Women's hockey is getting a new home in North America.
On Tuesday, the Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL) was announced.
The brand-new league will begin play in January and will feature teams from six cities, three from Canada, and three from the United States.
They are: Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and a sixth team from "the New York City area". (This team will be based in either New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut—the final decision will be made soon.)
Let’s go! 🇨🇦🇺🇸🌏 It’s a great day for women’s hockey https://t.co/MEzw3PbklX
— Cassie Campbell-Pascall (@CassieCampbell) August 29, 2023
Though team mascots and uniforms haven't been chosen yet, many people are thrilled by this news.
"Today, we look ahead to a phenomenal future for the PWHL," said Jayna Hefford. She is the PWHL's senior vice-president of hockey operations and was a star player on Canada's national team. "We have never seen more excitement and demand for women's sports, and through the launch of this league, the top women's players in the world will have the opportunity to reach even greater heights."
Sign and draft
And who are the top players?
They include Canadians like Marie Philip-Poulin, Sarah Nurse, and Natalie Spooner, and Americans like Hilary Knight, Amanda Kessel, and Kendall Coyne Scofield.
Starting tomorrow (September 1st), teams will be able to sign these and other superstars during a period known as free agency. Then on September 18, the first-ever PWHL Draft will happen. This is when teams will be able to select the remaining players on their squads.
Not only is this process exciting, this league represents a moment that female hockey players have fought a long time to see happen.
The boycott for change
It wasn't that long ago that there were two women's pro hockey leagues. They were Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) and the U.S.-based National Women's Hockey League (NWHL).
But after years of financial difficulties, the CWHL collapsed in 2019. Though the NWHL continued on (becoming the Premier Hockey Federation, or PHF, in 2021), many of the athletes wanted to see change in their sport.
Most female players were paid very little (sometimes just $5,000 US per year) and had to work second jobs. And the leagues themselves were often poorly run and had little financial support.
So on May 1, 2019, over 200 of the world’s best female hockey players said they were boycotting—or refusing to play in—the NWHL. They said that leagues like it and the CWHL were destined to fail because they were not run properly.
They would not play anywhere until a new league was formed that was better funded and sponsored.
Is this the league?
After four years of work, everyone is hoping that the PWHL will be that league. The world’s best players are back on board and things look promising.
Its first season will have a 24-game regular season, followed by playoffs. The next season—2024-25—will expand to 32 games. The NHL (National Hockey League) will support and advise the league. And the PWHL leadership includes experience sports veterans like Stan Katsen, (also president of the Los Angeles Dodgers), ex-NHL executive Brian Burke, and tennis legend and women's sports activist Billie Jean King.
Most importantly, the PWHL is ready to provide better support for its athletes.
For starters, the average salaries in the PWHL are going to be between $35,000 and $80,000 USD. But there will also be other benefits, such as health insurance, a retirement plan, maternity leave, and more. These are benefits that are widely enjoyed in other pro sports, but not in women’s hockey until now.
Both athletes and fans are hoping that this is the starting of a lasting women’s hockey league!