NWHL doubles salary cap to $300K, delays Montreal expansion

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FILE - Boston Pride players cheer as coach Paul Mara hoists the NWHL Isobel Cup trophy after the team's win over the Minnesota Whitecaps in the championship hockey game in Boston, in this Saturday, March 27, 2021, file photo. The National Womens Hockey League made a potentially game-changing decision for the sport in approving to double its salary cap to $300,000 for each of its six teams on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, based on projections it is making strides in achieving financial stability entering its seventh season. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm, File)

The National Women’s Hockey League announced Wednesday it is doubling its salary cap to $300,000 for each of its six teams based on projections that it is making strides in achieving financial stability entering its seventh season.

“Making an investment in those players by doubling the salary cap we believe is a very strong signal that we’re serious about this,” Boston Pride chairman Miles Arnone told The Associated Press. “This is something we can afford to do. It’s substantial, yet it doesn’t mark the end. It marks the beginning of a process we expect to go on over the next number of years.”

At the same time, Arnone said the league is putting off adding an expansion franchise in Montreal until the 2022-23 season because of continuing uncertainties due to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in Canada. Arnone has a stake in the BTM ownership group behind the Montreal expansion bid and operates the Toronto Six, which completed its first season.

Arnone said the decision to increase the cap and delay expansion are unrelated.

The decision to increase the cap means salaries will average $15,000 based on 20-player rosters. Arnone estimated salaries will range between $10,000 to $35,000, not including additional bonuses that come with the league’s revenue-sharing agreement with its players.

Though the NWHL is not yet turning a profit, first-year commissioner Tyler Tumminia cited inroads made in generating major sponsorship deals — including a high-six-figure agreement with Discover — and growing its fan base despite playing a shortened two-week season that was disrupted by a COVID-19 outbreak and forced a near two-month postponement of the playoffs.

“In a very challenging year for all sports, I think this is a very exciting announcement, and something we’re proud of as a league, frankly being at the point where our goals are literally becoming reality now,” Tumminia told the AP. “If you go to project out, we’re confident that the model and the revenue stream is going up.”

Aside from the challenges of establishing a new team amid COVID-19 restrictions still in effect in Canada, Arnone noted he would prefer to focus on developing the Six’s infrastructure and fan base. The Six have yet to play a game in Toronto after spending their first season exclusively in the United States due to the border being closed.