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Former Calgary Inferno players push for new professional women’s hockey league

Former Calgary Inferno players push for new professional women’s hockey league
WATCH: A rally was held in Calgary on Saturday in support of creating a new professional women's hockey league. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, former professional players who have now joined a players association say the talent is there and it’s just a matter of getting fans to take a chance on women's hockey.

A rally was held in Calgary on Saturday in the hopes of getting a new professional women’s hockey league started.

In March 2019, the Calgary Inferno won the Clarkson Cup. A week after the victory, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League announced it would fold because the six-team league was “economically unsustainable.”

READ MORE: Inferno’s championship season celebrated at Calgary City Hall while hockey league folds

“It was a bit of a shock for a lot of us,” said Erica Kromm, who played six seasons with the Inferno.

She is the daughter of former Calgary Flames player Richard Kromm and she is now a member of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, which formed soon after the CWHL folded. Its goal is to create a sustainable professional league for women’s hockey.

“I think hockey is Canada’s sport and I don’t think it’s just for men,” Kromm said at the Seton YMCA in Calgary on Saturday.

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Former CWHL members joined forces in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary on Saturday to raise awareness about the need for a women’s league.

The CWHL was founded in 2007 with the mandate of growing women’s hockey, and went on to attract many of the world’s best female hockey players.

“We need fans in the stands for us to be sustainable in the long run, and to get there, we need sponsorships,” Kromm said.

Iya Gavrilova, a former Inferno player and three-time Olympian playing for the Russian Olympic team, was also at the Calgary event. She is encouraging everyone to give women’s hockey a shot.

“There are skilled players and they are fun to watch. There is lots of passion on the ice. People who have never watched this hockey should come and see one game, and I think they will fall in love with it,” Gavrilova said.

READ MORE: ‘Heartbreaking’: Canadian Women’s Hockey League folding due to financial woes

Recreational players who were lending their support at the rally said it is important for girls to have a league they can work towards playing in.

“My heart goes out to [former Inferno players],” said Linda Vaughan, who plays for the Ice Maidens in the Southern Alberta Women’s Hockey Association.

“I used to ski competitively, and I know what it’s like to dream and put all of your effort and your heart and your time into your dream. But then to be told you can’t play hockey? I can’t imagine how devastating that is. It’s devastating not only for them but for girls like my daughter who are starting hockey. Now the message is their dreams don’t matter,” Vaughan said.

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Kromm said today’s young players are better than when she was growing up and deserve a league of their own.

“That is so exciting. It’s grown so much since I was in university, which was 10 years ago. It’s just a matter of time. I’m actually not that worried about it. I know it’s going to get support,” Kromm said.

PWHPA members are pushing for a league that provides financial resources to players and support for training programs.

Players with the CWHL were paid for the first time in 2017 and received between $1,500 and $7,500 for the season.