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Women’s Hockey’s Glass Ceiling

Yesterday was a big day for junior hockey and hockey at large. Taya Currie was the first female in history to be drafted by a major junior organization. Currie was drafted 267th overall in the 14th round of the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection by the Sarnia Sting. (There are a ridiculous number of draft rounds in major juniors, just as a side note.) This is exciting not only for Taya, but for the future of women’s hockey as well.

However, as we have seen, this may be the biggest stage to ever be set for Currie. The NWHL is certainly trying, but it is still in no way what she or any other aspiring female hockey player deserves.

Women’s Hockey’s Glass Ceiling Involves the CWHL

From 2007-2019, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League was the highest level of professional hockey in North America. Despite it being a professional league, players were not paid salaries until 2017, only bonuses and incentives. And even then, the maximum salary for a player was $10,000 and the cap per team was $100,000. Only 2 years later, the league folded.

Women’s Hockey’s Glass Ceiling Involves the NWHL

The National Women’s Hockey League began in 2016 as direct competition (for players) to the CWHL. In the beginning, players’ maximum possible salary was $10,000; the next season, it was rolled back to $5,000. It was announced this year that for the 2021-22 season, the salary cap would be increasing to $300,000. This will allow for a $15,000 average salary for a 20 player team.

Women’s Hockey’s Glass Ceiling Involves the Players

Players have been frustrated by the lack of livable wages in both leagues for years. They have been forced to work a second, sometimes even a third job just to play hockey. Because professional hockey is a job. To put it in perspective, the Massachusetts minimum wage is $13.50/hr; that makes the average salary roughly $25,000. While that isn’t necessarily a living wage either, it makes $15,000 look like a joke, and $5,000 seem like an insult.

Women’s Hockey’s Glass Ceiling Involves the Development Leagues

As a passing note, I’d like to point out the reason Taya Currie was drafted in the OHL is that there is no major junior league for girls of the same caliber of the OHL, WHL, and QMJHL. Girls and boys play together until about 13 or 14, when girls tend to move to their own leagues. Because there is no league to pipeline female players to, the quality of those leagues are not the same as the ones that feed the boys to major juniors and beyond.

Moving Forward

Over a year ago, I posted a blog about the mistreatment of women’s sports. A year later, very little has changed. I realize there’s been a pandemic, but that could have meant more time to promote the game. The NWHL’s showing this year was just the two-week Bubble at Lake Placid. What a sad look.

It goes to show that there’s more to be done. Now there’s a 16-year-old girl with a dream to act as the motivation to grow the game. Taya Currie needs a league to play in that will pay a fair wage, as do all of the other women who have proven themselves good enough to play professional hockey. The women of the world deserve a league to dream of playing in, the way that boys dream of the NHL.

-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)

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Heidi Thomas

Armchair hockey coach, passive horse racing fan, full-time dog referee.

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