More than 200 of the world’s top female ice hockey players who have pledged to not compete in North America this season in an attempt to gain better pay and working conditions have launched their own competition known as the ‘Dream Gap Tour’.
It has been created by the newly-formed Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association.
The tour’s first stop will be in Toronto on September 20-22, followed by an event in Hudson, New Hampshire, on October 4-6 and Chicago on October 18-20. The union also announced its members will play exhibition games against Boston College on Sept. 21 and against the Sharks’ alumni in San Jose on Sept. 22.
Additional tour stops are being considered, but not yet finalized, including Southern California and Buffalo, New York. Adidas is among the sponsors already on board, and the players are also backed by Billie Jean King Enterprises.
Each event will consist of about 80 players split into four teams playing a three-game round-robin tournament followed by a championship game, and will include youth clinics.
The tour made up of PWHPA members seeking to bring the sport’s stakeholders — including the National Hockey League, USA Hockey and Hockey Canada — to the table to establish a single league with a sustainable economic model, featuring the world’s top talent, and pay a liveable wage and include healthcare.
The boycott and the union were born out of the demise of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, which folded due to financial reasons last spring. That left the US-based, five-team National Women’s Hockey League as North America’s only pro women’s league.
The NWHL, which has endured financial struggles since being established in 2015, is continuing this season despite the absence of top talent.
“We’re not talking about millions of dollars here. We just want to be able live and train full time, and see how far we can take this game,” said defenceman Alyssa Gagliardi, who has played in both the CWHL and NWHL. “For so long, it’s only been limited to the girls on the national team that can truly do that full time, so this is kind of broadening that.”