The National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) has secured its first television deal in its inaugural season, with New England Sports Network (NESN) agreeing to broadcast the Boston Pride's eight remaining games.
The Pride, one of the league's four inaugural teams, has not yet played their home opening game at Harvard's Bright-Landry Center. The team are currently 3-1 on the season, behind the undefeated Connecticut Whale.
The NWHL began its inaugural season in October, broadcasting games for free on its official website. The league, founded by former NCAA hockey player Dani Rylan, is believed to be the first paid professional hockey league for women.
NESN will debut its NWHL broadcast on Sunday, November 22, when the New York Riveters face the Pride in Boston. Four games total — including the first three of the deal — will be broadcast on NESN. The other four will appear on NESNplus, the network's alternate channel.
The NESN deal is the NWHL's first big step toward establishing itself beyond its small but loyal initial following. Though the players are paid — and their salaries made public — the league has thus far appeared somewhat amateurish, despite the name. The on-ice product is elevated from the NCAA level, but the four teams play in community rinks and against non-NWHL affiliated teams.
The NESN deal for the Pride kicks the NWHL up a notch in its inaugural season, and creates opportunities to grow the fan base and increase profits for the league.
In a statement, Commissioner Rylan said: “The broadcast value of the women’s game has never been better, and we’re happy NESN is providing a stage for and shining a spotlight on some of the best players in the world."
A spokesperson for NESN told BuzzFeed News the network "has had a relationship with league commissioner Dani Rylan for some time prior to and during the creation of the NWHL. Throughout the process, we voiced support and told her that we would be open to helping her when possible."
When asked if NESN intends to broadcast potential Pride playoff games in March, the network said: "No decision has been made at this time about the playoffs – our goal has been to assist in getting the league off the ground first and will consider that opportunity as the time draws nearer."
Lindsey Adler is a sports reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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