m going to come out and say I think this is true not only of the NWHL but also of the CWHL. When you’re covering women’s hockey, even on as limited a basis as we at PPP do, you hear stuff, both good and bad. Some of it’s substantiated, some of it’s not, and you have to figure out what to publish or not publish. Sometimes there’s a fear that revealing a development too early, or being overly critical of the league, will result in a league or a team restricting access. Other times it’s just a fear that being overly critical of the only women’s hockey that’s available will drive people away from it because it’s not perfect, and you don’t want to be the one that stunts growth. For fan bloggers, that’s maybe a natural reaction. For players themselves, it’s not a healthy environment to be working in.

It might be worth noting that while Rutherford devotes a whole paragraph to coaching turnover in the CWHL (not all of which is as related as she implies) one thing she herself neglects to mention is the recent turnover in the staff of the Buffalo Beauts, when not only were the coaching staff relieved of their duties six games into the season, but the GM later resigned following a Pegula Sports and Entertainment internal investigation into reports of sexual harassment.

One of Rutherford’s overriding themes (emphasized via Ariana Grande references) was that one thing both leagues need is money. The solution proposed here is that the money should all come from the NHL, either through a new women’s hockey league run by the NHL, or through NHL support of one or both leagues. Since that support doesn’t seem to be immediately forthcoming, both the CWHL and the NWHL need to continue to find ways to increase their revenues and keep their leagues not only stable but growing.

Taken in concert with the recent NHL announcement of a Female Hockey Advisory Committee, and a French-language podcast that Canadiennes forward Karell Émard took part in recently, there’s definitely a sense that not only is change in the air for professional women’s hockey, change is needed. It remains to be seen what changes will take place and how they’ll impact the sport.

CWHL

CWHL Playoffs: Toronto Furies beat Calgary, Markham Thunder shut out - Pension Plan Puppets
Natalie Spooner scores two to lift Toronto over Calgary, Emerance Maschmeyer shuts out Markham for Canadiennes.

CWHL: Markham Thunder win, Toronto Furies lose game two of playoffs - Pension Plan Puppets
A McParland hat trick and Inferno puck luck force both semi-finals to a third game.

CWHL Playoffs: Montréal to face Calgary in Clarkson Cup Final in Toronto - Pension Plan Puppets
The Markham Thunder and Toronto Furies were overwhelmed by stronger competition in the final semi-final games.

Hilary Knight et Marie-Philip Poulin ont su mettre de côté leur rivalité pour devenir coéquipières | RDS.ca
Rivales naturelles de par leur bannière qu’elles défendent sur la scène internationale, Marie-Philip Poulin et Hilary Knight ont su mettre cette dynamique de côté lorsqu’elles ont enfilé le même uniforme.

Q&A: Sami Jo Small unmasks the inner workings of women’s hockey | The Star
Says former national team goalie, now GM of the CWHL’s Toronto Furies: “I manage everything.”

Shiann Darkangelo is in the business of health - The Ice Garden
A conversation with the Furies forward on her company Plant-Based Performance and better living through diet

Les Canadiennes and the Case of the Missing Jeep
It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Calgary Inferno the team to beat in CWHL, but still looking to ignite fan base at home | The Star
Even after losing Game 1 of their semifinal playoff series to the Toronto Furies, the Calgary Inferno are the CWHL’s top team. But after high profile roster additions and a consistent winning record, the team is still looking to build an audience in Calgary.

NWHL

Goal by Goal: Riveters win NWHL play-in game, 5-2 - The Ice Garden
Two goals from Alexa Gruschow send the four seed to the next round

Beauts punch fourth ticket to final on Szabados shutout - Die By The Blade
Fans patiently await news of location and opponent

TRIA Rink to Host Isobel Cup Semifinal on Friday, Cup Final on Sunday - The Ice Garden
The State of Hockey is hosting an Isobel Cup Weekend

2019 Isobel Cup Playoffs Preview: Riveters at Whitecaps - The Ice Garden
TRIA Rink will be a-rockin’, and the Riveters have come a-knockin’

NWHL announces finalists for 2019 Goaltender of the Year award - The Ice Garden
The three finalists are all in their first season of the league

NWHL 2019 Defender of the Year finalists released - The Ice Garden
A new winner will be crowned

NWHL announces Newcomer of the Year award, 2019 finalists - The Ice Garden
Rookie of the Year award renamed

A Women’s Hockey Star Emerges Again at Home in Minnesota - The New York Times
Jonna Curtis is the top scorer for the first-place Minnesota Whitecaps of the National Women’s Hockey League. She was never an Olympian or an All-American, but holds her own with those who were.

Metropolitan Riveters: Behind the Mask with Katie Fitzgerald
Katie Fitzgerald on her NWHL recruitment: “I don’t know how, but he got my parent’s house number and he called them. My mom thought he was a telemarketer.”

Her or Me with Whale skaters Michelle Löwenhielm and Katerina Mrázová - The Ice Garden
The UMD and Whale teammates dished on each other

NHL

NHL, NHLPA establish Female Hockey Advisory Committee
Today, the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and National Hockey League (NHL) announced the establishment of the NHL & NHLPA Female Hockey Advisory Committee, dedicated to accelerating the growth of female hockey in North America while also ensuring more women and girls have the opportunity to experience the benefits that hockey offers.

NCAA

Polls: USCHO - USA Today - The Ice Garden

Syracuse Wins 2019 CHA Championship
For the first time in program history, the Syracuse Orange have secured an NCAA bid as champions of College Hockey America.

Holy Hell, The Women’s Pairwise Is A Complete God Damn Mess - BC Interruption
This year’s potential chaos might be unprecedented

2019 NCAA Women’s Hockey Tournament Bracket Revealed, Matchups Set - BC Interruption
The puck drops on the NCAA tournament next week

Boston College’s coaching tandem continues to orchestrate success - The Ice Garden
Behind Crowley and Kennedy’s 300-plus wins at BC is a lasting friendship that’s changed the program

NCAA Year In Review: Bemidji, Minnesota State, St. Cloud - The Ice Garden
Last place in the WCHA but 26 to 28 place in our hearts

NCAA Year In Review: Harvard, Quinnipiac, RPI, St. Lawrence - The Ice Garden
The lower seeds in the ECAC all had their seasons end on the same weekend

GOAL BY GOAL: BC Women’s Hockey Completely Ruins Boston University 5-1 In Hockey East Semis - BC Interruption
This game was never, ever, ever close

The Takeaway: NCAA Tournament looms - The Ice Garden
With the excitement of the conference championships in the rearview mirror, we turn our sights to the NCAA quarterfinals

NCAA Fantasy Hockey Week 23: Post Weekend Standings - The Ice Garden
Eight teams left!

2019 NCAA Women’s Hockey Tournament: Futures, Odds, Point Spreads, Over/Under - BC Interruption
Using mathematical models to predict the winners

NCAA Year in Review: UConn, Merrimack, New Hampshire, Vermont - The Ice Garden
Examining the 2018-19 season for Hockey East’s lower-seeded playoff teams

BC Women’s Hockey Falls In Hockey East Championship In Overtime Despite Miraculous Game-Tying Goal - BC Interruption
The NCAA tournament awaits

Video: Badgers women's hockey tops Minnesota to win WCHA Final Faceoff | Wisconsin Badgers Hockey | madison.com
With the WCHA Final Faceoff championship trophy back in Madison after the second-ranked Badgers’ 3-1 victory against top-ranked Minnesota at Ridder Arena, the focus now shifts to winning the fifth

Goalie Aerin Frankel Leading Northeastern To NCAA Firsts
Goaltender Aerin Frankel led Northeastern women's hockey to a Hockey East title. Next up, the NCAA women's hockey tournament.

Women’s hockey: No. 2 Badgers capture WCHA title, clinch No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament · The Badger Herald
The No. 2 University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team (34-4-2, 19-1-2 WCHA) defeated both No. 9 Ohio State (20-13-2, 12-10-0) and No. 1 Minnesota (30-5-1, 19-4-1) in Minneapolis over the weekend to claim its fourth WCHA title in five years.

RPI's Selander named ECAC goaltender of the year | Sports | troyrecord.com
TROY, N.Y. − ECAC Hockey has announced its women's hockey year-end awards and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) student-athlete Lovisa Selander has been selected MAC Goaltending Goalie of the Year.

International hockey

2019 FISU Winter Universiade Day 9: Women’s hockey captures silver medal — U SPORTS
What a nail biter of a game.

CWHL Playoffs: Montréal to face Calgary in Clarkson Cup Final in Toronto - Pension Plan Puppets
The Markham Thunder and Toronto Furies were overwhelmed by stronger competition in the final semi-final games.

New faces on Canadian women’s hockey team for world championship in Finland | CTV News
Forwards Melodie Daoust, Ann-Sophie Bettez, Sarah Nurse and Loren Gabel plus defenders Jamie Bourbonnais, and Micah Zandee-Hart are among the newcomers to Team Canada’s 23-player squad for the women’s world hockey championships.

A young Swiss team travels to the World Championship - swisshockeynews.ch

All About Balance: Team Canada announces 2019 World Championship roster - The Ice Garden
Will a mixed roster of veterans and newcomers help Canada capture Worlds gold?

‘You have that forever’: A look at Canada’s 2012 Women’s Under-18 team - Eyes On The Prize
The story of a team that turned a five-game losing streak against their biggest rival into a dominating performance.

U Sports

Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux has an undivided passion for the Stingers - The Concordian
Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux knew from the first time she played at the Ed Meagher Arena that she wanted to play for the Concordia Stingers.

Champions! | CONWAY’S RUSSIAN HOCKEY BLOG
I want to take this opportunity to send large congratulations to the Russian women’s national team, gold medalists at the 2019 Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk.

Seventh-ranked Panthers to play Montreal at U Sports championship | Hockey | Sports | The Journal Pioneer
Schedule released for national championship at MacLauchlan Arena

NetNewsLedger - Preview: Alberta Earns No.1 Seed ahead of National Tournament

AWIHL (Australia)

2019 AWIHL playoffs | Ice Hockey News Australia
The Melbourne Ice have won the 2019 Joan McKowen Trophy after defeating the Sydney Sirens 4-3 in the grand final. The Ice advanced to the final after defeating the Brisbane Goannas 9-2 in the semifinals while the Sirens progressed with a 6-3 win over the Perth Inferno. The win gives the Ice their second title…