National Women’s Hockey League Commissioner Dani Rylan is standing confident of the league’s future despite an ongoing mass player boycott.
The five-team, US-based NWHL – which has endured financial struggles since its 2015 formation – is continuing to operate despite the fact that more than 200 of the world’s top female ice hockey players pledged to not compete in North America this season in an attempt to gain better pay and working conditions.
Despite suggestions the league could collapse, the NWHL has secured a media-rights deal with Twitch as well as new corporate partnerships with ice cream sandwich brand Chipwich and nutrition brand Veda, as well as renewal of its deal with NYU Langone Health.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Rylan told ESPN. “It’s definitely disappointing, to say the least, when the people that you built a business for, or a platform for, feel that destroying that business is the best way forward.”
Notably, a number of players who threatened to strike have returned to the NWHL fold, including Boston Pride captain Jillian Dempsey. “Quite a few have flipped,” Rylan added. “It’s been hard for our general managers to leave room for the players that could end the boycott and return to the league. They have conversations with them about being torn, not knowing what to do.”
According to Rylan, player salaries have increased 26 percent over last season, and there has also been an increase in per diem rates, though she did not specify by how much.
The player boycott impaired NWHL sponsorship revenue opportunities, Rylan said, with some brands deciding to put their potential support on hold with the league facing an uncertain future.
“It wasn’t the summer that we expected,” Rylan said. “We can say that for sure.”