Women's hockey league's east division halts play
The eastern wing of the National Women's Hockey League is suspending operations for at least the coming season.
The decision affects seven teams: Etobicoke Dolphins, Mississauga Aeros, Brampton Thunder, Montreal Axion, Quebec Avalanche, Ottawa Raiders and Oakville Ice.
Teams in theleague's western division — British Columbia Breakers, Edmonton Chimos, Minnesota Whitecaps and Saskatchewan Prairie Ice— will continue playing.
"We're taking a time out to reorganize," explained Bill Metcalfe, who runs the Oakville Ice.
There are nearly 150 players in the league, including Canadian Olympians Sami Jo Small, Vicky Sunohara, Jayna Hefford and Jennifer Botterill.
Metcalfe told CBC Sports Online that owners met on Wednesday and decided the league couldn't go forward under its current structure.
"It needs to be fixed," said Metcalfe, who likened the move to the NHL lockout. "Let's take a little bit of time — however much that is — and fix it."
Metcalfe said the league needs to adopt a more professional approach if it is to survive and grow.
"We have to take the next big step here to move it forward," said Metcalfe, who has run the Ice since 2000. "We want to get to the next level."
The chief issue, according Metcalfe, is the mechanism for distributing talent.
Currently, every player becomes a free agent at the end of every season, meaning they can join any team they wish. Metcalfe said the existing free-for-all disrupts the league's competitive balance.
"Everyone just can't be a free agent," he said."It's impossible. You can't build anything."
Metcalfe also arguedadraft system to equitably disperse new players coming into the league needs to be set up and a commissioner's office established.
Metcalfe believes the league should also consider relaxing its rules against physical contact and fighting to make games more attractive to fans.
"These issues got to be addressed and I don't know any other way to do this but to say 'time out,'" he said.
The 2007-08 season was slated to begin in September and run until February.
The league's champion is awarded the Clarkson Cup, created by former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson.