Canadian Women's Hockey League launches

Two-time Olympic gold medallist Jennifer Botterill has joined fellow hockey players and a group of volunteer business people in forming the Canadian Women's Hockey League.

Teams will play 40-game schedule; top 2 to compete at national championships

Canadian forward Jennifer Botterill won a gold medal at the women's world hockey championship in April and hopes to achieve another goal in her latest venture.

She has joined fellow players and a group of volunteer business people in forming the Canadian Women's Hockey League, which was officiallyunveiled Thursday in Toronto.

The goal is simple: Build a future for women in hockey and help produce world-class female players and role models.

"We are very excited about this season," Botterill, a two-time Olympic gold medallist, said in a news release. "It not only gives us a chance to play at a high level, but it also gives Canadians the opportunity to share the experience with us.

"There's no question that along with increased awareness of our league, there's also great potential for growing the game of women's hockey."

The CWHL is comprised ofthe Ottawa Capital-Canucks, Montreal Stars, Quebec Phoenix, and four teams in the Greater Toronto Area: Brampton Canadettes Thunder, Mississauga Chiefs, Burlington Barracudas and Vaughan Flames.

They will play a 40-game schedule, with the top two teams facing two squads from the Western Women's Hockey League at the national championships in Charlottetown next March.

"There's a real buzz around women's hockey in Canada these days," said goaltender Sami Jo Small, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and five-time world champion. "What makes this league different is that many of the teams will be supported by the girls' minor hockey associations in the communities in which the teams are located.

"In addition, the players have a leadership role in collaboration with a group of volunteer business people on the executive committee."

Players hope Thursday's announcement will lead to more corporate and government support for women's hockey.

A not-for-profit enterprise, the CWHL will seek corporate sponsorship.

Cassie Campbell, another Canadian Olympian who retired from competitive hockey last year, hopes the launch of the CWHL will lead to more awareness and a growing fan base.

"I've witnessed first-hand Canadians' admiration for women's hockey as well as the pride in all of its accomplishments over the years," she said.

"Although I no longer play the game, the value of this league and its roster of players are obvious.

"The CWHL will continue to provide opportunities so that more Canadians can sit in the rinks and enjoy the great product of women's hockey on the ice."