Ottawa

Jayna Hefford of Kingston, Ont., named CWHL's interim commissioner

Jayna Hefford of Kingston, Ont., has been named interim commissioner of the Canadian Women's Hockey League, and hopes to merge with the U.S.-based National Women's Hockey League.

Hefford is a 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, and four time Olympic gold medalist

Jayna Hefford represented Canada in five Olympic Games, winning four gold medals and one silver. (Abelimages/Getty Images)

After 17 years on Canada's international women's hockey team — and four Olympic gold medals — Jayna Hefford is taking her passion for the sport to the office.

The Kingston, Ont., woman has been named interim commissioner of the Canadian Women's Hockey League, taking over from outgoing commissioner Brenda Andress on Aug. 1.

"It's a huge honour to take on this role and represent the players. I played for as long as I did because I had such a passion for the game," Hefford told CBC Radio's All In A Day.

"This is a new challenge, but I'm excited that it's still in the game and I can still be guided by my passion and hopefully provide some leadership to help continue to assist the league to grow."

The CWHL began paying its players for the first time in the 2017-18 season. The stipend ranges from $2,000 to $10,000, but Hefford said she wants to focus on getting players more.

"We want to pay them more, they deserve more, but it's a process and we want to do it in a way that its strategic and its sustainable," she said.

Hefford's plan is to attract new sponsors to increase the league's revenue, as well as work on a possible future partnership with the NHL.

"There's a lot of talk about a future partnership with the NHL ... I don't know if its imminent but it's certainly being discussed," she said.

A tale of 2 leagues

But one barrier to an NHL partnership is the existence of two women's leagues in North America.

The CWHL has five teams in Canada and the U.S., as well as one in China. The National Women's Hockey League, meanwhile, runs a five-team league exclusively in the U.S.

In March, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman roused the attention of the women's hockey community when he said two leagues makes it difficult for the NHL to get involved.

It's a sentiment echoed by Hefford.

"If you have the best women's hockey players in one league, I think it's realistic to think that there is a partnership with the NHL involved," she said.

"I always believed that in order to be the best league you have to have the best players. We're a sport that's still struggling for visibility and we're still growing, which means we want to put the best product on the ice every night."

But for now, Hefford said it's only talk.

"That's the end goal, is to get there, but there are some steps that have to be taken ... to get there. But I do believe that's the right path for women's hockey."

With files from the Canadian Press

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