ON SUNDAY, Allan Walsh, an agent for NHL players, tweeted that players in the pool for the USA men's team are considering a boycott of the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation world championship to be played in May in France and Germany to show solidarity with their female counterparts.

The women's team is still boycotting the IIHF women's world championship (top division) scheduled to begin on Friday in Plymouth, Mich.

The women's team is in a dispute with USA Hockey because it wants its players to be recognized as full-time employees who are paid a living wage and receive work-related benefits, including maternity leave and child care.

During the course of the women's threat to boycott, several NHL players and coaches, including Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, have expressed support for the women.

I agree with the women's players that it is pathetic that they are guaranteed only $1,000 a month for six months leading to an Olympics.

But, if these NHL players and coaches are serious about wanting to help women's hockey, they should approach NHL commissioner Gary Bettman with a proposal to subsidize a women's professional league as the NBA did with the Women's National Basketball Association.

In the nutshell, the female hockey players are looking to the wrong party to help their cause.

While the IIHF, of which USA Hockey is a member, is considered the governing body of ice hockey and in-line hockey, it has no authority and little influence on the sport in North America.

The NHL is the alpha dog of hockey in North America. Even though they are members of the IIHF, USA Hockey and Hockey Canada have their own rule books based on the NHL game. And even though there is a fledgling four-team women's professional hockey league in the United States, it is not affiliated with, nor supported by, the NHL.

The organization that has the financial clout to grant the USA women's players what they are seeking in the long game is the NHL not USA Hockey.

The annual revenue of the NHL for 2015-16 was over $4 billion.

If it had the financial stomach and followed the WNBA blueprint, the NHL could easily subsidize a six-team women's league and give players the opportunity to show that their sport could be viable at the professional level.

The teams could share arenas with NHL minor league affiliates such as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. I don't know how many how high-level female hockey players there are in the United States, Canada and Europe, but the NHL played with the "Original Six" for a quarter century until it added six expansion teams, including the Flyers, for the 1967-68 season.

Initially, it would lose a lot of money, just as the WNBA did for the NBA.

Still, the marketing advantages to be gain could be extensive - just as the WNBA produced for the NBA.

For the NHL, It would be a long-term investment geared at increasing the overall exposure of the sport - just as the WNBA did for the NBA.

The WNBA isn't about whether women's basketball is as good as men's basketball. It's about whether the expansion of the NBA product to a new and growing market has been good for the NBA.

It was after witnessing the enthusiasm for the gold-medal-winning USA women's team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta that former NBA commissioner David Stern decided that the timing was right for a professional women's league in the United States.

The NBA was heavily invested in building its already powerful international brand, and Stern believed investing in a women's professional league would add to that marketing muscle.

Stern convinced the NBA Board of Governors that the WNBA would be a good long-term business investment and the league tipped off with eight teams that were owned and operated by NBA teams.

The success of the WNBA is still a matter of debate.

As a self-contained entity, the league has not grown to the point the NBA had hoped after two decades.

If, however, you look at the expansion of the market base that the NBA has profited from by making a real financial commitment to the development of women's basketball, it has worked.

This is the opportunity the women's hockey players should be looking for.

WNBA players make only a fraction of what NBA players make but the average salary of $72,000 is not a bad living-wage for a 34-game season.

The WNBA might remain as it is. It might grow. It could still fail.

A WNHL might survive as long as the WNBA, or it might fail the way that two professional women soccer leagues did.

The point is, that whatever happened would be based on the ability of women's hockey to prove itself as a viable and self-sustaining professional sport in the United States.

That's the chance the women's hockey players really need.

That's the chance that only the NHL can provide - just as the NBA did for the WNBA.

@SmallTerp