I have an idea that I'd like to share with everyone, but first a confession. (To skip my confession and avoid the version of my idea where I ramble on and pretend like I'm talkin' to friends, scroll down to the bottom for the short version under summary.)
I like a few sports other then hockey. Not many, but a few. I like soccer, women's soccer, indoor women's volleyball, women's beach volleyball (though not as much), and of course, women's hockey. (I also like roller derby but I'm not sure that counts as a "sport") I don't follow any of these sports religiously, but when they're on TV, I watch. Did anyone notice a pattern? I guess you could say, I like to watch women compete. It's true, I am a heterosexual male, so you might think I'm coming at this from the wrong direction, but let me just say this: Women are awesome. Women are amazing. Strong women, creative women, intelligent women, confident women - those are my favorites. A woman with soul and courage and determination makes my heart melt. Women that compete are magnificent.
I found Manon Rheaume fascinating and attractive. I think Cassie Campbell is cool. Haley Wickenheiser is awesome and makes me proud. (Not to mention's Kara Lang's performance at the Olympics. Wow.) So think what you will, but I mean this with the best of intentions:
A National Women's Hockey League with a massive promotional push and deep, deep infrastructure. Something comparable to the WNBA, but less clumsy, far fewer teams, and no basketballs.
I'd like to see a six-team super-league playing a 40-game schedule with the best 150 female hockey players in the world. The six teams should play in the Original Six cities; Toronto, Montreal, Detroit, Chicago, Boston, and New York. Calgary and Vancouver are too far off and the travel is too expensive, although the Western Women's Hockey League seems to be the stronger of the two women's professional leagues currently going. The West Coast might have the jump on the East Coast, but it's nowhere near where it should be, and if there's going to be one dominant league, the money is in the east. In time, the two leagues can merge and have some sort of Women's World Series Super Final.
Television exposure is a must. It has to be enormous. Regional and National. I also want to see local media throw their support behind the teams the way they have for Toronto FC and Toronto Rock, and treat the sport like any other big-time sport, with the same class and integrity. On second thought, more so.
I think that with the right attitude and ambition, women's hockey could be a winner. I, for one, could watch a lot more hockey, while paying less attention to the NHL. I'd still follow the Leafs just as much , but the NHL has had my last dollar, and if it ain't free, I ain't buyin' it, and you can't trick me into buying other stuff to get the stuff you say is free. (The funny thing about Coca Cola Zero is that's exactly what I think it's worth.) As long as ticket prices remain somewhere between Blue Jays and Marlies, count me in for at least a few games a year. Not to mention buying a jersey for my wife every birthday and Christmas. Wait, I have a 1-year old daughter, are you crazy?! I'd blow $500 a year on merchandise, if there was a National Women's Hockey League. T-shirts, caps, toques, or anything with a cool team name and logo on it, for the next 17 years! My girl wants to play in the Big League. She doesn't know it yet, but I'm guessing it's true.
The calibre of hockey in a six-team women's league would be exciting and skillful. It could also be a different league with its own variations on the rules (no-touch icing, all games have 3-point value, or conversely - have ties and kill the shoot-out). Fan-emphasis should be placed on players' stats, and every record established as if it has historical significance, because, if done right, it will. The game will have its own stars, and eventually, its own legends. The women that lead, that inspire, with charm and grace and character should be celebrated, in any sport, or any walk of life, but women that play hockey are freakin' wicked-amazing and I want to see more.
Women's Professional Hockey League.
Six-team Super League in the Original Six cities.
Huge marketing push. Let hockey fans take it from there.
(One more link: It was hard to find a hockey blog dedicated to women's hockey only, but here's Total Female Hockey - it's kind of intense. There should be more blog's dedicated to the terrific women who play the greatest sport ever.)