"Our players may not be paid like their male counterparts, but they will be paid. They will be treated like stars, especially by the little girls who will be positively freaking out seeing them in person. And that's a good start." -- Dani Rylan
When Manon Rhéaume, the first woman to play in the NHL, dropped the puck at the Boston Pride-Buffalo Beauts game on October 11, she was again part of history: She kicked off the first game of the first season of the National Women's Hockey League.
Based in the Northeastern U.S., the four-team league was founded by Dani Rylan, a former player at Northeastern University, and Olympian Angela Ruggiero. The league operates on what Rylan calls a new business model. To accommodate players' other jobs, twice-a-week practices are held after work, and to accommodate fans and families, games are held on Sundays between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Rylan says her model also departs from other female hockey leagues by providing health insurance, helping with equipment needs, aiding with the visa process for international players, and, most notably, paying players -- reportedly about $15,000, on average, per 18-game season.
With big financial sponsors still necessary, the league is on thin ice, but the puck is in play.
More On Dani Rylan And The NWHL
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The IMPACT25 is espnW's annual list of the 25 athletes and influencers who have made the greatest impact for women in sports. Explore the 2015 list at espnW.com/IMPACT25.