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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Women's hockey takes the world by storm every four years at the Winter Olympics — and then basically falls off the radar — but the outcome of an ongoing feud between two leagues could change that, especially if the NHL gets more involved.

Driving the news: The National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) is expanding to Toronto, as the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) continues its boycott of the current situation while hoping that a new league and support structure emerges.

Meet the NWHL: The U.S.-based league was established in 2015, and when the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) shut down last year after 12 seasons, the NWHL became the only women's pro hockey league in North America.

  • Six franchises: Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan (N.J.) Riveters, Minnesota Whitecaps and now Toronto (no name yet).
  • Signs of growth: The 2019-20 season was the NWHL's most promising yet, with the league increasing its salary cap (top players made around $15,000), introducing a 50-50 revenue split for league-wide sponsorship and media deals and signing a multi-year media rights deal with Twitch. The Whitecaps also became the NWHL's first profitable team.

Meet the PWHPA: After the CWHL shut down last May, roughly 175 women's players — including some of the sport's biggest names — announced that they would forego participation in any North American league "until we get the resources professional hockey demands and deserves."

  • A month later, the PWHPA was formed to provide a unified voice for the boycotting players and push for the creation of a new league.
  • Since that has yet to happen, the PWHPA is planning counter-programming for the second straight season (think: exhibition showcases, etc).

The big picture: Four of the NWHL's six teams have partnerships with NHL teams, but the NWHL ultimately believes that a women's professional hockey league "should be built from the ground to stand on its own."

  • Conversely, the PWHPA is widely believed to be holding out hope for the creation of a so-called WNHL — modeled after the WNBA and directly tied to the NHL, which has been sitting on the "WNHL" trademark since 1998.
  • "We believe there needs to be an affiliation with the NHL," PWHPA leader Jayna Hefford told CBC Sports last week. "History tells us the only women's leagues that survive are aligned with established men's leagues."

The bottom line: "It's hard to ignore 200 athletes forgoing the primes of their careers because they believe it's what's best for their sport. But if a new league doesn't emerge soon, the PWHPA may see many of its players defect and return to the NWHL," Just Women's Sports founder Haley Rosen tells Axios.

  • On that last point: Toronto's first five signings were all initially part of the PWHPA — a reminder that the clock is ticking.

Go deeper: Leading female athletes outline plight for equal pay, representation

Go deeper

Aug 5, 2020 - Sports

NCAA Division II and Division III cancel fall championships due to pandemic

Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The NCAA's Division II and Division III fall championships have been canceled due to financial and logistical complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic, ESPN reports.

The state of play: The decision to call off the fall championships comes after the NCAA board of governors told each division to decide for themselves whether they planned to move forward with the competitions. The cancellations impact football, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's cross country, field hockey, women's volleyball and men's water polo.

Women-focused non-profit newsrooms surge forward in 2020

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Women are pushing back against the gender imbalance in media by launching their own news nonprofits and focusing on topics many traditional news companies have long ignored.

Why it matters: "The news business is already gendered," says Emily Ramshaw, co-founder and CEO of The 19th*, a new nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom reporting at the intersection of women, politics and policy.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

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