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chippa13

Women's Professional Hockey at crossroads

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So, does this stand by women professionals signal the beginning of the end or a new beginning for women's professional hockey in North America?

https://www.tsn.ca/more-than-200-players-call-for-overhaul-of-women-s-pro-hockey-1.1299658

The real question is whether or not the NHL finally gives more than a token gesture of support and really gets behind something. The biggest hurdle, in my opinion, is that the women's game just doesn't garner the kind of attention and exposure that it needs to really create the interest and ultimately consumer demand to be self-sustaining at this juncture.

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I thought I heard that the business model of the CWHL didn’t have franchises and the league owned the teams.  I may be wrong but there certainly has to be a sustainable business structure in place.

It may be a chicken or the egg thing.  Does it need support to incubate and then self-sustain?  What markets can support a team?  I really like watching womens international hockey at the highest levels but within that there is a pretty significant drop in the quality once you get past the best teams.  What is the level of play like here?

Pro sports are just an entertainment business so I wonder what the market is for this?

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what does the WNBA do?  Basketball is viewed a lot more than hockey and the WNBA barely makes it.  I honestly can't see a hockey womens league being sustainable without help from the nhl.  Also them refusing to play until something is done doesn't really help the matter.  Personally I look forward to the womens game at the olympics but thats usually it.  

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They should copy the model built by the PLL (Premier Lacrosse League) this year. Best players on 6 teams going to sites for a weekend, maximize fan interaction, etc.

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You know, this is interesting to me, I fear it might not end well.  I want more high level women’s hockey.  I wish my family was able to consume more of it.  I have a girl hockey player that competes at a very high level in her age group, I love that she has female hockey players to watch and admire.  We watch what women’s hockey we can(that's limited at best) and have bought our share of NWHL and USWNT gear.  In fact, just bought a USA Women’s Authentic sweater in the Las Vegas mall(USA Hockey Store) while down there a few weeks back, so my daughter could have something to wear while cheering on the Women’s team in the worlds. 

That said, I think this is playing chicken with a train that has no vested interest in getting out of the way.  Maybe USA Hockey or Hockey Canada have enough pull to make something happen, but I don’t think so.

Pro Sport is a money driven business, with attendance numbers of the NWHL & CWHL at Minnesota 1,200, Buffalo 1,101, Riverters 721, Boston 706, Connecticut 423, Montreal 1,567, Calgary 460, Toronto 358 and Worchester 83 averages per game, where do the dollars come from?  This isn’t college athletics with Title IX or USA Hockey/Hockey Canada, (which I feel should treat their athletes equally), this is business, it’s not about being fair, it’s about owners making dollars. 

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It is what it is. If they weren't able to sell enough tickets and network air time to support all the teams, then that's that. It's not just because people don't want to watch women's ice hockey. How much money did they spend on marketing?

 There have been a number of professional men's sports leagues that have ended because of lack of fan interest or whatever other reason. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_defunct_professional_sports_leagues

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Howdy,

I really hope there's some backdoor deals being made between the NHL, the players, and maybe the NWHL.

I don't see any reason this couldn't be like women's tennis, women's golf, etc.  The NHL has big enough pockets to get it through the "there's no audience because there's not an accessible product and there isn't an accessible product because there's no audience" phase.  They also have motivation to grow hockey in general, as long as they're taking the long view.
 

Mark

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On 5/2/2019 at 11:27 AM, chippa13 said:

So, does this stand by women professionals signal the beginning of the end or a new beginning for women's professional hockey in North America?

https://www.tsn.ca/more-than-200-players-call-for-overhaul-of-women-s-pro-hockey-1.1299658

The real question is whether or not the NHL finally gives more than a token gesture of support and really gets behind something. The biggest hurdle, in my opinion, is that the women's game just doesn't garner the kind of attention and exposure that it needs to really create the interest and ultimately consumer demand to be self-sustaining at this juncture.

Most likely the end.  If they sit out a full season there might not even be a league for them to play in when they decide to return.

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Striking only works when it causes pain elsewhere, that is the leverage.  Looking at EJB’s numbers, people aren’t going to be shouting from the rooftops to bring this back.

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The world we live in, as harsh as this might sound, is a sexist world. World where for the most part male athletes are successful by being physical and violent, while female athletes are by pretty and sexy. Now obviously both still must be very skillfull in their sport to be anywhere at the top. Looking at volleyball, figure skating, tennis, soft ball. The popularity dwindles as the women uniforms become bigger. Also when it comes to physical interaction between players, it is admired when men are pushing showing and basically fighting, for women however, real fighting is a turn off and expected to be more of a "bumping and grinding" if you will (:facepalm: ... I know). Unfortunately, women hockey is the men hockey played by women. Skilful stick handling, speed and agility are great, but the caged helmets and bulky armored outfits are "not-woman-like" in eyes of majority. I think if women hockey is to be successful, it needs to be girly. Ice Hockey, just like the American Football, is exceedingly difficult to make into a woman sport simply because of what it is. There must be an appeal to watch this after watching men hockey. Skill level perhaps matches already, but physicality of the game is not a plus and must not be brought up, but must be replaced with something that appeals to the spectators.

As far as striking or boycotting anything, you have to have two things, you need to have leverage and you have to have an attainable demand. For example if you bag groceries as your job, you can not go sit on strike outside of the supermarket demanding your salary to be brought up to the level of the store manager just because you seemingly have a skill to be the store manager. Obviously, you'd need first to get the store manager title, then there will be no need to strike.

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If it was just a "sex sells" issue then the Lingerie Football League would be dominating Sunday afternoons. The actual sporting has to be compelling.

Player recognition is one issue any fledgling league has to overcome. Not sure what the reason is for women forced to wear full face protection in international play is but get rid of it. Not because fans need to see pretty faces, just faces. It matters. There is a reason why full face coverage in the NHL requires a special exemption. Next, there needs to be increased exposure of the games. They have to find a way to get more eyes and interest. That is marketing dollars. How many people know when women's pro games are played, let alone that they could be happening in their backyard.

Finally, while it is growing, there simply isn't enough top end talent to fill enough teams to draw spectators. While the 5-6 teams had plenty of high level talent, Joe Public doesn't take a league that small seriously these days.

At the end of the day, these things take time. With increased exposure comes increased participation, comes increased competition, comes increased talent and talent pools. 

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I think they’re making an incredibly short sited mistake and it’s probably going to kill women’s pro hockey, which really only had a slim chance of succeeding in the first place. They’re also not really negotiating from a position of strength when one league just folded in a country where the sport is king and couldn’t make a profit paying it’s players next to nothing. And they’re dreaming if they think the NHL is going to swoop in and subsidize a league that’s guaranteed to lose them a ton of money. They don’t even like having to pay their own players that they make money off of. Look at the WNBA, that’s a sport that has much broader audience appeal, is significantly cheaper to operate, and still has lost over $10 million every single year it’s been in existence. Call me crazy, but that’s not a prospect I seem a guy like Jeremy Jacobs signing up for.

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Does it need marketing dollars though in today’s social media driven world? If you look at the Instagram page of beerleagueBeauty she has double the number of followers as Kendall Coyne who was in the skills comp and is doing color commentary. 

Perhaps a ‘build your own’, grass roots level fan interaction based league is what is needed. Take your product straight to your audience, engage them and make the event interactive. Sure they’re going to need some funding to get this built up but I would think that a few of the girls who got scholarships to play hockey might’ve majored in business and know a thing or 2 or have some connections in the venture capital world.

At one time pro hockey players had jobs in the off season, ‘pro’ lacrosse players had full time jobs and played their ‘pro’ games on the weekend. I’m not saying the women haven’t made sacrifices, but there’s work that goes into building a league and it doesn’t just happen overnight after someone throws money at it (hello xfl/Vince McMahon). 

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...did not say "sex sells". I said that there are accepted metrics of how the female athletes need to look. Watching butch men competing in physical sport makes sense, watching butch women... I think I can find other things to do. As I said before, foremost is the skill level, without skill level it is boring. Look at tennis or volleyball, just look pretty will not get you far. That is why I am saying, major adjustments need to be there. It can not and should not be physical game, it needs to be game of skill. Perhaps no contact and no hard shots... Kind of like grass hockey, pass and dangle. This perhaps will lead to smaller armor and doing away with cages. There is plenty of high end skill to put together 5-6 teams for NA. On the non NHL hockey level in general... Quite correctly, where the hell I can watch this. I think they should raise some funds and create something like apps for Roku, Apple TV, etc. so it is possible to watch. I think women hockey went wrong direction. At this point the only feasible avenues are the international championships, where no body cares who is playing as long as they are winning, but don't look for high paychecks. Unless players can shine as personalities, they are just a bluemen group, replaceable and forgettable.

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I wonder what niche they would fill?  For non-NHL you can already watch a decent amount of NCAA on cable, most big cities have some minor and college hockey within some resonable distance, etc.  

You can’t create long term success through marketing, you may get an initial surge but markets are very efficient and tend toward equilibrium very quickly.

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I would love to see a successful women's professional league, but I just don't think it's viable right now.  I watch as much women's hockey as I can, but it's because I'm a fan of the game, not specifically the women's game. 

They need to find the "Thing" that will draw in fans, something that they can't get from the men's game.  These women are great players, but their skill level is about the same as 16 year old AAA boys. (I make this observation based on the fact that the Canadian women's national team played in the Alberta Midget AAA boys league and compiled a roughly .500 record).   I truly believe that they need to develop "Personalities" that people will pay to see.  I'd look to MMA to make my point.  It's a violent sport and the women could never compete directly against the men, yet people pay to see Rhonda Rousey or Meisha Tate fight, (I know they're retired now, but they make my point).

I think the women demanding a "living wage" before there is a revenue stream to justify it is probably going to hurt them.  Look at the music industry....there are thousands of bar bands that are more talented musicians than Taylor Swift or Justin Beiber, but they are lucky to make a couple hundred bucks for a gig.  Why?  Because that's all that people are willing to pay to see them play.

Edited by boo10
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On 5/4/2019 at 11:24 PM, boo10 said:

These women are great players, but their skill level is about the same as 16 year old AAA boys. (I make this observation based on the fact that the Canadian women's national team played in the Alberta Midget AAA boys league and compiled a roughly .500 record).   

I think fans of ice hockey see what you just explained. Why would someone pay $15 to $20 to watch the equivalent of boy's midget AAA hockey? It's like they were pricing themselves with ECHL ticket prices. 

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Howdy,

1 hour ago, caveman27 said:

I think fans of ice hockey see what you just explained. Why would someone pay $15 to $20 to watch the equivalent of boy's midget AAA hockey? It's like they were pricing themselves with ECHL ticket prices. 

Well, the obvious answer is that one group is the best women that play hockey (with many probably the best women players ever) and the other group is a bunch of teenage boys?

So if you're a 12 year old girl who loves hockey, which group are you bugging your parents to go see?

I don't see any reason that the top level women's professional hockey organization shouldn't be able to price their games, draw fans, have player salaries, etc. etc. like AHL teams, at least if we're looking past the startup years.

Mark

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The reason they can’t price themselves at the same level as AHL is that women’s hockey isn’t anywhere near the same level as AHL, NCAA men’s, or any of the major junior leagues in Canada. Sure they may be the best female players in the world, but where does that place them amongst the best players in the world overall? As boo10 points out, it’s around the level of top end 16 yo boys. USA/Canada games are probably better than that, but overall I think the women are really overestimating their value as an entertainment product, and this is coming from someone who actually likes women’s hockey, I just think part of the problem is they sold the game all wrong. They tried to sell the game as being just as skilled as the mens when it’s objectively not, but that’s actually why I like it, because it’s slower players have more time to try to make creative plays, and you can see how plays develop in a way you don’t really get to see in today’s dump and chase at 100mph that the men’s game often seems like. I think they might have had more success if they had been more honest about what their game is, and people might not have been disappointed going in expecting one thing and getting another.

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2 hours ago, marka said:

I don't see any reason that the top level women's professional hockey organization shouldn't be able to price their games, draw fans, have player salaries, etc. etc. like AHL teams, at least if we're looking past the startup years.

Well, it's sports entertainment. It's a business. If the ECHL charges less than the AHL, and the AHL charges less than the NHL, it's because the fans are watching a lower-level of ice hockey. Are team owners devaluing the players' worth? It sound politically incorrect, but yes, they are. If you take women's pro hockey and you compare it to the NHL, AHL, and ECHL, where would it go on the spectrum of ticket prices? You might tack it right with the ECHL, but what about the rest of the population? It would appear from past ticket sales that it should be lower than ECHL.

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Howdy,

That sorta logic must be why all the teams in the NHL set their ticket prices every year in order of how the teams finished the previous season.  That way nobody ever pays more to watch worse hockey.

🙂

Look, pro sports is an entertainment business.  My take is that to me, its worth a similar amount to go watch 2nd tier men's hockey (AHL) as it would be to watch the top tier of women's hockey.  Others are going to have different value systems.

I really hope the nhl or someone else with big pockets gets behind women's hockey though, so that we can find out whether or not folks actually want to watch women's hockey if its marketed decently.  My guess is that enough would to make an AHL / ECHL level budget work.

Mark

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4 hours ago, cmflynn said:

...but that’s actually why I like it, because it’s slower players have more time to try to make creative plays, and you can see how plays develop in a way you don’t really get to see in today’s dump and chase at 100mph that the men’s game often seems like.

Good point, I think this aspect is what appeals to me as well, but again, only at the top levels.

Edited by BenBreeg

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19 hours ago, marka said:

I really hope the nhl or someone else with big pockets gets behind women's hockey though, so that we can find out whether or not folks actually want to watch women's hockey if its marketed decently.  My guess is that enough would to make an AHL / ECHL level budget work.

I think this is really the point, here. Give them the chance to see if it works. Rich businessmen have gambled on far worse. 

I think one thing that some people don't fully understand is why the folding of the CWHL was actually viewed as a good thing by the athletes, and that the boycott isn't so much meant to be a strike as it's basically meant to end the NWHL. The NHL has stated they will not get involved as long as the CWHL and NWHL are still around. The NWHL has been run incredibly poorly and competing with the CWHL has been bad for both leagues. 

I suggest everyone listen to this interview with my favorite women's hockey player, Shannon Szabados: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/779-leafs-lunch-28849160/episode/szabados-on-the-state-of-womens-31144871/ 

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while I agree that neither women's league has a sparkling track record in how their leagues are run, there is no leverage in threatening a boycott or strike because not enough people give a shit about the sport.

I have the upmost respect for anybody trying to make a living playing sports in the grinder leagues whether Male or female, but them demanding to be paid or supported when they offer next to nothing in terms of collateral is probably the main deterrent in this situation. 

The NBA loses millions trying to support the WNBA every year, I cant blame the NHL for waiting to see how this plays out because the return isnt there for them.

They're asking for someone to pay their way when at this point in time the product cant even pay for itself, I'm not sure who would consider that a viable investment right now.

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15 hours ago, adam14 said:

while I agree that neither women's league has a sparkling track record in how their leagues are run, there is no leverage in threatening a boycott or strike because not enough people give a shit about the sport.

I have the upmost respect for anybody trying to make a living playing sports in the grinder leagues whether Male or female, but them demanding to be paid or supported when they offer next to nothing in terms of collateral is probably the main deterrent in this situation. 

The NBA loses millions trying to support the WNBA every year, I cant blame the NHL for waiting to see how this plays out because the return isnt there for them.

They're asking for someone to pay their way when at this point in time the product cant even pay for itself, I'm not sure who would consider that a viable investment right now.

I think you may have missed the point entirely. 

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