The NWHL: Answers Regarding Ownership, Contracts, and the Player’s Association

Per a statement to me by an NWHL representative, I was able to obtain information on several issues that have been raised about the league in the last several days. We have questioned and discussed on Twitter the possibilities around ownership, player contracts and terms, and the player’s association. Below is the unedited statement, followed by my own thoughts.

On the ownership of the Founding Four:

The NWHL has chosen to keep the teams under the league umbrella for year one. Next season, if the right group comes along, the league would consider selling.

On contract details:

Legally, individual contracts do belong to the league. Terms of all contracts will be made available to the public on NWHL.co on August 18th

On the PA: 

Once free agency is over and rosters are finalized, each team will vote two representatives to the PA, which will then have its first meeting, presided over by Erika Lawler. The purpose of the PA is for the players to have a voice in league proceedings, and for the NWHL to make sure we’re taking care of our players properly.

On the management structure:

In addition to the Commissioner, there’s a Board of Governors, a Board of Advisors, and each NWHL team has a general manager.

On player safety:

Disciplinary action, according to the NWHL by-laws, may be handed down by the Commissioner. There are stipulations for arbitration, appeals, NWHLPA involvement, and impartial representation. There may be a time when the league has a Department of Player Safety.

On the rules:

The NWHL will mostly follow IIHF rules, but there are some rules which take from precedent set in the NHL. The full rulebook will be available on NWHL.co closer to the start of the season.

On investors and sponsors:

Private investors will not be released to the public unless they request to be. Sponsors, by the nature of their relationship with the league, will be announced or at least visible to the public.

On merchandise sales:

15% of each jersey sold with a player’s name on the back will go to the player. All other merchandise sales, including tickets and non-named apparel, will go towards the for-profit arm of the NWHL. At times, special items may be sold in support of the NWHL Foundation.

So. That’s a lot of information. And, as I suspected, a lot is a matter of waiting for the season to be closer. Things are in flux, which is unsurprising.

It is interesting that the NWHL will not be attempting to sell the teams mid-season. On the one hand, this does give the teams stability that is desperately needed in their inaugural season. However, I am sure the league would rather the income from selling the teams come in now, rather than later. That they are willing to put the stability of the teams first is a good sign. Your mileage may vary with regards to the player contracts being owned by the league, and the potential conflict of interest that may arise with Dani Rylan’s position of both a team General Manager and NWHL Commissioner. I choose to believe that given the management structure, things will be fine.

With the outlined management structure, there will be a system of balance and checks, which is quite reassuring. There is not just a single person making decisions for the entire league. As a start-up, it does make sense that one person may wear several hats within the organization. But that’s not to say that person will have the final say.

With the NWHL’s willingness to answer questions from myself, a no-name blogger, it truly leads me to believe that the league is wanting to succeed. They don’t intend to be “shady” or withhold details. They want the information out there. It’s a matter of knowing what information is available and when. If you have questions or concerns – ask them. They have a Contact Us page as well as a direct email for media.

I continue to look forward to their inaugural season. It’s going to be an amazing ride. Hopefully, further clarity on the management structure (who are they?) and information on the coaching situation will be coming in the next few days.

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