Calgary

Canadian Women's Hockey League players 'really excited' to get paid for 1st time — thanks to China

Canada's professional female hockey players are finally getting paid, thanks to a truly far eastern expansion plan — and while it's still a far cry from NHL-sized paycheques, the new stipends will go a long way, says a Calgary Inferno player.

WCHL adds 2 Chinese franchises and paycheques for players

In this 2016 photo, Canadian Women's Hockey League commissioner Brenda Andress presents Calgary Inferno captain Brianne Jenner with the Clarkson Cup. Inferno players will be paid stipends for the upcoming 2017-18 season, ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. (Canadian Press)

Canada's professional female hockey players are finally getting paid, thanks to a truly far eastern expansion plan — and while it's still a far cry from NHL-sized paycheques, the new stipends will go a long way, says a Calgary Inferno player.

Hayleigh Cudmore, who plays defence for the Inferno, praised the Canadian Women's Hockey League's new pay structure for players, who previously earned nothing.

"Salaries range from $2,000 to about $10,000," Cudmore said in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener Tuesday.

"We're calling them 'player stipends.' We're really excited. Obviously, it's not money you can live off of, but it's going to help a lot, go a long way in the players' lives."

She says a lot of players hold down full-time jobs outside of hockey.

"We also have a lot of players in the national team program, so a lot are full-time hockey players, but a lot work nine to five [jobs] or more and then have to go to practice," said Cudmore. "You have to take time off to travel to games [as well], so this stipend is going to help those sacrifices we make."

The players get paid this season thanks to the CWHL's unique expansion plan: a pair of franchises based in China. 

One team is the Kunlun Red Star, based in Shenzhen, outside Hong Kong. The other franchise, the Vanke Rays, will also play in Shenzhen, according to FanRagsports.com. Both teams will feature a blend of Chinese and imported players.

"They've injected a lot of money into the league and their hope is to groom players for their national team when they host the 2022 Olympics in Beijing again," Cudmore said.

That will make for some substantial road trips for everyone, Cudmore said.

Epic road trips

"The two teams each make a long North American road trip, where they spend a month playing against all the teams," she said. "And then each of the North American teams has to go to China — so we're looking at a six- or seven-day trip, I believe, to go to China — and likely the Inferno's trip will be sometime in February. I don't think we've finalized the schedule yet."

The Inferno were the league's 2016 champions and runners-up last year to the Montreal Canadiennes, but Cudmore acknowledges spreading the message about women's professional hockey remains a challenge.

"The players realize that our job is to put fans in the seat," she said. "In my three years here, we've been getting more notoriety and more recognition — so that's on us."

At least for one season, their labour of love will include a few paydays, which Cudmore says makes a big difference.

"It's really going to make the players lives' easier. We sacrifice a lot to play the sport we love and the stipend money is going to go a long way in just helping us through those sacrifices."


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

now