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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    The Buzzer: McElhinney with the McShutout, Schenn scores again

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    Players of the Night: 

    Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs:

    McElhinney turned aside all 41 shots that came his way as the Leafs shutout the Edmonton Oilers 1-0. The Leafs backup improved to 3-2-0 on the season and his save percentage jumped from .900 to 9.25. Toronto has now won three straight and six of their past 10.

    Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues:

    Schenn notched his sixth goal in his past four games and extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with a goal 40 seconds into the game. The Blues are now winners of four straight and six of their past 10.

    Eric Stall, Minnesota Wild & Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: 

    Both scored twice for their respective teams in an entertaining 4-3 win for the Wild in overtime.

    Highlight of the Night: 

    Vladimir Tarasenko catches the Sabres defense sleeping in overtime, scoring his first non-empty net goal in nine games:

    Factoid of the Night: 

    Patrick Kane didn’t score, but his two assists were instrumental in giving the Chicago Blackhawks a victory on Sunday.

    Scores: 

    Blackhawks 3, Coyotes 1

    Blues 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

    Maple Leafs 1, Oilers 0

    Wild 4, Sharks 3


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Alex Burrows fined $5,000 for roughing

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    Alex Burrows won’t be on Dylan DeMelo‘s Christmas card list this year.

    Not after Burrows swiped DeMelo in the face with the butt-end of his stick on Saturday night.

    Burrows got slapped with a $5,000 fine for roughing on Sunday night, the maximum permissible under the CBA. The money is one thing, but Burrows and the Senators have bigger issues at the moment.

    It didn’t help the little incident happened in the third period and the game all but over for the Senators. Here’s the slow-mo shot of the infraction:

    DeMelo suffered a scratch cornea and narrowly missed a major eye injury, according to Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. 

    DeMelo was in the lineup for the Sharks on Sunday against the Minnesota Wild.

    Burrows’ $5,000 goes to the player’s Emergency Assistance Fund.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Is it a slump or is regression setting in for the Winnipeg Jets?

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    Might regression be hitting the Winnipeg Jets at the moment?

    It’s a question Jets fans are asking themselves after a three-game road trip that produced just a single point and a goose egg in the win column.

    It’s the first time the Jets have lost three straight all season. In year’s past, this wouldn’t have come as much surprise, but the Jets have thrown the status quo out the window this season and have sung a different tune.

    The analytics would suggest the Jets were due for a fall back to earth.

    For most of the season, they’ve been near the bottom of the league in terms of Corsi, with only recently climbing up that ladder with a help of a very lopsided game against the Ottawa Senators.

    Regression in goal is also starting to happen, and a lot of Winnipeg’s early-season success had to do with how well Connor Hellebuyck had been playing.

    Hellebuyck has been sensational most of the season and his 15-3-4  record supports that. But his save percentage has been trending in the wrong direction lately. In five of his past six starts, Hellebuyck has only achieved a .900 save percentage or better once, and that came in that 5-0 shutout against the Senators.

    Nov. 27 vs MIN: .895
    Nov. 29 vs COL: .885
    Dec. 1 vs VGK: .871
    Dec. 3 vs. OTT: 1.000
    Dec. 5 vs DET: .844
    Dec. 9 vs TBL: .857

    The Jets give up a lot of shots, so the odds that Hellebuyck’s early season numbers would survive throughout the year were low.

    The sky is by no means falling in Winnipeg. The Jets showed they can go toe-to-toe with the league’s best on Saturday. Overtime has just been the bane of their existence this season with a 0-5 record in free hockey.

    The Jets touched the summit of the Western Conference last week, a pipe dream around these parts in recent times. They also possess two of the league’s top point-producers (Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler) and one of the league’s top goal scorers (Patrik Laine), not to mention having a rookie just outside top 10 in rookie scoring (Kyle Connor).

    Prior to the road trip, Winnipeg’s power play had scored eight times in 19 attempts.

    The Jets have also been largely healthy. Defenseman Toby Enstrom is the midst of an eight-week spell in the press box — and there’s a pending diagnosis coming for Dustin Byfuglien after he left Saturday’s game in Tampa Bay with a lower-body injury — but the Jets gotten by relatively unscathed thus far and managed well when Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowry missed several games.

    The Jets have made too many strides this season to regress too far away from where they are right now. Asking a team to go from outside the playoff line to tops in the division might be asking a tad too much. But with that said, the Jets are simply a good team these days and stacked with high-level talent.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Calgary Hitmen fans make 24K stuffed animals fly during Teddy Bear Toss (Video)

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    Congratulations, Vladislav Yeryomenko, you were this year’s Teddy Bear Toss goal scorer for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen.

    Yeryomenko’s goal at 9:36 of the first period during their game Sunday vs. the Moose Jaw Warriors was the sign for Hitmen fans to launch their teddy bears inside the Saddledome. Boy, it sure did rain plenty of fur.

    Here’s what it looked like:

    And here’s a fan’s eye view:

    After a clean up delay of approximately 40 minutes , the game resumed but the Hitmen would fall to the Warriors 6-3. The counting, as you would imagine, took some time, but when they were finished it was announced that an astounding 24,605 stuffed animals were collected, which will go to 60 local charities.

    “It’s an unforgettable moment,” Yeryomenko said via the Hitmen website. “It’s possible it can only happen once in your life and it happened to me. I enjoyed the moment of it all.”

    There were 23,924 stuffed animals tossed during last year’s game, and the Hitmen hold the record of 28,815 bears, which was set in 2015.

    The Hitmen have been holding this event since 1995 and are their fans are the true leaders in tossing those bears. Including this Sunday’s total, the team has collected 347,948 stuffed animals for local charities. Just last weekend the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears held their Toss event and fans there set a team record with an impressive 25,017 stuffed animals hitting the ice.

    This once again proves that the Teddy Bear Toss is the greatest promotion in all of sports.

    ————

    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.