The CWHL today released its 2018-19 regular season schedule. The league's 12th season begins on Saturday, October 13 with all teams in action, as Les Canadiennes de Montréal host the Calgary Inferno, the Toronto Furies host the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays, and reigning Clarkson Cup champion Markham Thunder host the Worcester Blades. Each team will play a 28-game schedule, wrapping up the regular season in late February. An All-Star Game will also take place on the weekend of January 19-20, 2019.
Les Canadiennes de Montréal: October 13 at 6:30 PM versus Calgary Inferno
Toronto Furies: October 13 at 7:00 PM versus Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays
Markham Thunder: October 13 at 7:30 PM versus Worcester Blades
Worcester Blades: October 20 at 3:00 PM versus Toronto Furies
Calgary Inferno: October 20 at 8:00 PM versus Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays
Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays: November 6 at 7:30 PM versus Worcester Blades
all times local
The CWHL has maintained the terms of its contract with Sportsnet, meaning that four games -- including the All-Star Game and the Clarkson Cup Final -- will be nationally televised in Canada.
Unfortunately, streaming options will once again be limited. An estimated 23 North American games are set to be livestreamed, and interim commissioner Jayna Hefford said the league will try to push for more. Though it's consistent with last season, streaming only about a third of North American games is a step backwards given that, prior to 2017-18, the league had consistently improved streaming access each year.
Brenda Andress suggested in March of 2018 that the CWHL might be moving towards a different streaming venue that would "ensure that our game is able to be heard in the languages that our fans speak" (particularly, in the context of the question, in French). Thus far, there are no indications that that has materialized.
Compensation for players will remain the same as last year, with a base salary structure in place. All rookies (defined as players in their first year in the league) will make $2000 CAD in base salary, while second-year players will earn a minimum of $2500 and players with three or more years in the league are guaranteed $3000. Teams have a salary cap of $100,000, and after base salary amounts are allotted, General Managers are free to implement the structure of their choosing in order to distribute the remainder, with a maximum of $10,000 to any one player. The discretionary amount available to each GM can vary widely from team-to-team, as Montreal, for instance, can expect to dedicate much more of its cap to base salary than Worcester, and thus have less remainder available.
The Jayna Hefford Era
The decision to maintain salaries at the same rate was made before Hefford stepped into the commissioner role, likely by the Board of Directors. Many of the major decisions leading into this season were made prior to Hefford's appointment -- it is only going forward that we will begin to see her vision for the league being implemented.
In terms of her concrete goals for this year, Hefford identified demonstrating the league's sustainability and showing a trustworthy plan to players, in order to attract and retain elite talent. She also emphasized her commitment to increasing the visibility of CWHL players on and off the ice. "We need people to know their faces, we need people to know their stories," she said. "We're built on this league of amazing athletes and role models, and we're in a day and age where people want to know about athletes. That's what's going to bring them to the rink, probably, is going to be that they want to come and see someone."
Hefford was a founder of not only the CWHL, but also of the players association; she has already been in touch with the current PA and described the relationship as one of mutual trust and respect. She anticipates her interim position to be in place though the entirety of the season, and will be included in the search for a permanent commissioner.
(Photo credit: Chris Tanouye/CWHL)