NHL set to throw women's hockey Olympic lifeline

Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:34pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - The NHL is prepared to throw women's hockey an Olympic lifeline and said on Thursday that it is in talks to help set up a North American professional league for the world's top female players.

After years of dominance by Canada and the United States, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge warned at the Vancouver Olympics that women's hockey must be more competitive or risk removal from the Winter Games.

An elite league is considered a key step in helping narrow the massive gap in talent that has left women's hockey fighting for Olympic survival.

The league could look similar to the WNBA, which partnered with the National Basketball Association to form a professional women's basketball circuit that began in 1997 with all teams owned by the NBA.

"We've been having dialogue over a couple of months discussing structures of a women's league," said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly during a break in meetings on the final day of the World Hockey Summit.

"We talked about getting more specific and building a business plan and seeing what ways, if any, the NHL can help facilitate those efforts."

The NHL's efforts to help women's hockey comes at the same time it is considering ending its participation at the Winter Games. Citing various concerns, the NHL has not committed to the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Meanwhile, the women players have pleaded for patience and remind the IOC that their first world championship was in 1990 and only entered the Olympic program in 1998.   Continued...