Canada’s Emily Clark (26) and United States’ Emily Matheson (8) collide in front of goalie Alex Cavallini during the second period of a rivalry series women’s hockey game in Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Canada’s Emily Clark (26) and United States’ Emily Matheson (8) collide in front of goalie Alex Cavallini during the second period of a rivalry series women’s hockey game in Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

2019 a year of women in hockey flexing collective muscle for a pro league

Players won’t play in a North American league until ‘we get the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves’

The women’s hockey landscape didn’t just tilt in 2019. It was turned upside down and shaken like a Polaroid picture.

From the folding of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League to the upending of the established world order to the game’s stars flexing their collective power and going rogue, many see opportunity in the upheaval.

“I think that what we’re trying to do is very powerful and exciting,” Canadian defender Meaghan Mikkelson said.

“It’s all of the best female players in the world that are coming together to do something that would go down in history.”

The U.S. women’s soccer and hockey teams playing hardball with their own sport federations in recent years emboldened Canadian and European women to take up the mantle of self-determination.

But American forward Kendall Coyne Schofield was the spark in 2019.

Invited to compete against NHL players in the speed lap of the Jan. 25 all-star skills competition in San Jose, Calif., it took her 14.346 seconds to challenge assumptions about women’s hockey and ignite a social-media buzz. Coyne Schofield finished less than a second behind the winner.

A week after the Calgary Inferno won the Clarkson Cup, interim commissioner and Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford announced March 31 that the CWHL would fold after 12 seasons.

She declared the non-profit model no longer financially sustainable. The majority of players on the Canadian and American national teams played in the CWHL.

They were en route to, or had just landed in, Espoo, Finland for the women’s world championship.

Off the ice, there were meetings and text conversations between players from competing countries on what to do about it.

On the ice, Finland threw a wrench in the notion that international women’s hockey is predictable because the U.S. and Canada play for gold every time.

The host Finns upset Canada in the semifinal and lost the gold to the Americans in a controversial shootout.

Petra Nieminen’s overtime goal was waived off for goaltender interference. The U.S. women claimed a fifth straight world title in the shootout.

Bronze medallist Canada didn’t play in a world final for the first time.

Coyne Schofield, U.S. teammate Hilary Knight, Canadian team captain Marie Philip-Poulin and veteran Finnish goaltender Noora Raty were among 200 players stating in May they would not play in any North American league in 2019-20 until “we get the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves.”

Both a boycott, and a shot across the bow, of the five-team, U.S.-based NWHL, it’s also a move to force the NHL’s hand.

The women who formed the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, with Hefford at the helm, believe the NHL’s involvement is necessary to achieving the league they envision.

But NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the league has no interest in operating a women’s league while one still exists.

PWHPA players are without a league during the current standoff.

They’re barnstorming throughout North America in “The Dream Gap Tour” playing each other in showcase tournaments and exhibition games.

Their goal is to win hearts and minds in hockey markets, as well as attract sponsors to give them economic clout for whatever comes next.

“This year I don’t think has been easy for anybody, not playing as many games and not having the structure of a league that you would normally be used to, but if things work out in the end and there is a professional women’s league then it will all be worth it, not just for us but for future generations,” Mikkelson said.

“Sure there is doubt and there is uncertainty, but I would say more than anything, just the empowerment and the movement that we’re trying to create, it’s exciting.”

Unrest in the women’s hockey ranks spread to Sweden. The top players are boycotting the national team over compensation and working conditions.

The walkout forced the cancellation of the annual Four Nations tournament involving Canada, the U.S., Finland and Sweden because the Swedes were to be the host team in November.

Halifax and Truro, N.S., are the host cities of the 2020 women’s world hockey championship March 31 to April 10.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The memorial site for double-murder victims Nellie Williams and Fran Shurie, located in Charles Hoey Park, will be allowed to stay for another two months after the City of Duncan changed its policy on temporary memorials. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Duncan allows temporary memorials to stay longer

Policy change related to memorial for double-homicide victims in city park

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

Cowichan Tribes chief Squtxulenhuw (William Seymour) confirmed the first death in the First Nations community from COVID-19. (File photo)
Cowichan Tribes confirms first death from COVID-19

Shelter-in-place order has been extended to Feb. 5

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

Christopher Anthony Craig Dick is wanted by the Port Alberni RCMP in connection to multiple investigations. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Vancouver Island RCMP seek man connected to assault investigations

Christopher Dick, 36, was recently in the North Cowichan and Duncan region

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Shown is Quality Foods at 319 Island Highway in Parksville. The Island-based grocery chain announced on Jan. 25 it made a $2-per-hour pay premium, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent. (Mandy Moraes photo)
COVID-19: Quality Foods makes $2-per-hour employee pay premium permanent

Island-based grocery chain had extended increase twice in 2020

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

Most Read