Sudbury

Women's pro hockey careers could be on ice with shutting down of CWHL

Women who grew up dreaming of playing professional hockey in northern Ontario could see their careers cut short with the folding of the Canadian Women's Hockey League.
Sydney Kidd originally from Sundridge played the past two seasons with the Toronto Furies of the soon-to-be-defunct Canadian Women's Hockey League. (Twitter)

When Sydney Kidd was 10, she wrote a letter to herself.

She said that she was going to take the hockey skills she learned on the local rink in her small northern Ontario hometown of Sundridge and go to play with the men in the National Hockey League. 

"I didn't get to have this dream when I was little," says Kidd, who has spent the past two seasons playing professionally in the Canadian Women's Hockey League for the Toronto Furies. 

The league has announced it doesn't have enough money to keep going and will fold up after 12 seasons.

Kidd made $3,000 playing hockey last season, but her full-time job as a management consultant in Toronto pays the bills.

She says most of her teammates work during the day, practice late into the night and then travel for games on weekends.

The Calgary Inferno, featuring Sudbury's Rebecca Johnston, won the CWHL championship Clarkson Cup a week before the league announced it was folding. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

"When I think about the role models I want my kids to have, they look like my teammates," says the 26-year-old, who suspects this could be the end of her hockey career. 

Some argue that sports fans just don't want to watch women play, but Kidd points to the Olympic games, where millions watch the women's hockey final every four years.

"The argument that there's no viewership, but there's no coverage. So it's a pretty chicken-and-the-egg problem. It's frustrating," says Kidd. 

"I wish someone could have done a better job."

Ann Pegoraro is the director of the Institute for Sports Marketing at Laurentian University. (Laurentian University)

Ann Pegoraro, the director of the Institute for Sports Marketing at Laurentian University, was also surprised to hear the league was shutting down.

She says women's pro sports struggling for attention is somewhat of a "North American problem" as female athletes play before thousands of fans in Australia and Europe.

Pegoraro says it doesn't mean that Canadian hockey fans are sexist, just that in a crowded marketplace, women's leagues need more time to carve out a niche.

"I think we are very quick to judge these leagues and say they should be successful right away, much like the male professional counterparts, but they have a long history and most of them have a history where they came close to closing," she says. 

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca