The first professional women’s hockey league to pay its players is slashing salaries in half, according to the Buffalo News.
The NWHL is nearly two months into its second season of play, and players were informed of salary cuts across the board Thursday night. With attendance not meeting projections, the decision was made in order to “save the season,” commissioner Dani Rylan told reporters on Friday .
The players’ association was not consulted, and league and team management will not be taking pay cuts. (Rylan pointed out that many of the league’s office personnel work as volunteers, but team general managers do take a salary, per Yahoo Sports.)
Despite the existence of the players association, there is no NWHL collective bargaining agreement—which, in the form it exists for most athletic leagues, would have been able to block this sort of surprise mid-season salary slashing. The season’s schedule runs through April, and players have been asked to sign an addendum to their current contracts to allow the cuts to go into effect.
“Our coach was saying, some of us can’t afford to be here and no one will judge them. That’s just the reality,” Kaleigh Fratkin of the New York Riveters told The Ice Garden.
Rylan would not confirm or deny that the cuts were exactly 50 percent—as had been reported by The Fourth Period, which broke the story—but players did not dispute the 50 percent figure when talking to the media on Friday. The league’s minimum salary was previously $10,000, with most contracts reported between $14,000 and $17,000. Amanda Kessel (sister of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil) has been reported as the league’s highest-paid player with a salary of $26,000.
The league has four teams based in Boston, Buffalo, Connecticut and Newark, N.J. Its sister organization in Canada—the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, which played the NWHL in last year’s Outdoor Women’s Classic the day before the NHL’s Winter Classic—has operated for 10 years without paying its players.
Update (1:30 p.m.)—Ashley Johnston of the Riveters has released a statement on behalf of the players, asking for an independent audit of league finances and for the NWHL to name its investors.