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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    Kariya and Selanne, one of NHL’s most dominant duos, enter Hall of Fame together

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    Paul Kariya probably had to wait a couple of years longer than he should have to get his induction into the Hall of Fame, but it was at least fitting that the wait allowed him to enter alongside his long-time running mate, Teemu Selanne.

    Both players were among the class of seven inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. They spent several years alongside one another in Anaheim (plus one year in Colorado) and were one of the most lethal offensive duos the NHL has ever seen.

    The magic they were able to work on the ice together was simply incredible, and at times jaw-dropping.

    For example…

    Selanne said on Monday that he played some of his best years in the NHL alongside Kariya, while added that he would not be getting the call without his years alongside Selanne.

    Their production together can not be understated.

    Between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons, the years they spent together in Anaheim, 35 percent of the Ducks goals were scored by one of those two players.

    What is most incredible about that production is that Kariya only played in 395 out of 492 games due to injury, while Selanne only played in 382 after being acquired in a mid-season trade in 1995 and then traded during the 2001 season.

    While Selanne had the ultimate combination of sustained dominance and longevity in his career to make him one of the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorers and point producers, Kariya’s career came to an unfortunate and premature end due to concussion issues. While his final stat line may not stack up among the NHL’s all-time greats, he was one of the league’s most dominant offensive players for more than a decade.

    Kariya said on Monday that it took him a year after his retirement to feel normal again, but that he is now no longer having headaches.

    He also mentioned that while the NHL seems to be heading in the right direction when it comes to player safety, but that targeted head shots have no place in the game and he would like to see them eliminated.

    Yakupov becomes UFA after Blues don’t extend qualifying offer

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    Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick only five years ago, has become an unrestricted free agent.

    The 23-year-old winger was not extended a qualifying offer by the St. Louis Blues, thus providing him UFA status. He played 40 games for the Blues in 2016-17, battling a knee injury and scoring just three goals.

    Yakupov wants to remain in the NHL, saying in May he has zero plans to return to Russia. It’s possible he could re-sign with the Blues at a lower salary than his qualifying offer would’ve been.

    If not, there are 30 other teams he can speak with now.

    Yakupov is currently in the conversation with Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan in terms of biggest first overall busts in NHL history.

    The Blues did extend qualifying offers to five players: defensemen Colton Parayko and Petteri Lindbohm, forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Oskar Sundqvist, and goalie Jordan Binnington.

    ‘Hawks sign Forsberg, who should be Crawford’s new backup

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    Anton Forsberg, the former Columbus goalie Chicago acquired in the Brandon Saad-for-Artemi Panarin blockbuster, has signed a two-year extension with the ‘Hawks.

    Forsberg, 24, came to North America in the ’13-14 campaign and has spent most of his time with Columbus’ AHL affiliate. He helped the club capture the Calder Cup in 2016, and that performance was part of the reason Chicago GM Stan Bowman went out and acquired him.

    In the aftermath, Bowman said Forsberg would get the “first crack” at the No. 2 gig behind Corey Crawford. The ‘Hawks have been without a backup since sending Scott Darling to Carolina.

    While Forsberg is the favorite for the gig, he’s not a lock. He only has 10 games of NHL experience — a pretty small sample size — and lost out on a similar opportunity with Columbus. Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo were battling to be Sergei Bobrovsky‘s understudy, with Korpisalo eventually winning out.

    In other Chicago news, the club gave depth forward Tomas Jurco a one-year extension today. Jurco was acquired from Detroit at last year’s trade deadline and appeared in 13 games for the ‘Hawks, scoring one goal. He didn’t dress for the club’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of Nashville.

    No word yet on financials for either guy.

    Wild extend d-man Olofsson — two years, $1.45 million

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    Gustav Olofsson, the Minnesota defenseman taken in the second round of the ’13 draft, has signed a two-year, $1.45 million extension, per the Star-Tribune.

    Olofsson was a restricted free agent, having just wrapped his entry-level contract. This new deal will pay him $725,000 per season and, importantly, it’s of the one-way variety.

    The Star-Tribune reports Olofsson is expected to play in the Wild’s top-six defense next season, especially since GM Chuck Fletcher appears primed to trade one of Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba. Fletcher needs cap space to finalize new deals for RFA forwards Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.

    Speaking of contracts, the Wild opted against making a qualifying offer for d-man Christian Folin. This means he’ll be able to test free agency, though it’s reported Minnesota might try to re-negotiate with him as a UFA.