The Canadian Women's Hockey League will fold this May, the league announced in a statement on Sunday. Founded in 2007, the league will cease operations on May 1, according the the league's release.
"The Board of Directors of the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) has made the decision to discontinue operations effective May 1, 2019," said the league in a written statement. "Unfortunately, while the on-ice hockey is exceptional, the business model has proven to be economically unsustainable."
The league has been operating with six teams. Four are in Canada (Calgary, Toronto, Markham, Montreal), one is in Worcester, Mass. and another in China.
Last week, the league's Clarkson Cup final drew over 175,000 television viewers after striking a last-minute deal to air the game on NHL Network. The Calgary Inferno won the Clarkson Cup with a 5-2 victory over Les Canadiennes de Montreal.
The CWHL has been home to some of the world's best female hockey players -- most notably American star Hilary Knight and Canadian star Marie-Philip Poulin, both of whom played for Les Canadiennes.
The league's players reportedly found out about the news around the same time as the general public did on Sunday. Several CWHL players tweeted out a uniform statement regarding the news.
"This morning we were informed the CWHL is folding. As players, we will do our best to find a solution so this isn't our last season of hockey but it's hard to remain optimistic. #NoLeague"
The league began paying its players in 2017, though the highest salary in the league last season was just $10,000 Canadian. There were rumors that the league, which does not sell merchandise or disclose attendance figures, had been running low on cash recently. Sunday's news seems to confirm those rumors.
Some have suggested that the CWHL folding will lead to a merger with the National Women's Hockey League -- an American-based leagued which was founded in 2015 -- but there are reportedly no plans for a merger as of right now.
The NHL has supported both the CWHL and NWHL in recent years and has been careful about not showing preference to one league over another. With the CWHL folding, it's possible that the NHL may increase its support for the NWHL moving forward, though commissioner Gary Bettman is on record as not being a believer in the model of either the CWHL or the NWHL.
The NHL also said it has interest in starting a women's league of its own if there are no other alternatives down the road.
Reached out to the NHL on whockey. Their response:— Marisa Ingemi (@Marisa_Ingemi) March 31, 2019
“The NHL’s position has been consistent for some time and remains unchanged with this news: We would consider starting a women’s league if there were no alternatives for women to play professionally in North America.”
A major focus point of the CWHL was to help grow the game for women and it undoubtedly helped do that over the past dozen years. Unfortunately, its recent financial troubles will leave over 100 players looking for a new home to continue that momentum for the sport.