In a report from Toronto, The Fourth Period editor-in-chief David Pagnotta states that the NWHL’s financial state has forced them to take drastic action. On November 28, the league notified its players that each will have to take a 50% pay cut in order for the league to remain solvent.
With no statement from the league, it is difficult to address exactly what led to this decision, but several news items over the last year allow one to safely assume the league is struggling to find sponsors and investors. Former investing partners have threatened lawsuits, and the league is awaiting adjudication on some of these pending issues. There was also a series of leaked e-mails between the NWHL and Bauer Hockey regarding missed payments on equipment. Bauer has recently filed for bankruptcy.
The report comes at an odd time. Days after announcing a broadcasting deal with Cheddar (a business news network on Sling TV,) the players are dealt this heavy blow. With most living already on a part-time salary, certainly this additional financial hardship will have an effect on the players off the ice.
At this time, only one corporate sponsor is on board with the league. Dunkin Donuts has increased their presence at games in the NWHL’s second season, and appear to be committed to the league and the growth of the sport.
There has very clearly been a focus on game presentation at the HarborCenter this year, with a distinct effort to make each game an event. Regardless of the hard work of the staff, and the world-class product on the ice, attendance has visibly been down, though numbers have not been released by the league.
The Buffalo Beauts, and the league itself, appear to have garnered a very loyal fanbase, however, the commitment has not come from enough people to grow the league at the rate that is required. There seems a tenuous relationship with local mainstream media, which is to say that there is almost no coverage of the league or its games by regional television or radio news, and very little by the local newspaper.
Buffalo is a tough market to break into, though; most Beauts games occur on Sunday afternoons that are mainly earmarked for slumping on one’s couch and watching another disappointing Bills loss. The city calls itself Hockey Heaven, but the moniker rings hollow following this news.
This is, if nothing else, a call to action. I defy every set of eyes that passes over this to join the Buffalo Beauts at HarborCenter this Sunday, November 20, for their last home game of 2016. Bring the kids. Nearly a dozen local mascots will be there, and they’ll be doling out hugs, high fives, and free cupcakes. It’s time we got off our high hockey horse and started actually supporting the local hockey teams, instead of wasting all of our time telling the world we support the local hockey teams. Actions, my friends speak louder than words. Puck drop is 3:30. Join us.