The National Women’s Hockey League said on Wednesday it was doubling its salary cap to $ 300,000 for each of its six teams, based on forecasts that it was progressing towards financial stability at the start of its seventh season.
âInvesting in these players by doubling the salary cap is, in our opinion, a very strong signal that we are serious about this,â said Boston Pride President Miles Arnone. “It’s something we can afford to do. It’s substantial, but it doesn’t mark the end. It marks the start of a process that we plan to continue over the next few years.”
At the same time, Arnone said the league is delaying adding an expansion franchise in Montreal until the 2022-23 season due to lingering uncertainties due to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in Canada. Arnone has a stake in the BTM ownership group behind the Montreal expansion offering and operates the Toronto Six, which has completed its first season.
Arnone said the decision to raise the cap and delay the expansion was unrelated.
The decision to increase the cap means that salaries will average $ 15,000 based on a roster of 20 players. Arnone estimates that salaries range between $ 10,000 and $ 35,000, not counting the additional bonuses that come with the league’s revenue-sharing agreement with its players.
While the NWHL is yet to turn a profit, first-year commissioner Tyler Tumminia cited progress in creating major sponsorship deals _ including a six-figure deal with Discover _ and increasing its base of fans despite a shortened two-week season that was disrupted by a COVID-19 outbreak and forced a nearly two-month postponement of the playoffs.
âIn a very difficult year for all sports, I think this is a very exciting announcement, and one that we are proud of as a league, being frankly at the point where our goals are literally becoming reality now,â Tumminia told the ‘AP. “If you are projecting, we are convinced that the model and the revenue stream increase.”
Aside from the challenges of building a new team amid the COVID-19 restrictions still in place in Canada, Arnone noted that he would prefer to focus on developing the infrastructure and fan base of the Six. The Six have yet to play a game in Toronto after spending their first season exclusively in the United States due to the border closure.
âWe’re going to expand. And we have very concrete plans to do that, and I think you can very clearly expect an expansion for Season 8,â Arnone said. âWe think it’s a little better to take more time, put in a better infrastructure for this new team, put the right people in place and do it really well.
Arnone, the managing partner of investment firm Cannon Capital, has been instrumental in transforming NWHL leadership since purchasing Pride two years ago. Meanwhile, the league restructured its executive model by creating a board of governors made up of owners, investors and shareholders, which led league founder Dani Rylan Kearney to step down as commissioner. last fall.
The other four NWHL teams, based in Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey and Buffalo, New York, are managed by W Hockey Partners, which is actively seeking to sell the franchises to privately owned groups.
The NWHL was formed in 2015 as a four-team league and is the first in North America to pay female players a salary. It endured growing pains and nearly closed a month into its second season when the NWHL made the drastic decision to cut player salaries by nearly half due to shortages projected below a salary cap of $ 270,000. by team.
The cutbacks have led many top players to leave the NWHL to play in Canada.
Tumminia and Arnone said the NWHL is better positioned now because the league is no longer operating its teams and has a better understanding of its cash flow. Although still dependent on Gateway revenues, the NWHL has entered into long-term agreements with partner companies and increased its visibility.
The salary increase has the potential to attract additional female players to the NWHL after a majority of top US and Canadian players hesitated to join the league, instead forming the Professional Women Hockey Players Association as a result. of the demise of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2019. PWHPA’s goals are to establish a single professional North American women’s league capable of paying a living wage and with a long-term sustainable business model.
“We hope that makes a difference, at the margin. We’ll see, right?” Arnone said, referring to the split between the NWHL and the PWHPA. “We would like to see a reconciliation.”
PWHPA leader Jayna Hefford praised the NWHL’s decision to raise the cap.
“It’s great to see the league taking positive steps to better support its athletes financially,” Hefford said in a text message. “This is the direction this game and its players deserve, today and tomorrow.”
The NWHL nearly tripled its audience this season with over 2 million views on its streaming platform, Twitch. The Isobel Cup semi-finals and final were broadcast nationally for the first time and averaged over 100,000 viewers on NBCSN.
âWe have a much better grasp (over the economy). We went through six seasons, one of which of course was historic on its level of disruption to understand what the business looks like,â Arnone said, referring to last season. “If we can do it, doubling the salary cap is like a walk in the park.”