The CWHL is over. Officially.
The last vestiges of the 12-year-old Canadian Women’s Hockey League, built on the will and sweat of Canada’s best female hockey players, have been auctioned off, raising nearly $90,000 to pay the league’s debts, with some of the money promised to go to the players.
The Clarkson Cup — the league’s signature championship trophy — itself remains the property of former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, who seems intent on housing it at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
That’s welcome news to the Hall, says Kelly Masse, the Hall’s director of corporate and media relations.
“The Hall represents hockey on all levels, worldwide. So to have materials from the CWHL is important so that we may preserve the league’s history.”
Most of what was for sale — sold through a league auction as well as individual team auctions — were autographed jerseys and team pictures.
“It was as good as it could be, I guess. I don’t think any of it is positive,” said Chelsea Purcell, general manager of the Markham Thunder.
“Everyone is still upset, mad at everything.”
CHWL chair Laurel Walzak and interim commissioner Jayna Hefford announced last month the league would close, saying that the business model was not working. Operating as a not-for-profit, annual shortfalls were typically made up through off-season fundraisers.
The CWHL generated $3.449 million in revenue and $3.24 million in expenses, including $1.6 million in salaries for players, coaches and staff, and nearly $800,000 in travel, according to its 2018 financial statements.
The CWHL underwent massive change at the top end, with commissioner Brenda Andress, who had been there from the beginning, replaced by Hefford, an Olympic gold medallist and Hockey Hall of Famer. The entire board of directors was also overhauled.
The closure shocked the league’s GMs and players, who had no inkling it was coming. None, for example, had been asked to cut costs or take less money.
For now, the Canadian women hope there’s a league for them next year. The American-based National Women’s Hockey League has said it would put teams in Toronto and Montreal.
Kevin McGran is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @kevin_mcgran