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NHL not thinking women's league
Female hockey players have no pro options

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Cammi Granato and Sarah Tueting and their teammates had their gold medals, their Wheaties box cover, their guest spots on the David Letterman show.

Only one thing was missing after they returned home to the United States last year after winning the Olympic women's ice hockey championship.A job.

Most returned to college or to high school, their amateur teams and the lives they had before Nagano.

But unlike the U.S. Olympic women's basketball team, many of whom moved on to enticing pro careers following the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, there was no lucrative paycheck awaiting them, no chance to cash in on their years of trudging to 6 a.m. practices and making tortuously long bus rides to games.

All they had was a hope that, someday, there might be a women's pro hockey league in the United States and Canada like the WNBA. Or that they, too, might get a chance to play in men's hockey, as goaltender Manon Rheaume did in the minors.

"I'd love to play hockey and make a living at it. I support a women's league -- 100 percent," Granato said last year. "It would give little girls another set of role models."

According to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, that day likely won't come soon.

With the NHL struggling to generate TV ratings and steady some of its financially unstable franchises, the league itself is fighting to keep its niche among the four major pro sports.