Hilary Knight, Marie-Philip Poulin, other top women's hockey players to boycott upcoming pro season
The players may be seeking an NHL-backed women's league
Several of the best women's hockey players have decided to boycott the upcoming professional season as they seek adequate resources and support.
American star Hilary Knight and Canadian star Marie-Philip Poulin are among a group of more than 200 women's players that will sit out the 2019-20 season until they "get the resources professional hockey demands and deserves." Brianne Jenner and Kendall Coyne-Schofield are also in that group.
Many of those players shared a uniform statement on social media announcing the holdout for equitable support.
"We are coming together, not as individual players, but as as one collective voice to help navigate the future and protect the players' needs," reads the statement. "We cannot make a sustainable living playing in the current state of the professional game. Having no health insurance and making as low as two thousand dollars a season means players can't adequately train and prepare to play at the highest level.
"Because of that, together as players, we will not play in ANY professional leagues in North America this season until we get the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves."
The boycott comes after the CWHL officially folded on May 1, ceasing operations after a 12-year run. The CWHL had been home to some of the world's best female hockey players -- most notably Knight and Poulin, both of whom played for the Montreal-based Les Canadiennes.
After the announcement of the CWHL shutdown, the NHL said it would "significantly up" its financial contributions to the National Women's Hockey League this year, becoming one of the NWHL's biggest financial sponsors. However, the NHL reportedly didn't increase its support for women's hockey as a whole, but rather consolidated its $100,000 annual contribution to one league. (The NHL had previously provided equal contributions to the NWHL and CWHL).
The NHL Players Association, meanwhile, has since released a statement supporting the "voice" of the players and saying "their judgments need to be respected."
With the extra money, the NWHL said it planned on expanding prior to next season with new teams in Montreal and Toronto. The league has yet to comment on the boycott or whether it will affect those expansion plans.
While the players' statement doesn't explicitly mention the CWHL, the NWHL or the NHL, it's believed by many that their ultimate goal is to persuade the NHL into establishing a women's league that provides more overall support to the players.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said in the past that he does not believe in the financial models of the CWHL or the NWHL, but he would provide equal support to the leagues without intervening in their respective operations. He has also said that the NHL would explore the idea of setting up a women's league if there were no other alternatives for women's pro hockey in North America.
It's possible that the absence of so many noteworthy players helps expedite the establishment of an NHL-backed women's league, but there's no guarantee that it happens. However, it's clear that the players are willing to take a risk to hopefully make a brighter future for women's hockey.
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