In 2014-15, the NWHL made headlines for all the right reasons. The women’s league was paying its players, generating excitement about the women’s game in a non-Olympic year and had some of the games brightest stars among its ranks.
Year Two hasn’t been quite as pleasant, though.
In mid-November, the league announced that in order to stay viable moving forward, players would require their salaries to be slashed — reportedly by 50 percent, and that applied to each player — and the pay cut was put into place immediately. The league’s players responded the next day through star Hilary Knight, saying they’d be willing to take the cut if the league offered “transparency and open communication” about the financial situation.
Things have been relatively quiet since then. Or at least that was the case until Dec. 3, when New York Riveters forward Morgan Fritz-Ward decided to depart the league.
And while she was the first to leave the league, but it appears she won’t be the only casualty of the pay cuts as the NWHL announced Monday evening that Connecticut Whale rearguard Ivana Bilic asked out of her contract and has officially played her final games. Bilic has not commented on her departure from the league.
“We hoped every player would stay with us, but we knew there could be departures after the announcement of necessary salary reductions, and we respect and understand those decisions,” NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan said of Bilic’s departure. “Ivana is an outstanding player and person and was a welcome addition to our league this season. We wish her all the best.”
While Fritz-Ward’s departure was notable in that she was the first to leave, Bilic’s decision to remove herself from the league comes in the midst of her rookie campaign and as she was pacing the Whale’s backend with four points in seven games. Bilic, 22, went out with a bang, too.
In her penultimate game on Saturday against the Buffalo Beauts, Bilic picked up two assists, and she closed out her time in the league with a plus-one rating in Connecticut’s 4-2 victory over the Riveters on Sunday afternoon.
Before coming to the NWHL, Bilic played four seasons at Bemidji State University. Over the course of her 128-game career, she netted 13 goals and 61 points. She was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year in 2016, and at the 2016 Nations Cup with Team Canada.
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