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Women's Professional Hockey: Crossroads

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Eh. People are high if they think this is going to work. Professional sports only exist because there is a critical mass of people willing to part with their money to watch it. The NHL has a hard enough time getting fans in certain markets to watch and that’s the best hockey on the planet. 

Soccer works for women, kind of, because there are millions of little girls who play soccer and mom/dad want them to have role models. The National team gets a lot of exposure, but the NWSL is barely hanging on even with all these youth players. 

Until millions of little girls start playing hockey, this will be one struggle after another. 

The only hope is the NHL using it as a loss leader to get more female fans of the game, but I imagine that is a poor ROI. 

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4 hours ago, shrader said:

They have a 16 game season. I don’t mean to put down the amount of work they put into a season, but I have a hard time picturing 16 games as a huge time commitment. There’s zero that is anyone’s primary occupation. They want more and that’s fine, but they’re going to have to expect a significantly larger commitment in order to get that return. 

As you’re suggesting, they’re a long way away from hockey being their primary source of income. And if there are a few in the league where that is the case, well good luck to them. That’s an incredibly shaky financial situation right there. 

Generally, I agree... the 16 games is only part of what these women play... they do play all the exhibition tournaments and world championship games as well.  Don't know if they receive compensation for them or not and that may be part of their argument.  Though the NHL has little do with those effort.    The problem I see is by cutting themselves out of the NHL sponsorship they probably are limiting the amount of women who can keep training and actually playing meaningful games, while growing the sport.  It is too bad.

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3 hours ago, matter2003 said:

These women's leagues dont get that the reason they dont make more money or have "real leagues" is to be perfectly honest, nobody cares about women's sports. If they did, they would be drawing big crowds. They don't in high school, they don't in college, and they don't in the pros.

If I want to go watch sports I want to see the fastest, quickest, most athletic people on the planet doing things you didn't think were possible. Whether they like it or not, these athletes are men. If I watch basketball i want to see people dunking and swatting not watching perfect layups. Same with hockey, baseball, football, etc...

Perhaps women's soccer is the closest thing to actually watching good sports. This is not sexist in any way, it just merely points out there are significant speed, strength and agility differences between men and women that no matter how much women don't want them to exist, they do. If people want to watch sports its to watch the most athletic people in that sport and those are men.

Not sure that  it is the fastest most athletic and the rest of your argument is the issue.  I do think men tend to watch men's sports at a higher rate than women watch women's sports and tend to spend lots of money on them.  Yes women watch men's sports, but not near the same rate and you usually see them with their significant other when they do.  If women supported women sports more and I am not sure it is the same priority for them it is for men, then maybe there would be more money available for professional women's sports.  This may change as we see women much more involved in athletics lately, but I still think it is a difference in priorities that may never fully change.  Can there be enough attention to make certain sports viable financially... not sure.

Edited by North Buffalo

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17 hours ago, nfreeman said:

Well, I don't think the percentages necessarily should match.  I could certainly believe that that the minimum costs to operate an arena for games, run a sports organization, etc. could well exceed 50% of projected revenues.  (This shouldn't be difficult to calculate, since both the costs and the revenues are more or less known quantities.)  Someone running this league could certainly look at the numbers and decide that based on costs and revenues, the owners will need 80% or more of revenues in order to break even.

For that matter, it's quite possible that even 100% of revenues wouldn't cover expenses.

I think using the phrase percentages was the easiest way to convey that the relative expense and revenues should align.  For example, the Beauts don't play in KBC so their operating cost for the Arena is lower.  They play at HarborCenter where the seating is proportionate to the number of fans they bring in.  That of course is one of those major differences that drives the overall revenue.  Each ownership situation is different, but if you look at the Beauts, the owners own the rink.  There are costs associated with that rink that will be incurred regardless of who uses it.  The question is can the Pegulas use the HarborCenter rink for another purpose that drives more revenue than the Beauts?  This isn't the same for all owners, but it does change how the costs need to be allocated.  There is the additional cost of "producing" the Beauts game (staffing concessions, ticket takers, etc.).

There's no way you are going to pull in enough money from playing 8 games at HarborCenter to pay the women playing enough money.  But at the same time, they are only playing 8 games there.  

 

10 hours ago, matter2003 said:

These women's leagues dont get that the reason they dont make more money or have "real leagues" is to be perfectly honest, nobody cares about women's sports. If they did, they would be drawing big crowds. They don't in high school, they don't in college, and they don't in the pros.

If I want to go watch sports I want to see the fastest, quickest, most athletic people on the planet doing things you didn't think were possible. Whether they like it or not, these athletes are men. If I watch basketball i want to see people dunking and swatting not watching perfect layups. Same with hockey, baseball, football, etc...

Perhaps women's soccer is the closest thing to actually watching good sports. This is not sexist in any way, it just merely points out there are significant speed, strength and agility differences between men and women that no matter how much women don't want them to exist, they do. If people want to watch sports its to watch the most athletic people in that sport and those are men.

Your first sentence is factually incorrect.  There are people who care.  As such, you are incorrect in saying "nobody cares".  You probably mean, not enough people care, and that's absolutely true.  

The teams also have "real leagues" in that they play "real schedules" officiated by "real official" watched by "real fans" and played by "real players".  

As others have pointed out, if you are only there to watch the fastest, quickest, most athletic people on the planet, then you must only watch the top tier leagues.  You must never watch high school, college, semi-pro, or minor league games of sport.

Of course MLS is the top tier soccer league in the United States and it is barely successful despite it having male athletes.

Sports is about watching people compete, at the levels they are supposed to compete.  I appreciate sports for that.  However, it's not about men or women, it's about whether that version of the sport can draw enough interest to support the salary level desired.  It may be that at some point in time these sports do begin to draw enough, but it isn't today. Even the top professional sports had to grow their game.  The problem that women's hockey will face specifically is that they are now competing against a far more complex field than the NHL, NFL, MLB, or NBA ever did.

Today's viewership is drawn between not only sports, but other television programming, streaming video, streaming gamers, video games, etc.  The amount of competition for money and eyeball time has increased exponentially and the amount of time or money to spend has not.

It might even be said that the major sports could see a snap downturn in revenues in the near future as e-sports continues to rise. People already speak of major league sports basically becoming a corporate venue. 

 

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8 hours ago, North Buffalo said:

Generally, I agree... the 16 games is only part of what these women play... they do play all the exhibition tournaments and world championship games as well.  Don't know if they receive compensation for them or not and that may be part of their argument.  Though the NHL has little do with those effort.    The problem I see is by cutting themselves out of the NHL sponsorship they probably are limiting the amount of women who can keep training and actually playing meaningful games, while growing the sport.  It is too bad.

They had the issue a few years ago where they were trying to get greater compensation for, I believe it was the world championship.  I thought that was a USA hockey issue, but either way, that should be completely separate from the league.

I have no issue with them trying to make more.  That's basic human nature and everyone wants that.  It seems like most here are all on the same page with this one.  They're severely miscalculating with this move.  The interest isn't there.  Their timing is also horrible.  With all the reshuffling coming from the one league shutting down, this league has was too much to sort out at the moment.  It probably would have been better to let that dust settle.

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1 hour ago, shrader said:

They had the issue a few years ago where they were trying to get greater compensation for, I believe it was the world championship.  I thought that was a USA hockey issue, but either way, that should be completely separate from the league.

I have no issue with them trying to make more.  That's basic human nature and everyone wants that.  It seems like most here are all on the same page with this one.  They're severely miscalculating with this move.  The interest isn't there.  Their timing is also horrible.  With all the reshuffling coming from the one league shutting down, this league has was too much to sort out at the moment.  It probably would have been better to let that dust settle.

Agree, though they may view it as a political decision and are trying shake more support for their efforts in the current political climate.  Dont be surprised if the women's movement steps up and makes it uncomfortable for the owners. Not sure it gets them where they want... especially as you said with all the other stuff going on, their timing kinda sucks. Politically though the timing makes sense.

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Of the 46 NWHL games in 2018-19, 16 drew sold-out crowds – setting a new league record. The average attendance of the 46 games was 954.

2018-19 season average attendance:

  1. Minnesota: 1,200
  2. Buffalo: 1,101 
  3. Riveters: 721
  4. Boston: 706 
  5. Connecticut: 423

I don’t know how they expect to get more money with those crowd sizes.

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I wonder if it’s not money per se that they are looking for, maybe they are looking for a commitment to grow the league?

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15 minutes ago, Weave said:

I wonder if it’s not money per se that they are looking for, maybe they are looking for a commitment to grow the league?

It's money.  The league already committed to adding two more teams this coming year. Plus, they said it was money.

Edited by Eleven

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I believe they see it as long term marketing. That the NHL should see it like the NBA sees it, that the NHL should be promoting a league for women to make future fans of the 12 year old girl, who in 20 years will be engaged in hockey, instead of just basketball. As long term marketing, they feel they are providing a service that should be paid, and as such, are demanding payment.

I would be surprised if the NHL thought the same.

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15 minutes ago, Weave said:

I wonder if it’s not money per se that they are looking for, maybe they are looking for a commitment to grow the league?

That is the message at the beginning and ending of their full statement.  But when the biggest portion of that same statement focuses on the money, I think it becomes pretty obvious what they're really getting at.

We are fortunate to the ambassadors of this game that we revere so deeply and yet, more than ever, we understand the responsibility that comes with that ambassadorship: To leave this game in better shape than when we entered it. That is why we come together, over 200 players strong, to say it is time to create a sustainable professional league for Women's Hockey.

While we have all accomplished so much, there is no greater accomplishment than what we have the potential to do right here and right now – not just for this generation of players, but for generations to come. With that purpose, we are coming together, not as individual players, but as one collective voice to help navigate the future and protect the players’ needs. We cannot make a sustainable living playing in the current state of the professional game. Having no health insurance and making as low as two thousand dollars a season means players can’t adequately train and prepare to play at the highest level.

Because of that, together as players, we will not play in ANY professional leagues in North America this season until we get the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves.

We may have represented different teams, leagues, and countries – but this sport is one family. And the time is now for this family to unite. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for – our moment to come together and say we deserve more. It’s time for a long-term viable professional league that will showcase the greatest product of women’s professional hockey in the world.

#ForTheGame

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This is a tough one.  I have daughters and I support girls and women being able to pursue their dreams and earn equivalent money to their male counterparts.  That said, professional sports are a form of entertainment.  If people like the entertainment, they will buy tickets, watch on TV, purchase merchandise.  I just don't see where the market is for professional women's hockey.  I'm a huge sports fan and a huge hockey fan, but I have no interest in women's hockey.  I don't live in Buffalo anymore and there isn't a women's team where I live.  That said, there is a WNBA franchise here and I have never once attended a game nor had any interest in doing so.  I do go to an occasional NBA game and lots of other men's college and pro sports.  If my daughter wanted to go to a WNBA game, I would certainly take her.  The following article is about the WNBA, which has a much wider audience than women's pro hockey, losing money.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/wnba/2018/12/28/wnba-looks-for-new-president-profitability-in-2019/38809289/

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They're lucky they get to play competitively after school.... they should be thrilled to have the opportunity, even if it's just a glorified beer league.

To me this seems like posturing.   They're just trying to bring attention to the fact that they don't get paid much and whatnot... which is good to raise awareness, and I wish them luck, but I just don't see it going anywhere due to the underlying economics.  

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The Beauts may not be operational next season per Athletic 

 

In the wake of Thursday’s monumental announcement that hundreds of players are planning to sit out the upcoming 2019-20 NWHL season, the status of the Buffalo Beauts is up in the air, The Athletic has learned.

According to several sources, players have serious doubts that the team will be operational next year. 

“We are in the midst of finishing a complete review of the Beauts coming off our first season running the team. Once we’ve finished our review, we’ll figure out how we’re going to move forward,” a team spokesperson said when reached for comment.

The Beauts, run by Pegula Sports and Entertainment, have been considered by many players as the gold standard of the NWHL, particularly because of Kim Pegula’s involvement and influence; Buffalo is the only franchise run independently from the league. The Beauts finished second in attendance in the NWHL last season and goaltender Shannon Szabados led all individual players in jersey sales. Szabados told ESPN in March she considered the club the best run women’s team “in the entire world.” 

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The article also had this tidbit as well. There are concerns as the NWHL has investors that would want to be paid and it appears that Dani Rylan is very difficult to negotiate with. 

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has, on multiple occasions, stated that he does not believe that either the now-defunct CWHL, or the NWHL, is financially viable, which thrust players into a difficult position and a monumental choice: stick with the one league remaining in hopes that pay and conditions improve or hold out for a better solution in the long term.

 

Also this Tweet from LeBrun makes me wonder if this is an attempt to clear the deck for the NHL by getting rid of the NWHL. 

 

 

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I suppose that the earlier stuff about how the Pegula-run team (ie. the one with NHL ties) is the model organization would play into that.  Still, I don't really see why the NHL itself would have much interest in starting one of their own.  You're taking a very niche market within and already niche sport.  That's an incredibly tough starting point.

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1 hour ago, shrader said:

I suppose that the earlier stuff about how the Pegula-run team (ie. the one with NHL ties) is the model organization would play into that.  Still, I don't really see why the NHL itself would have much interest in starting one of their own.  You're taking a very niche market within and already niche sport.  That's an incredibly tough starting point.

It depends on how well doing so helps the NHL expand its market share of sports revenue... ie by including women who are a growing segment of earners and sport participants.  Not sure from a purely economic sense if this is good longterm strategy or not?  Maybe and what is that timeline?

Edited by North Buffalo

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For me I really enjoy Woman's Hockey. I started getting into a few years ago it because both the Sabres and the Clarkson Men's teams were awful. Meanwhile the Clarkson woman's team was winning 3 National championships in 5 years. Many of their players went on to play in the CWHL and last year's captain went to play for the Beauts.

 

The NWHL makes it pretty easy to watch the games online, if you're not in a place where you can go to see it live. I'd have paid money for it if need be, but the fact that they didn't even try to charge for online games shows the level of interest.

 

If I still lived in Buffalo I'd probably have either gotten Beauts season tickets or at least gone to multiple games last season. I had been hoping to do a Beauts game the same weekend I come up in the Fall for a Sabres game, but I guess that won't be happening now.

 

I'm not super attached to the NWHL, and I think "Beauts" is a terrible name, but I like having a Buffalo team to root for. I just hope if the NWHL does fold and the NHL creates a WNHL in its place, I hope Buffalo keeps their team (ideally with a new name). I always like the Buffalo Blizzard, and it's not like the soccer team is using it anymore. Of course changing the name would suck for fans who bought merchandise. I almost bought a jersey myself, now I'm kind of glad I didn't.

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Buffalo Blizzard is way better than Beauts

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23 hours ago, Zamboni said:

So you watch no AHL hockey games? No college football? No AAA baseball? No college basketball? No frozen four? No march madness?

basically unless it’s men, and it’s the top pros.... you don’t watch?

I’ll bet he does all those things, at the price point he's willing to.  Ah, there’s the rub.  Acknowledgement...  I read that into the post.  The good Matter will answer better for himself.

I have to be careful ... I’m getting free market tingles.

Professional sports, competition, the certainty of unequal outcomes, gender pay gaps ...   I’m going to pour myself a drink, awash in fleeting lucidity.

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14 minutes ago, Brawndo said:

 

Is that so the WNHLPA will then support their work stoppage in 2020?

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5 hours ago, SwampD said:

Is that so the WNHLPA will then support their work stoppage in 2020?

 I wouldn't doubt it.

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So let me get this straight.  We're going to grow the game by not playing the game?  Their position is that ownership is making too much money at their expense? I don't get it.  What reasonable person can look at their attendance numbers, sponsorship, TV money (lack of) and come to the conclusion that we as a group deserve more money?  I understand that you feel underpaid and that your resources are crap compared to mens pro leagues but if people aren't willing to pay for your product you have no product. Where do they expect the additional resources to come from?  This isn't a gender equity argument, this is an economics argument and I don't get it.  They want the NHL to come in and basically bankroll them at a loss?  Why would an owner do that?  Why would the league do that?  OK, NHLPA you want to support that, that's fine.  When the NHL steps in and says we will take x percent of league revenue out of the men's player pool and devote it to the women's player pool because otherwise we can't pay them anything let's see how you feel about it then because they aren't going to just run a women's league at a loss.   

Colleges have this same issue with Title IX which is partly, IMO, why you'll never see paid athletes in college.  At Penn State, for example, men's hockey generated 1.7 million dollars in ticket revenue in 2016-17.  All 14 women's sports COMBINED brought in $428,000.  The only 2 sports of the 31 they have that are net revenue generating are football and mens hockey.  Men's hockey essentially pays for itself and football pays for itself and everything else with money leftover.  If it were actually run like a business those would be the only 2 sports they have.  Everything else, mens and womens, would be gone because they lose money and in many cases A LOT of money.

Unless the NHL owners, and the NHLPA are going to run an enterprise like that, knowing that the men's league will be bankrolling the women's league and that the cost will be borne by league revenues (expect at least 50% of the revenue shortfalls to be taken from the men's salary revenue pool) it's not going to happen. 

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