The reality is, there may not be a perfect model for professional women's hockey in North America. But with that being said, a league being backed by the National Hockey League (NHL) could very well be the best way to go, and the recent news in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) indicates that this is probably the case.
"The Women’s National Basketball Association agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement that includes a 53% pay raise and maternity benefits for players and overhauls the structure of the season, the league announced Tuesday.
Starting with the 2020 season, the new eight-year agreement with the Women’s National Basketball Players Association includes a new in-season tournament and changes the compensation structure to include a base salary and performance-based bonuses. Players also won some better benefits, including paid maternity leave, fertility and adoption services, marketing and improved travel conditions." (Source)
After being supported heavily by the National Basketball Association (NBA) for many years, the WNBA seems to finally be making strides on their own, and is a positive sign for the potential of a WNHL.
The WNHL could consist of six to eight teams in order to make it a strong competitive league. It could model itself after the new Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) that just launched in the summer of 2019. The teams would meet at neutral locations to play on weekends. The neutral locations would generally be in Eastern hockey markets including Boston, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Buffalo, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, New York City or New Jersey. These are women’s hockey hot zones that will be able to generate attendance as well as cut down travel expenses being in close proximity of each other with the exception of Minnesota. The game weekends would be marketed as women’s hockey festivals by incorporating fan zones, music, athlete appearances, etc.
This is where the NHL's support would come in handy - the NHL could host these women’s hockey festivals in their arenas throughout North America. The NHL would be benefitting as they would be putting people in seats for over 60 extra games a season and of course gaining more exposure. In order to start with somewhat of a fan base, season ticket holders for the hosting teams would have access to the weekend festivities.
The season would comprise of 15 regular season weekends where the women would play on Saturday and Sundays, amounting to 30 regular season games. The season would round off with a playoff weekend inviting the top four league contenders. On top of that, the league’s best players would come together for an all-star weekend, to perform in an all-star game and skills competition, which could potentially be in conjunction with the NHL all-star weekend.
As for salary, the league would first need to prove that it can make money before that's determined. With the growth of women’s hockey over the last 10-20 years, that should be no problem if done properly, especially considering the growing figures in the WNBA.
It's not going to be easy, but combine the minds of women's hockey with those in the NHL, and it's easy to believe that women could have a place to play for many years to come should this come to fruition!