1 women’s league on the minds of Canadian, U.S. players at Four Nations Cup

Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker and Kacey Bellamy say decisions to play in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League were personal

Prominent members of the U.S. women’s hockey team moving to Canada to play strengthens speculation that a merger of the top two women’s leagues into one is nigh.

Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker and Kacey Bellamy say their decisions to play in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League this season were personal, not collective.

But they’re also not adverse to their relocations strengthening the winds of change blowing through women’s hockey.

Both interim CWHL commissioner Jayna Hefford and NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan indicated this year a merger is desirable.

Knight now plays for the Les Canadiennes de Montreal. Decker, Bellamy and goaltender Alex Rigsby joined the Calgary Inferno this season.

All four were members of the team that beat Canada in a shootout for Olympic gold in February.

When defender Megan Bozek was released from the U.S. Olympic squad midway through last winter, she joined the Markham Thunder and remained with the team this season.

The five women previously played in the NWHL when it began in 2015.

“It’s all of our goals to form this one league because we have so many talented players in both leagues,” Bellamy said in Saskatoon at the Four Nations Cup tournament.

“Honestly, I just think for us going to Calgary, Hilary went to Montreal and Megan went to Markham, it’s the situations we wanted to be in.”

So high-profile players from Canada and the U.S., who battled each other tooth and nail for Olympic gold in Pyeongchang, South Korea a few months ago, are adjusting to each other as teammates.

Knight in Montreal gives Les Canadiennes arguably two of the best players in the world with Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin also on the roster.

“You have the chance to play against each other at the highest international level and now we have the chance to play a whole season together,” Poulin said. “We can make each other better. We can push each other to the next level.

“Obviously there’s mutual respect there in how much we want to grow women’s hockey and that’s how it all starts, playing all together in the same league.”

Canadian forwards Rebecca Johnston and Brianne Jenner now have Decker, Bellamy and Rigsby in the Inferno dressing room with them.

“I’ve played against those players for a long time so it’s kind of nice to be on the other side and get to know them as people,” Jenner said. “When you’re on the ice against them, you forget they’re people.

“I think we all want the best players playing in one league. How that looks is still to be seen. When you’re competitive, you want to play with and against the best.”

The six-team CWHL is in its 12th season. The NWHL has five U.S.-based teams.

The pay in both the CWHL and NWHL remains nominal compared to men’s pro leagues, so choosing club colours can come down to personal preference.

Edmonton’s Shannon Szabados became the first player from the Canadian women’s team in the NWHL when the goaltender signed with the Buffalo Beauts this season.

She moved to the Ohio hometown of her partner Carl Nielsen and Buffalo is within commuting distance.

Knight, Decker and Bellamy said getting to play two games a weekend instead of one, and simply a change of scenery in the first season of the Olympic quadrennial, were factors in switching from the NWHL to the CWHL.

“We want one league. I don’t think our decision ended up being that reason,” Decker said. “That’s our goal though. We want one supported league. That’s how we’re going to be able to sustain having fans.”

Knight indicated there was another layer to her decision, however.

“When you’re thinking about the future of the game, I think the CWHL has guarded it the best in terms of a player standpoint,” she said.

The U.S. women threatening to boycott the 2017 world championship in Michigan and wresting increased financial and competitive benefits from USA Hockey was a lesson in collective bargaining for the women’s hockey community.

“What we’ve gotten out of that is the empowerment in ourselves and the power we hold as players collectively to build the future of women’s hockey at the pro level,” Knight said.

“I think there’s a lot of changes to come. I wouldn’t be surprised in a year or two if things are different.”

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Man sustains minor injuries after motorcycle crash

A motorcycle driver was taken to hospital with minor injuries after he… Continue reading

Burns Lake celebrates Aboriginal Day

Burns Lake kicked off Aboriginal Day on June 21 with a parade… Continue reading

B.C. oil tanker ban squeaks through final vote in Senate

Bill C-48 bars oil tankers from loading at ports on B.C’s north coast

Snow covers southern B.C. highway

Burns Lake residents might not be happy about the cooler temperatures this… Continue reading

Community targets VQO rules amid fire safety concerns

Wildfire season is upon us in northern British Columbia, and some Burns… Continue reading

Protesters rally in Victoria over newly approved Trans Mountain pipeline

The Still No Consent! No Trans Mountain! 20 kilometre march will end at Island View Beach

Wildfire burning in coastal forest

A fire beside the Sea to Sky Highway is burning up a steep slope

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

B.C. couple who has raised 58 children turns to community amid cancer diagnosis

Family who raised, fostered and adopted many kids hoping to gain some precious together time to fight cancer

Canucks acquire forward J.T. Miller from Lightning

J.T. Miller, 26, had 13 goals and 34 assists for the Lightning last season

Most Read