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Breaking the Ice in Female Sports




Sport is a revolving door of players, managers, teams, and leagues; the new professional Women’s Hockey League might just be an opening for thousands of female hockey players to join the professional world of sports. Billionaire investor and CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mark Walker, with the help of Billy Jean King, purchased a women’s hockey league and managed an agreement with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association.  


Still, there were many problems to be faced by the adventurous investors and sports enthusiasts who had thrown their pucks on the ice. Women’s hockey leagues had been developed in the past but had folded, dispersed, or otherwise faded into obscurity, unable to establish themselves professionally. That is not to say there wasn’t a demand for a female hockey league. Colleges throughout America and Canada developed female hockey teams as early as 1965 when the first collegiate female hockey was founded at Brown University. Decades later, the first high school female ice hockey team was sanctioned in 1994 in Minnesota. Now the US state boasts over 15 thousand girl hockey players. In the 2022 Winter Olympics, over 3.5 million people watched the women’s tournament in ice hockey between the US and Canada.


So why did these other leagues fail? Among the initial set of problems was athlete pay, meaning they were not paid. Therefore, many of the athletes had to sacrifice training and practice time to work. There were also issues with facilities being unprofessional. Teams often competed in recreation centres and shopping malls. Limited resources provided few chances for fans to participate, tune in, or stream these games, ultimately leading to the desolation of these female hockey leagues. Mark Walter and Billy Jean King set out to fix all these problems, beginning with the issue of pay. Part of the agreement with the Professional Women’s Hockey League Association was an established average salary of $55,000, with a condition that teams pay at least $80,000 per year to at least six top players. They also worked on providing better facilities for the players, including the home of the New York Long Islanders, the UBS Arena. Finally, the team secured television contracts between the US and Canada. 


On 1 January, 2023, all six teams in the Professional Women’s Hockey League competed in their debut games. In an open letter to fans, they stated their goals for the new women’s hockey team. “On this journey, our players will re-set the bar for greatness and will lift our game to greater heights.” Fans responded by coming out to show their support for the future of hockey, carrying signs reading, “You fought for my dream” and “Play for the girls who dressed in storage rooms.” The league has sold out stadiums, set new attendance records, and drawn millions of fans from across North America, setting a precedence that even the most male-dominated sports can have their female counterparts. 



Image: Unsplash

 

            

 

 

 

 

 


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