The battle for women's hockey supremacy has begun. The brand-new National Women's League has commenced pre-season play, while the Canadian Women's League just announced new branding tying its Toronto and Montreal franchises to their NHL counterparts.
The off-season divided the talent pool between the upstart NWHL, North America's first paid professional women's puck circuit, and the established CWHL, which has operated as the world's top women's league since its 2008 inception.
The first hurdle for the NWHL in establishing itself as legit competition for the CWHL was, of course, landing some big names. The NWHL has done that. Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker signed with the Boston Pride, Meghan Duggan with Buffalo Beauts, and so on. The next big summit: revealing exactly what its players stand to make. Will the NWHL athletes earn enough to sustain themselves full-time in Season 1?
It's been common knowledge for several months the league would have a $270,000 salary cap per team, as the NWHL made that number public in March. A $270,000 cap for 18-player rosters averages out to $15,000 per player. But a source close to the league has revealed to THN some additional details about the breakdown. The top 10 highest-paid NWHLers, all on one-year deals:
Kelli Stack, F, Connecticut Whale, $25,000
Megan Bozek, D, Buffalo Beauts, $22,500
Meghan Duggan, F, Buffalo Beauts, $22,500
Kacey Bellamy, D, Boston Pride, $22,000
Brianna Decker, F, Boston Pride, $22,000
Hilary Knight, F, Boston Pride, $22,000
Brianne McLaughlin, G, Buffalo Beauts, $22,000
Katia Smolentsveta, F, Connecticut Whale, $22,000
Emily Pfalzer, D, Buffalo Beauts, $21,000
Nana Fujimoto, G, New York Riveters, $21,000
The league minimum is $10,000. According to the source, Buffalo and Boston are maxed out at the $270,000 cap right now, with New York at $265,000 and Connecticut at $262,000.
THN has also learned that players must notify their coaches and GM at least 30 days in advance if they know they will miss a game or practice, barring an emergency or medical problem. Missing games and practices will result in salary deductions.
On top of their salaries, each player will earn an individual commission of 15 percent for every one of her own jerseys sold. That's a different setup than that of the NHL, which pools jersey sales into one pot to divide among the players. Jerseys are the only officially merchandised product the NWHL is selling right now, but players affiliated with the U.S. national team will earn an additional percentage of any other merchandise the league introduces and sells that has their names, images and likenesses.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin