Could a women's professional hockey league be in the future?

One of the big topics at the World Hockey Summit was what could be done to help women’s hockey around the world. While the United States and Canada have dominated global competition since the global introduction of the women’s game at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, no other countries have shown the same kind of growth the game has seen in North America. After the Olympics in Vancouver, IOC President Jacques Rogge said that if improvement isn’t seen elsewhere in the world in the game that he’ll look into dropping women’s hockey from the Olympics.

Seeing how dire a situation this could be for the growth of women’s hockey the NHL is stepping up potentially in a very big way as they’re now looking into developing a professional women’s hockey league.  Jeff Klein of the New York Times elaborates.

“I was in a meeting just this week with the N.H.L. and all the stakeholders in women’s hockey, and I think we have the ear of the N.H.L.,” said Hayley Wickenheiser, 32, a Canadian forward regarded as one of the game’s greatest female players and the keynote speaker at the final day of the World Hockey Summit here.

“They’re looking at it right now from a sponsorship level to get it off the ground,” Wickenheiser said, referring to the N.H.L. “We’re not talking about big salaries, just sensible steps to get it on the ice to entertain people and see where it can go, and then down the road having an elite, W.N.B.A.-type league, which I think we could do.”

Bill Daly, the N.H.L. deputy commissioner, said that the talks had taken place over a number of months and were very preliminary but that they were aimed at setting up a “women’s league or women’s competition.”

“We’ve talked about potential structures that might work, the need for a business plan and our efforts to be helpful to the extent we can be,” Daly said.

Giving hockey-playing women around the world an ultimate goal to shoot for professionally would certainly spur further development in North America, but it also might get women in Sweden, Finland, Russia and elsewhere a motivation to keep playing and look to improve themselves. After all, gearing up for the Olympics every four years can take a toll and make a player’s career seem unnecessarily short.

If you’re thinking this will be something that happens in the near future, don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. This is something that could be more than a few years away.

Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, said his league has talked “general concepts” with representatives from the new Canadian Women’s Hockey League about the idea but wouldn’t go so far as to say they would follow the NBA model. The basketball league founded the WNBA in 1996 and began play in ’97 with the NBA owning all the women’s teams. Subsequently, the league has moved toward independent ownership.

Following the NBA’s lead as far as undying and borderline oppressive support for the WNBA would be an appropriate way for the NHL to approach a women’s pro league. While the constant advertisements and promos for the WNBA got tiresome after a while, you knew that the league was there and that women were doing things professionally. Whether or not the NHL could follow the same lead financially-speaking to give that kind of unwavering support to the league is another matter entirely.

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    Devils unveil ‘The Salute’ statue in honor of Martin Brodeur

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    The New Jersey Devils on Monday unveiled ‘The Salute’ — a statue paying homage to one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, Martin Brodeur, who will have his No. 30 uniform retired Tuesday at Prudential Center.

    “Looking at the pictures of my career and some of the events that meant a lot to me, I always saluted the fans,” Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils, told the Fire and Ice blog.

    “That picture, at different times, in different jerseys, actually, like with Team Canada, it all came to that same pose.”

    More on the statue from the Devils:

    The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.

    Video: Panthers furious after Abdelkader ‘cheap shot’ hit on Barkov

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    The Florida Panthers are fuming after their skilled 20-year-old forward Aleksander Barkov left Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings following a hit from Justin Abdelkader.

    Abdelkader caught Barkov with a hard hit near the goal line as the Panthers player tried to move the puck up ice early in the second period.

    The only call on the play was to Panthers’ blue liner Alex Petrovic for the retaliatory cross check on Abdelkader. Barkov left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury.

    Members of the Panthers irate with the hit, and the fact there was no call.

    “It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”

    “You hate to lose your top player, but that’s part of the game,” added Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant.

    “We’re disappointed to lose him. I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way and explained to me it was a clean check. It’s tough. It happens quick and we get to see the replay. I think it’ll be looked at. [Abdelkader] left his feet a little and got him in the jaw.”

    The Panthers gave up three goals in the third period in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings.

    Penguins thump the Ducks as Crosby’s hot streak continues

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    In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.

    After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.

    The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.

    — He extended his scoring streak to a career best seven games, and did so with two beauty goals versus the Ducks.

    — From Dec. 18 to Feb. 8, he’s appeared in 21 games. In that span, he’s recorded 34 points.

    — Crosby is now into the top five among NHL players in points, with 53 in 51 games this season.

    He wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to have a big night. Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even in the lineup due to a lower-body injury.

    Ten different Penguins players recorded points. In addition to Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang had multi-point efforts, and four players — Kunitz, Crosby, Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist — were plus-four.

    The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.

    The Islanders also have a game in hand.

    Panthers’ Barkov (upper-body injury) leaves game versus Red Wings

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    The Florida Panthers will be without Aleksander Barkov for the remainder of their game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

    As per multiple reports, Barkov will not return due to an upper-body injury suffered after a hit from Justin Abdelkader early in the second period.

    Abdelkader wasn’t given a penalty on the play. Barkov didn’t play another shift after that hit.

    In 42 games this season, the 20-year-old Barkov has 16 goals and 35 points.