Canada’s Emily Clark (26) and United States’ Emily Matheson (8) collide in front of goalie Alex Cavallini during the second period of a rivalry series women’s hockey game in Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Canada’s Emily Clark (26) and United States’ Emily Matheson (8) collide in front of goalie Alex Cavallini during the second period of a rivalry series women’s hockey game in Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

2019 a year of women in hockey flexing collective muscle for a pro league

Players won’t play in a North American league until ‘we get the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves’

The women’s hockey landscape didn’t just tilt in 2019. It was turned upside down and shaken like a Polaroid picture.

From the folding of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League to the upending of the established world order to the game’s stars flexing their collective power and going rogue, many see opportunity in the upheaval.

“I think that what we’re trying to do is very powerful and exciting,” Canadian defender Meaghan Mikkelson said.

“It’s all of the best female players in the world that are coming together to do something that would go down in history.”

The U.S. women’s soccer and hockey teams playing hardball with their own sport federations in recent years emboldened Canadian and European women to take up the mantle of self-determination.

But American forward Kendall Coyne Schofield was the spark in 2019.

Invited to compete against NHL players in the speed lap of the Jan. 25 all-star skills competition in San Jose, Calif., it took her 14.346 seconds to challenge assumptions about women’s hockey and ignite a social-media buzz. Coyne Schofield finished less than a second behind the winner.

A week after the Calgary Inferno won the Clarkson Cup, interim commissioner and Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford announced March 31 that the CWHL would fold after 12 seasons.

She declared the non-profit model no longer financially sustainable. The majority of players on the Canadian and American national teams played in the CWHL.

They were en route to, or had just landed in, Espoo, Finland for the women’s world championship.

Off the ice, there were meetings and text conversations between players from competing countries on what to do about it.

On the ice, Finland threw a wrench in the notion that international women’s hockey is predictable because the U.S. and Canada play for gold every time.

The host Finns upset Canada in the semifinal and lost the gold to the Americans in a controversial shootout.

Petra Nieminen’s overtime goal was waived off for goaltender interference. The U.S. women claimed a fifth straight world title in the shootout.

Bronze medallist Canada didn’t play in a world final for the first time.

Coyne Schofield, U.S. teammate Hilary Knight, Canadian team captain Marie Philip-Poulin and veteran Finnish goaltender Noora Raty were among 200 players stating in May they would not play in any North American league in 2019-20 until “we get the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves.”

Both a boycott, and a shot across the bow, of the five-team, U.S.-based NWHL, it’s also a move to force the NHL’s hand.

The women who formed the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, with Hefford at the helm, believe the NHL’s involvement is necessary to achieving the league they envision.

But NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the league has no interest in operating a women’s league while one still exists.

PWHPA players are without a league during the current standoff.

They’re barnstorming throughout North America in “The Dream Gap Tour” playing each other in showcase tournaments and exhibition games.

Their goal is to win hearts and minds in hockey markets, as well as attract sponsors to give them economic clout for whatever comes next.

“This year I don’t think has been easy for anybody, not playing as many games and not having the structure of a league that you would normally be used to, but if things work out in the end and there is a professional women’s league then it will all be worth it, not just for us but for future generations,” Mikkelson said.

“Sure there is doubt and there is uncertainty, but I would say more than anything, just the empowerment and the movement that we’re trying to create, it’s exciting.”

Unrest in the women’s hockey ranks spread to Sweden. The top players are boycotting the national team over compensation and working conditions.

The walkout forced the cancellation of the annual Four Nations tournament involving Canada, the U.S., Finland and Sweden because the Swedes were to be the host team in November.

Halifax and Truro, N.S., are the host cities of the 2020 women’s world hockey championship March 31 to April 10.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two teens were sent to hospital after being stabbed Saturday evening. (Shane MacKichan photo)
Two teens stabbed in Abbotsford

20-year-old man has been detained

The annual Make a Difference Sale in Abbotsford is moving online for 2021. (File photo)
Make a Difference Sale in Abbotsford goes virtual for 2021

Annual auction raises money for world hunger through Canadian Foodgrains Bank

The Bug Girl, written by seven-year-old Sophia Spencer, is being given to 500 B.C. classrooms as part of Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month. (Submitted photos)
Reading challenges part of Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month

Abbotsford-based BC Agriculture in the Classroom participates in 10th annual event

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Feb. 28

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Judith Uwamahoro is Black, approximately 4’7″ tall, 80 pounds and has short black hair and brown eyes. (Surrey RCMP handout)
UPDATED: Lower Mainland 9-year-old located after police make public plea

Judith Uwamahoro went missing Friday at around 4 p.m. in Surrey

Most Read