Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

What are the inequalities in professional men and women’s hockey league?


History of Women playing hockey

There is photographic evidence of women playing hockey in 1889, along side of men. Women at this time would playing with long wool skirts and would often hide the puck in their skirt as they skated down the ice.

Before World War II women’s and men’s leagues were almost equally distributed in leagues and participation. Women’s hockey was seen as equally popular to men’s hockey at this time. As WWII finished, women shifted back into a more domestic role. Before WWII there was over a dozen women’s leagues in Montreal; after the war there was only one.

There was limited growth in women’s hockey league in the 50’s and 60’s. In the 70’s. the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association allowed females to register for the first time. and US and Canadian colleges started to have female hockey teams.

It was athletes like Abigail Hoffman and many others that proved girls can play hockey just as well as boys. In 1986, body checking was banned from women’s hockey, and it was then that it became one a fast-growing sport, since it was seen as more feminine.

As women’s hockey grew in popularity, it still did not get added to the Olympics until 102 years after the modern Olympics began — in 1998.

Canada Women

Participation Rates

National sports rates continue to decline but women’s hockey participation rates  remain steady, as seen in the graph below. The percentage of increase in female hockey registration has been staying steady over the past few years.


Feminizing Women’s Hockey

Women still attempt to feminize their sport in order to bring more attention to the game. Women have tried to prove that women’s hockey is not masculine by ‘feminizing’ themselves. For example, the Ottawa Lassies dressed as “schools girls” while playing hockey. Former Olympian Cassie Campbell said that the Canadian Women’s hockey team used to spend up to 30 minutes getting “ready for the game”, in part with the hope of a 2 second close up that might attract potential sponsors.

Canadian Women’s Hockey League


The CHWL is the women’s professional hockey league, comparable to the NHL as it represents the highest level of competition for female professionals. There are five teams in the league: Boston Blades, Brampton Thunder, Calgary Infernos, Montreal Stars and Toronto Furries.

League costs are $700,000, which provides each team with approximately $140,000. Players in the league are drafted once they graduate from universities, most of them come from the CIS and NCAA leagues.These professional women hockey players do not get paid, so they must have a job along side training and travelling.

The Clarkson Cup is the CWHL’s version of the Stanley cup. The 2013-14 season saw a record-breaking attendance at one regular season game of 5,000 people. (The average National Hockey League attendance is 13,000 or more). Ticket prices for the Clarkson Cup games range from $5-$15.

Comparing the CWHL to the NHL

There are many inequalities facing the women’s league.

  • First, the biggest is that it costs NHL owners approximately 85 million dollars to break even in one entire regular season; in the CWHL, the entire league budget it $700,000 divided evenly between the five teams.
  • Secondly, the inequality in payment to play in a professional league between the two leagues. The women who play in the CWHL are not paid to play professional hockey and must hold a full-time job in order to compete at the top-level.  As you can see in the figure below, the difference in salaries between men and women’s profession leagues is staggering.

Comparing Salaries

A lot of the differential comes from the revenue, costs of running the leagues and how resources are used. In the graph below, the CWHL sources of funding come  from sponsorship, partnerships and fundraising. Expenditures are spent on travel, equipment and supplies, and staffing. In the NHL, the biggest costs are player salaries. Our main thesis is to show the inequalities between the two leagues.  The fact that one player’s NHL salary could fund the women’s league for one year is disappointing.

Expenses and Revenue CWHL

Expenditures & Revenue in CWHL

NHL Expenses and Revenue

NHL Revenues

Body Checking in Women’s Hockey

Women are not taught this skill growing up. Therefore they can be more susceptible to injuries as they get older. When they get hit, many do not know how to defend themselves when being checked into the boards.

Media Coverage

There is a lack of media around women and sports. It is often stated that supply is a reflection of demand. However it is hard to demand a sport that few are aware of.  But papers, TV stations, radios, magazine will not provide media coverage if there is no demand for it.

Some Facts:

  • In 2010, only 2 women appeared on the cover of sports illustrated
  • 62.4% of the 2010 Olympic coverage was on male sports, which means only 37.4% was on women sports, when the percentage of women and men in the Olympics was almost 50%
  • US broadcaster ESPN devotes 1.4% of airtime to women’s sports

Possible Discussion Questions

„If women can play in men’s leagues, do you think men should be able to play in the women’s leagues?

„Should there be body checking in women’s hockey?

„Should the UNB women’s hockey team be reinstated into the AUS?



4 thoughts on “What are the inequalities in professional men and women’s hockey league?

  1. During the lovely debate/discussion in class, I forgot about the amazing attendance at the AUS Women’s Hockey Championships this year. Attendance for the three-game final was almost 3,000 fans. For the final game, 1,307 fans attended.

    I do think with funding women’s hockey would survive at UNB. However, it would take a few years for the program to be sustainable.

    Here’s an article from CBC on the attendance for the AUS Women’s hockey final:




  2. If women can play in men’s leagues, do you think men should be able to play in the women’s leagues?
    No they should not just because of the difference in sizes, I know there are small male hockey players but generally speaking males are larger and more powerful, what would happen if they did allow a male in and he hit a female and they got hurt?

    „Should there be body checking in women’s hockey?
    Yes, I think it would help to make it more appealing for viewership

    „Should the UNB women’s hockey team be reinstated into the AUS?
    It should be yes but will it be, probably not due to money, so they say.


  3. Hi,

    Thank you for the comments!

    I attended the AUS Women’s final and it was a unreal game and showed how much spirit and support there can be for women’s hockey.

    Every program doesn’t matter how small or large any type of program will take a few years to be sustainable, it’s having the faith that it will succeed. Here is an interesting article about how they are trying to get the CWHL to grow.




  4. I find this topic quite fascinating… It raises a lot of discussion and can very easily be argued from both sides of the spectrum. There are numerous factors that causes inequality in the sport of Hockey. However, I believe that the lack of opportunities and funding for women coaches raises inequality issues. For one, the pool of male coaches is significantly bigger than the women’s pool which results in having a male dominate culture “it’s a man’s game.” The example of Shannon Miller, a legendary NCAA D 1 Women’s Hockey Coach for the University of Minesota-Duluth that was recently fired. The reason… her $215,000 salary was not feasible. Unfortunately, women’s hockey is not a business; it is not a revenue generating sport therefore, women have less opportunities.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s