As the CWHL door closes, will another one open?
Women’s hockey has struggled for decades to put a consistent proven professional product in the eyes of the general public. The CWHL folding is no different. In the press statement, the league says the model wasn’t financially sustainable, but then goes on to talk about how many people viewed the championship game ON TV. Not people paying for tickets, so the league can make money, people tuning in to one of the 15 national sports television channels.
The league model is so absurd it hurts to even consider. Calgary’s closest rival is Toronto, which is a 7000 kilometre round trip. How insane does that sound. Well let’s add teams from China who will help pay some bills… maybe. Not only is it costly to run the game expenses including travel, but if you’re barely making money off your home games, how can you rely on someone else to flip the bill. In a consumer market, the fans dictate what they want (AKA the Atlanta Thrashers). If people don’t want to support it, you can’t force them to go to the games, buy jerseys, donate through the league website etc.
Another major issue with the women’s game is what’s wrong with starting small? If western Canada can’t support a six team league (Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Winnipeg), why would someone think fans are going to want to watch a team from China play Calgary?! The financials don’t add up, the mindset doesn’t add up and ultimately, one can’t be too surprised the CWHL is folding.
Start small and build from there. You’ve got a perfect opportunity to start in six major markets like Montreal, Toronto, New York, Boston, Buffalo and Minnesota. But will the hierarchy choose to work together to build something successful? I doubt it. But I’d love to be proved wrong.
PS. Hockey Canada having their national women’s team play against Midget teams (and lose against below .500 teams) as “preparation” is not helping improve the reputation of female hockey.