Hilary Knight was one of the biggest names to help found the National Women’s Hockey League in 2015. That move had come after three years with the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, where she had led the team to a Clarkson Cup victory and became the league’s first American-born player to earn MVP honors.
She’s no stranger to jumping ship, joining the Boston Pride in their inaugural season, winning an Iosbel Cup with them in 2016, and winning the league’s first scoring title. After winning gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics, there’s no doubt that the Pride were hoping to have their biggest star come back.
Instead, the 28-year-old forward has signed with Les Canadiennes de Montreal, returning to the CWHL before their post-season run.
It’s an interesting move, to say the absolute least. Knight has been a face of the NWHL and one of the most prominent members of the US Women’s National Team, working toward growing the game and getting more opportunities for women to continue to compete at high levels of the sport. So why wouldn’t she be returning to the young league that could certainly use her star power?
First, the NWHL’s signing window closed a few days ago, while Knight was still on her victory tour with Team USA. Those few days are important for these women to secure sponsorship and endorsement deals. She had less time to decide if she would return to the NWHL this season.
Then there’s money. The NWHL has garnered plenty of criticism for slashing player’s wages tremendously after becoming the first league to pay women to play professionally. The CWHL is in its first season of paying players and has a cap range of $2,000 to $10,000. The NWHL is $5,000 to $7,000.
Finally, the bottom line is that Knight will get to play more hockey. With only four teams in the NWHL, playoffs are a single game elimination, meaning the entire process is determined by the outcomes of three games. The CWHL does a best of three series, allowing Knight a long post-season with a team that is a solid contender — a reason she didn’t return to the Boston Blades, who are out of the playoff picture.
Knight is among three other big names who have moved from the NWHL to the CHWL: Alex Carpenter, Megan Bozak, and Kelli Stack.
The NWHL was formed to address a need that wasn’t being met in the CWHL. With the CWHL moving toward a stable pay structure, the incentive of playing in the NWHL feels lost. Knight moving across leagues could have just as big of an effect as it did the last time. The course of women’s hockey has been changing and this might push the leagues to consider their future with each other.
Knight hasn’t committed to Montreal past this season, though.
You can read more about it below. First, here’s Sharks news and notes:
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Around the world of hockey:
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Knight is expected to practice with the team this Thursday, and make her debut in the lineup with Les Canadiennes on Sunday, March 11, against the Calgary Inferno at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard.
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Hilary Knight joining les Canadiennes could be a game changer, for the team and the game – The Athletic
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