Earlier this week, the NWHL and SDHL announced a breaking new international fixture that will feature the winners of their respective leagues going head to head against each other in a best of three series, dubbed the Champions Cup. This will take place in September in Sweden between the Metropolitan Riviters and Luleå HF (more info on Luala can be found here). However it is not quite the sort of Champions Cup that most fans were hoping for.
BREAKING: In First-Ever Champions Cup, NWHL’s Riveters to Play Luleå Hockey of the SDHL in 3-Game Series
— NWHL (@NWHL) June 5, 2018
Fans have been yearning for some sort of competition between the two pro women’s leagues, the NWHL and CWHL. Historically, the two leauges haven’t always seen eye to eye, with both viewing the other as direct competition for money, viewers and talented players. Most see this “infighting” between the women’s leagues as counter-productive to the cause of establishing a fully professional female hockey league, with players on both sides weighing in on the issue. From press releases it is clear that the leagues don’t seem to have any plans for a merger any time soon, despite much speculation from the media. Both leagues are currently looking at extending their regions of influence, with the CWHL reaching the Chinese market with two new expansion teams this last season and the NWHL expanding to include the Minnesota Whitecaps.
They may not want to merge, but this doesn’t mean that fans should be denied the opportunity to see the top players from both leagues go head to head. The NWHL and CWHL have only met once before, at the 2016 Winter Classic, where the NWHL’s Boston Pride faced off against the CWHL’s Les Canadiennes in a 30 minute game. One idea put forth by many different people has been that the champions of the NWHL and CWHL should play each other to determine the best pro team in North America, sounds familiar?
— StanleyCup ofChowder (@cupofchowdah) January 15, 2016
Now, I’m not saying that the NWHL shouldn’t have partnered up with the Swedes across the Atlantic, spreading to international markets is an important part of growing any league and the SDHL is a well established league with plenty of Olympic talent. Nevertheless, it seems questionable to exclude the CWHL from a so called “Champions Cup” when their rosters’ are also stacked with superstars. As well as this the CWHL has significant reach and would draw in plenty of viewers and sell tickets. Looking at the simple indicator of twitter followers; the NWHL has gained over 31,000 followers in it’s three years of existence whereas the SDHL has just 1,300 followers. The CWHL has a following just under 20,000 strong, clearly they certainly bring a lot to the table.
As I said, I don’t think the SDHL should be excluded but the CWHL definitely needs a seat at the table and this is where my revamped Champions Cup comes into play. This would be in a very similar format to that of the Memorial Cup which hosts the winners of each of the junior hockey leagues. This Champions Cup would include the winners of the NWHL, CWHL and SDHL as well as a host team. With the inclusion of a host team, it gives locals a team to cheer on during the tournament and become fans of after the tournament has ended.
The four teams would play a round robin, totaling three games. The number 1 seed would clinch a place in the final whereas the 2nd and 3rd seeds would play for the second spot. The two remaining teams would then go head to head to play for the title of the Champions Cup, which will then truly be awarded to the best professional womens team. This format means that any travelling teams get at least three games, as they do with the current setup, and the potential of more. This is essential to make sure that if a team is flying across the Atlantic, they aren’t sold short!
Sounds appealing? It certainly does to me, the likes of the Metropolitan Riviters, Markham Thunder and Luleå HF facing off against each other is something I wouldn’t be able to say no to.