USA Hockey

Top U.S. players say only way to grow women’s ice hockey is to combine NWHL and CWHL

On Thursday, U.S. women’s ice hockey players Jocelyne Lamoureux, Monique Lamoureux and Hilary Knight all told Excelle Sports that the only way to grow the women’s sport is if the two professional leagues in North America, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) and the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), combine together.

The sisters, who are both two-time Olympians and play for the Minnesota Whitecaps—an independent professional women’s hockey team—say having just one professional women’s hockey league would centralize support from the sport’s partners, primarily the National Hockey League (NHL), in addition to USA Hockey and Hockey Canada.

“We need to figure out a way to make one league between the NWHL and CWHL—and that’s only going to make women’s hockey stronger,” Jocelyne Lamoureux told Excelle Sports. “Until there’s one league that the NHL can get behind, that USA Hockey and Hockey Canada can get behind, I think women’s hockey is going to struggle at a professional level. I think it’s a no-brainer that you should have one league and have the Americans and Canadians in that league.”

[More from Excelle Sports: Hilary Knight and Meghan Duggan not concerned about recent NWHL cutbacks]

Her sister agrees.

“The NHL isn’t going to get involved until the two leagues start working together because it makes no sense to support one league over the other because you have NHL teams in both countries,” Monique Lamoureux said. “At some point, the leagues have to meet and come to a compromise and start working together. Until that happens, you’re not going to see support from the NHL because it doesn’t make sense on their side. But as national team players, everyone has to be able to work together to grow the sport.”

Monique Lamoureux swoops in looking to maintain possession in the offensive zone.
Monique Lamoureux skates up ice during a recent game.

U.S. Olympic teammate Hilary Knight, who currently plays for the NWHL’s Boston Pride and previously for the CWHL’s Boston Blades, says it’s tough to have so much talent dispersed between the two leagues. Canada and U.S. women’s hockey have a well-established rivalry that only hits its potential once every four years during the Olympic Games. In the last two Olympics, Canada has defeated the U.S. in a gold-medal game thriller. In Sochi, the Canadians won 3-2 in overtime after the U.S. led 2-0 with just five minutes remaining.

[More from Excelle Sports: EXCLUSIVE: Hilary Knight reveals she would not have played in NWHL after World Champs]

“You can’t have this much talent dispersed over the two leagues,” Knight said. “It’s just not going to work, our sport’s too young for that. We’re stuck down here, they’re stuck up there, it’s not great for the fans and it’s not great for the players. As a player, I want to play them and fans want to see us play them. Obviously we’re not in those discussions, we can only add our insight.

“As a player, I don’t see everything that goes on, but as someone who really wants to take the sport by the reins and take it to the next level, we need to do better and anything short of that is unacceptable.”

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  • Andrew Ross

    One league pays their players (not much, but not zero either), the other doesn’t. How do you compromise on that?

    Also, who decides which Boston team stays?