Training at a high level in women's hockey is quite different than training at a high level of men's hockey, despite what you may think. With less opportunities at the top and less of a chance to make a living off the game, expectations have to be adjusted along the way.
The incentive for women to train at a high level is to get a roster spot on a University team. Other than making the National team, the goal is to play University hockey. Spots are limited on the National team and players are usually scouted at younger ages and are in the Hockey Canada system before moving onto University. It’s very rare that players are picked from University to play in the National team program because of this.
University hockey is a path to the CWHL and NWHL, but with so few teams in these leagues, women have come to accept University as the highest realistic level of competitive hockey to achieve after minor hockey years. Society sees playing at the University level for females as an impressive feat and is highly touted among girls.
Some players decide to play hockey in Europe but only after their University career. The level of hockey in Europe is the equivalent to a junior level of women’s hockey in Ontario overall. That being said, each team is allowed to have a certain number of NCAA/CIS imports still making the league competitive. It gives players a chance to travel the world playing hockey. Monetary compensation can range from very low to no money at all.
If women don’t make it beyond the Midget AA/AAA level or the junior level then their competitive hockey careers are over and they are forced to either leave the game behind as a player or continue on in other roles such as coaching, scouting, etc. Most women will play at the senior level of hockey a few times a week for social purposes and to stay active.
With men, the goal is simple - make it to the NHL where there are more opportunities in a 30-team league. Even if you don't make the NHL, you can make a living in the AHL or even overseas in Europe in plenty of different countries.