More than 200 of the world's top women's hockey players have formed a union, saying they must "stand together" if there is to be a sustainable professional league.
The Professional Women's Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) said Monday the paperwork was filed Friday to help push for the creation of a "single, viable women's professional league in North America."
The women had announced earlier this month their pledge to sit out the upcoming season in North America after the Canadian Women's Hockey League abruptly shut down this year. That leaves only the National Women's Hockey League, which took back control of the Buffalo Beauts on May 8.
The PWHPA said in a statement the association also will help players co-ordinate training needs and opportunities and develop sponsor support.
"We are fortunate to be ambassadors of this beautiful game, and it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of players have more opportunities than we had," Kendall Coyne Schofield said in a statement. "It's time to stand together and work to create a viable league that will allow us to enjoy the benefits of our hard work."
Coyne Schofield won Olympic gold with the U.S. in 2018 and was an NWHL All-Star with the Minnesota Whitecaps this past season.
The new union's members include players from Europe along with the U.S. and Canada.
"We might play for different teams, and come from different countries, but we're united in our goals," said goaltender Noora Räty, who has won two Olympic bronze medals with Finland. "This is about protecting ourselves, protecting our future, and making hockey a better place for women and girls."
The PWHPA made it clear the union wants a league that provides health insurance, money and infrastructure along with support for training programs.
"We are prepared to stop playing for a year, which is crushing to even think about, because we know how important a sustainable league will be to the future of women's sports," Canadian national team goalie Shannon Szabados said. "We know we can make this work, and we want the chance to try."
Liz Knox, former co-chair of the CWHL Players Association, said the players are uncertain about what happens next.
"But we move forward united, dedicated, and hopeful for our future and the future of this game we love so much," Knox said.
The NWHL stresses that not everyone is boycotting the lone remaining women's professional league.
The league announced a couple of player deals, notably one featuring Madison Packer. Packer, who is tied for most goals in NWHL history, signed for $12,000 to play the upcoming season with the Metropolitan Riveters. The NWHL previously announced players also will receive a 50 per cent cut of revenue and 15 per cent apparel sales with their names this upcoming season.
"I'm coming back for a fifth season because I am passionate about continuing my playing career and to advance the game and our league," Packer said.
"I'm confident in the direction our sport is headed, and in the plan the NWHL has laid out for a strong season and positive experience for players and fans. It's important to build off the momentum created by the league's success last season, and my body feels good enough to continue playing."
Here is the full statement:
Articles of incorporation were filed on Friday establishing the Professional Womens Hockey Players Association (PWHPA). The association will serve as a vehicle dedicated to promoting and supporting the creation of a single, viable women' professional league in North America. The formation of the PWHPA follows a decision by more than 200 of the world’s top female hockey players to sit out the upcoming professional hockey season, join their voices, and work together to build a sustainable league that will showcase their talent. The PWHPA will help players coordinate training needs and opportunities and develop support from sponsors. In addition to Olympic medalists and World Championship winners, PWHPA members include those who have not played on a national team. Members hail from the United States, Canada, and Europe. "We are fortunate to be ambassadors of this beautiful game, and it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of players have more opportunities than we had," said Kendall Coyne Schofield, who won an Olympic Gold Medal with Team USA in 2018. "Its time to stand together and work to create a viable league that will allow us to enjoy the benefits of our hard work." PWHPA members are looking for a professional league that will provide financial and infrastructure resources to players; protect and support their rights and talents; provide health insurance; and work with companies, business leaders, and sports professionals worldwide who already have voiced support for women's hockey. "We are prepared to stop playing for a year—which is crushing to even think about—because we know how important a sustainable league will be to the future of women' sports," said Canadian Shannon Szabados, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. "We know we can make this work, and we want the chance to try." The PWHPA is looking for a league that also will provide support to training programs for young female players, promote diversity and inclusion at all levels of play, and raise awareness of hockey as a sport that is open to all. "We might play for different teams, and come from different countries, but we're united in our goals," said Noora Räty, a goaltender who won two Olympic Bronze Medals with the Finnish National Team. "This is about protecting ourselves, protecting our future, and making hockey a better place for women and girls." Ballard Spahr attorneys provided pro bono support to help create the PWHPA. "We can't know what will happen next, but we move forward united, dedicated, and hopeful for our future and the future of this game we love so much," said Liz Knox, the former co-chair of the Canadian Women's Hockey League in a statement.