Pros and cons of NWHL 'attendance based bonuses' for players

BROOKLYN, NY - OCTOBER 25: An official NWHL puck sits in an ice bucket prior to the game between the New York Riveters and the Connecticut Whale of the National Womens Hockey League on October 25, 2015 in Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
BROOKLYN, NY – OCTOBER 25: An official NWHL puck sits in an ice bucket prior to the game between the New York Riveters and the Connecticut Whale of the National Womens Hockey League on October 25, 2015 in Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

In the wake of the National Women’s Hockey League’s announcement of salary cut and the departure of three players (thus far) positive news is hard to come by.

On Friday, the league announced a bonus program for players directly tied to ticket sales.

From the NWHL press release:

For each game, players will receive 100 percent of ticket revenue after 500 tickets are sold. There will be a 50/50 split between the home and road teams participating in the game. The bonus is for every regular season game at every venue, and went into effect on Dec. 1.

Scroll to continue with content

“The decision to have the players benefit from strong attendance came out of recent discussions about how we can grow our league and business together,” said NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan. “We’re very happy to offer this to the players and be the only women’s hockey league in North America that not only compensates its players, but provides attendance-based bonuses. The players make our league, and they deserve this. Our fans should know that when they come out to see NWHL games and fill the stands, they are supporting our amazing players in a big way.”

As an example, when the Boston Pride hosted the Connecticut Whale on Dec. 3 and drew a capacity crowd of 750, the players from both teams shared all of the revenue from the 250 tickets sold over the 500-seat mark. The attendance-related payout is a bonus beyond each player’s salary.

The Ice Garden reported the bonus will only be given to players who are in the lineup for the game that meets the ticket requirements.

Let’s break the announcement down into pros and cons.


• PRO: More money for the players, obviously.

The league, in partnership with the NWHLPA, are finding new ways to get the players money. This is in addition to the players continuing to earn 15-percent of all jersey and shirsey sales.

PRO: The players are united under the NWHLPA.

Yes, they don’t have the lawyers or the power of the NHLPA but it’s something. They have shown they can negotiate with the NWHL on behalf of their teammates and keep it private between the two sides; unlike earlier when the players posted their demands to Twitter. This is critically important as the league rebuilds its image with sponsors, fans and partners.


Anya Battaglino of the Connecticut Whale is one of the player reps to the NWHLPA. She was a part of the group that came to the decision on the bonuses. The Ice Garden had an insightful, in depth interview with Battaglino published prior to the NWHL’s announcement:

PA reps and captains have focused on salary cuts, increasing revenue, and keeping teammates from quitting almost nonstop since the November news. “Before [the cuts], you were on the [PA] to see if anyone was going to get a suspension. Or, if we wanna change our bus schedule, that’s a PA rep job,” said Battaglino. “Now it’s, how do you create the glue that keeps people from quitting or keeps the league from going into this turmoil?”

CON: Shifting of some responsibility from the league and teams to the players themselves to get tickets sold.

The players are not only working for (reportedly) half the money, they are now a part of driving ticket sales. Although, per Battaglino, this seems like something the players on her team wanted to know and be a part of:


In an effort to move forward, Battaglino and the Whale are focused on what they can do to build up revenue. The team only recently had its first home game, but players and fans alike were on board. Battaglino and her teammates decided to get the information needed to move forward. This is when players like Battaglino having other jobs comes in handy. “I’m a sales person, so I from the top down am giving [my team] sales structure and they’re loving it. They’re like, ‘great, what are we tracking on ticket sales? [Anya], send us out that. What’s the goal for this game? If we hit the goal, how much money do we make?’”

The tracking of ticket sales serves as more than an indicator of how long the autograph line will be after the game. According to Battaglino, players earn commission for ticket sales: “The league has been able to negotiate a deal where, for surplus tickets, the players are getting 100% commission.”

One thing to watch is the engagement of players on social media and how they do what they can to drive ticket sales.

PRO: Puck Daddy confirmed season tickets are factored into the calculation.


The more season tickets are sold, the less single game tickets have to be purchased in order for the bonus to kick in. People don’t actually have to be there. The tickets just have to be purchased, BUT we don’t recommend that. Go to the games and bring a friend (or five).

We also confirmed the amount each player receives as a bonus is even across the board. It is not weighted based on previous salary, experience or other marker.

PRO AND CON: Rink capacity factors into how much extra money the players can get.

Based on the websites for each location, the capacity at the home rinks are as follows:


Boston Pride – 750 seats at Warrior Ice Arena
Buffalo Beauts – 1800+ seats at Harbor Center (on KeyBank Rink)
Connecticut Whale – 1200 seats at Northford Ice Pavilion
New York Riveters – 600 seats at Barnabas Health Hockey House

If the two sides want to really focus on making significant extra money, it would behoove them to sell out the Beauts home games.

Of all the teams, the Beauts players have the most to gain out of this policy. With the largest arena, the more people they fit in, the more of the 50/50 home team-away team split they’d receive on a consistent basis. Should there be a third season for the NWHL and this policy continues, it could be a big recruiting factor for the Beauts.

The NWHL is on a holiday break until January 7.

– – – – – – –

Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on Twitter!