New female junior hockey league starting in Saskatchewan in 2023-24, and it is long overdue.
Hockey Saskatchewan announced Tuesday they’ve approved the creation of the Under-22 league and a task team is working on a process to seek applications from communities to be part of the inaugural season in 2023-24. According to the organization, at least a dozen communities expressed interest in starting a female junior league when initial discussions were held in the fall.
Womens hockey has been the most under serviced segment of hockey development in North America for the last decade. The development of a legitimate junior league for women, that serves women and their development for college hockey and now women’s professional hockey, is the first step in giving the right amount of attention to one of the most exciting and entertaining group of athletes in the world.
“With Under-13 AA this year within the Saskatchewan Female Hockey League, we’ve seen that league grow to well over 100 teams. Adding a junior option for young ladies is something that’s going to be exciting as well,” Hockey Sask General Manager Kelly McClintock said in a statement released on Tuesday. “Our Task Team is creating the process to recommend to the Board how teams can apply, how teams will be selected and how the league will be administered. It is a great initiative for us.”
This is not the first attempt to organize a women’s junior league, but it is the first attempt to do so within Hockey Canada and through an initiative of one of its banches.
The United States based Junior Womens Hockey League has been working at developing young women for a fourteen years now. While based in the Northeastern United states it has two Canadian members, one from British Columbia and one from Quebec.
The JWHL has proven that not only is there a player pool for a league like this, but there is a demand at the NCAA and USports levels. With hundreds of NCAA commitments and plenty of USports commitments, it is clear that the scouts are coming.
While the JWHL has only two divisions of U-19 and U-16, this new league in Canada could see some of the JWHL players making their way up north to continue playing who may not be ready for NCAA hockey. Providing a greater development path that extends the careers and options for these young women.
The work in Saskatchewan is just beginning, and more announcements are expected in January.