The PWHL is the first pro North American women's sports league with a CBA in place before its inaugural game
The GIST: As the PWHL finalizes its first class of free agents, the hockey org will make history as the first pro North American women's sports league to have a CBA in place before its inaugural game. This milestone marks a crucial culture change for women's sports and should have positive reverberations across the new league. We’re cellying.
The details: The inaugural PWHL CBA was unanimously ratified in July, became active in August, and extends until July 2031. Notable components include a $35K salary minimum, salary-protected pregnancy leave, facilities for nursing mothers, and optimized scheduling and travel accommodations to prioritize player health and safety.
The past: While the league is starting things off right, it's unfortunately powered by players who have experienced their fair share of missteps. Even though the PWHPA buyout of the PHF gave rise to the PWHL (say that five times fast!), the deal voided PHF contracts, leaving players vulnerable to paltry contract payouts, deportation, and unemployment disqualification.
- The PHF also broke ground as the first pro women's hockey league to pay its players, but it took years for the league to offer a living wage or medical care.
The trend: When it comes to other women’s sports leagues, the WNBA was the first to ratify a CBA in 1999, only a year after its inaugural season. However, the NWSL took 10 years to sign its first-ever agreement.
- The soccer league’s 2022 CBA resembles the PWHL’s new deal, including the $35K minimum salary — which grew from a pitiful $6K minimum salary in its first season. The PWHL CBA draws from the best of both leagues: it combines the WNBA's early agreement with the NWSL's player-focused deal.
Zooming out: The PWHL CBA features annual salary and housing benefits increases, reflecting the league's expected profitability. Considering the market for Toronto women's teams and a full-on U.S.–Canada rivalry, there's lots of money to be made on the women's game, and the PWHL is poised for the power play.
- The CBA also solidifies the league’s professionalism, which won’t just benefit players. Investing in talent is a sound business decision and should allow the league to attract more sponsors and grow the game. And a quick glance at the Liga F strike in Spain shows how wage disagreements can cut into profit. It pays to pay women.