The National Women’s Hockey League has been branded a “glorified beer league” by former Boston Pride player Hilary Knight.
“It’s serving a purpose but it’s not elite talented players that are playing at a high level,” Knight told the Associated Press.
Knight is one of the 200-plus members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association, who have opted not play in North America during the 2019-20 season in the search of better pay and working conditions. They are playing on the so-called ‘Dream Gap Tour’ in the interim.
The NWHL is carrying on without its star players and has had a number of commercial boosts despite their absence. The league signed a media-rights deal with Twitch as well as new corporate partnerships with clothing company American Giant, the Montreal-based Rocket Sport, ice cream sandwich brand Chipwich and nutrition brand Veda, as well as renewal of its deals with NYU Langone Health and Dunkin’.
The NWHL also recently signed a partnership with athlete marketing platform Opendorse in an attempt to increase its players’ presence and engagement on social media.
The criticism from Knight has seemingly come from out of the blue. The NWHL tweeted in response: “We have been asked by reporters to respond to insults by a few PWHPA members. We will not. Our focus is on building a strong business for women’s hockey. We hope the respect remains mutual. It has been a great year, and it continues with more news and games this week.”