Chinese expansion X factor in CWHL pay breakthrough

The Canadian Women’s Hockey League will pay players for the first time in its 11-year history beginning this season, the league announced Friday.

Although players won’t receive full livable wages, they will earn a stipend ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. General managers will have a $100,000 budget to distribute to up to 25 players. Additional income can be earned through bonuses for team and individual awards, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

At a meeting of the CWHL’s GMs on Thursday, the league also agreed to increase budgets for hiring coaches and GMs, and for grassroots initiatives in each of the league’s cities. The CWHL has North American markets in Calgary, Toronto, Markham, Montreal and Boston.

“Each year we will build and increase all of those categories until we’ve reached a point where we can actually call it a salary,” said Brenda Andress, the league’s commissioner.

In June, the CWHL expanded to China with the addition of Kunlun Red Star. Later in the summer, the league added a second Chinese team, the Vanke Rays. Both will be based in Shenzhen and are a focus of China’s push to build a contending program in time for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.