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New women's hockey league sees Buffalo as a perfect market

Dani Rylan is passionate about hockey and developing the women's game. The former forward for Northeastern was working to bring an expansion team in the Canadian Women's Hockey League to New York City. But she felt there was a better way.

So Rylan started a new league with a more aggressive business model. The National Women's Hockey League is set to launch next season with Buffalo home to one of the four inaugural teams.

"After doing research on the CWHL, I got to the point where I thought there may be a better way of doing it," Rylan said. "I'm a former player myself and I think we're at the point where women need to be paid for being the best at what they do."

The CWHL has five teams, four based in Canada (Brampton, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary) and one in the U.S. (Boston). The league has been operating for seven years and enjoyed some breakout moments this season including television broadcasts on SportsNet in Canada and their first All-Star Game which was televised on the NHL Network (a day later). But the CWHL has a model that's about slow growth and does not pay its players.

Rylan has set up the NWHL to pay its players in what would amount as a part-time job. Each team would have a $270,000 salary cap and while individual owners and general managers can offer contracts as they see fit, the general idea is that the top six players would receive $20,o00, middle-level players $15,000 and fourth-liners $10,000.

Rylan described the league as a hybrid model with the NWHL and the NHWL foundation (a non-profit to support the growth of the girls' game) running off income from donors, supporters and partners.

"It's a franchise model and all of the four teams are currently for sale," Rylan said. That means the Buffalo Beauts are looking for an owner although the league will be naming general managers for the four teams in the coming weeks with news on coaches and players sometime in May. Rylan declined to say where the Buffalo team would play its game saying specifics will be released later.

Rylan wanted to keep the teams regional to ease travel. Boston, Connecticut and New York City all have teams with Buffalo being an easy choice especially after the success of the Women's Under-18 World Championships hosted by HarborCenter in January.

"Buffalo is a great hockey town. They're passionate about hockey," Rylan said. "Look at the U18 girls championship game. The HarborCenter was sold out which I'm not sure if a U18 championship game ever sold out before. It's definitely a hockey market and when we did our research it was a no-brainer."

 

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