Several members of the Calgary Inferno say they remain confident about the future of professional women’s hockey in Calgary despite Sunday’s announcement by the CWHL that it will cease operations on May. 1.
“We were obviously really completely surprised and disappointed at the news,” said Inferno’s forward Dakota Woodworth at a Monday morning news conference at WinSport arena.
“You never want to wake up and hear that your league has been completely ended,” Woodworth said.
Even though she is disappointed, Woodworth says that she is confident after speaking with other players and staff that professional women’s hockey will remain in Calgary and Canada.
“I think that we can get something done, just because we have to.”
Inferno’s assistant coach Becky McGee and general manager Kristen Hagg echoed Woodworth’s belief that women’s professional hockey still has a place in Calgary.
Hagg pointed to a similar situation that happened in 2007 when the former National Women’s Hockey League folded and players from that league stepped up to form the CWHL.
“The players all came together and they found a way to make it work,” Hagg said.
“Whether we end up a few steps back in order to move more steps forward, we’ll make it work somehow.”
Players in this together
As the Inferno’s representative for the CWHL players association, Woodworth said players are united in trying to find a solution.
“We’re really unified in this and we’re confident we can come up with a solution that works for everybody,” she said, adding, “No one is rushing off to go sign contracts somewhere else.”
Hagg agreed, saying she has trust in the players.
“The players are very intelligent … so I have a great deal of confidence in them to figure out the right direction to go.”
In an interview on Sunday, Woodworth said the key to moving forward is becoming one professional women’s league.
“That is definitely what is best for the sport and I would have said that even two years ago. That’s really what’s best, all the best players in the world need to be play against each other,” Woodworth said.
Hagg said now is the time to ignore rumours, gather good information and move forward, preferably by finding someone to invest women’s hockey long-term.
“Essentially, we need someone who is prepared to provide substantial and long-term investment in seeing this through over the course of however many years it’s going to take, rather than continually having sponsors come and go,” she said.
Woodworth’s frustration with the collapse of the league, which blamed an unsustainable business model, is clear.
“It’s a waste and a missed opportunity and a disservice to communities across North America to not invest in women’s hockey right now,” said Woodworth.
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