Big changes are coming to women’s hockey. The players are making sure of that.
On Thursday, more than 200 of the best women’s hockey players on the planet joined forces and announced their collective decision to “not play in ANY professional leagues in North America this season until we get the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves.”
These women believe in the game — just not the business model under which it’s being played right now in the NWHL.
Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados, who spent the 2018-19 season with the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts, was among the many players to tweet out the statement, which was accompanied by a hashtag that clearly defined their goal: #ForTheGame. One league, better conditions, and a sustainable future for the game that is growing at a rapid speed.
It’s not a boycott. It’s more than that — this is a widespread sit-out, as many of today’s women’s hockey players work to create a bright, sustainable future for the game they love so tomorrow’s young girls can play it, too.
“We need to be under one roof and under one umbrella where we could pool all the best resources, where we’re not making investors pick one side or the other,” Szabados said during an appearance on Prime Time Sports on Thursday. “For us players, it’s just about basic necessities and things that leagues that call themselves professional leagues in other facets of the world in women’s and men’s sports provide their athletes.”
Szabados is clear about what she and her peers are seeking, and didn’t mince words when asked about just how long she’s willing to wait to make things right in her sport:
“As long as it takes,” Szabados said. “Which is hard for me to say, at 32 years old, because I might be retired by the end. But that’s part of this process and what we’re willing to do.”
The veteran netminder shared her perspective on some of the biggest hurdles facing the viability of the women’s game at the professional level up until this point.
“We’ve been in two leagues and we’ve had to make investors and T.V. promotors that want to show games choose one side or the other and ultimately, in a lot of cases, they’ve chosen neither because they have ties to both Canada and the U.S. and it’s really hurt our game,” she explained. “And I think to get to where we need to be, we need to be under one roof to showcase the best game and we haven’t had the opportunity to do that and get all the resources in one area.”
The CWHL announced back in March that it would be folding, effective May 1. This leaves the NWHL as the lone destination for women’s pro hockey, but doesn’t change the fact that it, too, is operating on a business model that is simply not sustainable.
“This isn’t just about the NWHL. It’s just us saying, ‘Hey we’re tired of being pulled in all these different directions,'” Szabados said. “It’s not a boycott. It’s just, we want to take our time. We don’t believe there’s a viable league for us right this second so we want to hang on and do what’s best to grow our game and to further it.”
Please take the time to listen to @nursey16 on the current state of Women’s hockey. We’re not asking for the world, we’re just asking for a chance. An opportunity to put the best players & resources in one room. Well spoken Sarah https://t.co/oQ9TXJnOmz
— Shannon Szabados (@ShannonSzabados) May 2, 2019
Szabados is in a unique position, having experienced first-hand the difference in treatment of athletes between men’s and women’s leagues.
“I played Junior A hockey in Canada as a 16-year-old and the league provides housing and places for players to live while they’re on the road. The lowest level of men’s professional hockey provides the same thing for their players,” explained Szbados, who also spent three seasons with the Columbus Cottonmouths, a men’s team that’s part of the Southern Professional Hockey League. “We’re not asking for anything crazy. We just want all the best in one area and the opportunity to generate some revenue.”