It took until the last few hours of free agency for the National Women’s Hockey League to secure its starting players for Season Two. It was late into July 31 before press releases and tweets started to surface that the players from the U.S. Women’s National Team would be signing contracts for the coming season.
According to tweets from agent Brant Feldman of AGM Sports, the national team players negotiated as a unit. The sticking point is the schedule. The NWHL announced an expanded schedule for the 2016-17 season that at points butts up against national team commitments. This is problematic, particularly with the 2018 Olympics on the horizon.
While professional women’s hockey is an important step to growing the game, its biggest platform remains the Olympics. Women’s soccer also has dealt with this problem, having players miss club games for national team commitments. Accommodating the national team players is crucial to avoid players feeling torn between loyalties. Lose the U.S. stars from your roster and you lose most of your marketing power.