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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The battle for the future of women's hockey is between one side (NWHL) that wants to stand on its own and another side (PWHPA) that wants to be affiliated with the NHL —  similar to how the WNBA is affiliated with the NBA.

Yes, but: The "WNBA model" has evolved and is no longer what it used to be, so mentioning it as an example of the latter model's success is somewhat misleading.

By the numbers: In the midst of the best WNBA era to date, seven of the league's 12 teams are independently owned and have no NBA affiliation — proof that owners see value in the product on its own.

Between the lines: The NBA's "what's mine is yours" business approach was a boon in the WNBA's early days, but now that the league has the star-power and brand recognition to attract sponsors of its own, it can hurt business.

  • Prime example: On an episode of HBO's "The Shop," WNBA star Sue Bird gave the example of "Shoe Company A" signing a deal with the NBA that includes exclusive WNBA rights.
  • "Shoe Company A" is funding the WNBA but has no real incentive to market it, since their contract is with the NBA. "Shoe Company B" might show up with a full-blown WNBA marketing strategy, but the WNBA can't sign with them because "Shoe Company A" already owns exclusive rights.

In other words: "When the NBA leverages its relationships, it helps. When the NBA tosses the WNBA in as a sweetener for its own deals, it hurts," writes The IX's Erica Ayala.

The bottom line: The "independent" model vs. the "aligned with established men's league" model are often presented as the only two paths forward for women's sports. But it's a lot more complicated than that.

Go deeper: Coronavirus causes delay in WNBA season and training camps

Go deeper

Updated 45 mins ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. faces urgent anti-hacker crisis

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Biden administration is accelerating efforts to fill nearly 600,000 vacant cybersecurity positions in the public and private sectors bogging down efforts to protect digital infrastructure.

Why it matters: Following a deluge of ransomware attacks targeting critical government and corporate infrastructure this year, clogs in the talent pipeline are leaving federal, cash-strapped local governments and Big Business even more susceptible to hacking.

Mike Allen, author of AM
5 hours ago - World

Courage vs. coddling with China

Peng Shuai of China serves during the China Open in Beijing in 2017. Photo: Andy Wong/AP

The women's professional tennis tour suspended tournaments in China Wednesday out of concern for Peng Shuai, on the same day that a top business voice made excuses for Beijing.

Why it matters: Ahead of February's Winter Olympics in Beijing, some sports figures are taking on the regime — while Big Business shrinks from confrontation with the world's second-largest economy.

6 hours ago - Sports

What to know about the first MLB lockout since 1995

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Hope you enjoyed the recent flurry of free-agent activity, because it's likely the last non-lockout-related MLB news for a while.

Driving the news: The owners locked out the players after the collective bargaining agreement expired at midnight last night, leading to MLB's ninth work stoppage — and first since 1995.