By Jackson Boline
A single professional women’s hockey league could finally be on the horizon in North America. After years of division between two leagues, it looks as if one league will soon be a reality. The Professional Hockey Federation (PHF) and the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA) announced a merger Friday, June 30. The intent is to start the new league in January 2024. The new league is expected to start with six teams, three in the U.S. and three in Canada.
In response to the acquisition, the players of the PHF have formed a player leadership committee, made up of 11 members, with each club being represented.
The representatives include:
Jillian Dempsey and Allie Thunstrom of the Boston Pride
Dominique Kremer of the Buffalo Beauts
Kacey Bellamy and Kennedy Marchment of the Connecticut Whale
Madison Packer, Kaleigh Fratkin, and Katerina Mrázová of the Metropolitan Riveters
Sydney Brodt of the Minnesota Whitecaps
Ann-Sonhie Bettez of the Montreal Force
Shiann Darkangelo of the Toronto Six
A statement from the PHF Leadership Committee was released Monday, July 3:
“Today, all women’s hockey players are united stronger than ever as we enter this new era.
While our player leadership committee may only officially represent the interests of the former PHF player pool, we join the table as teammates here to support the needs of all hockey players – collaboratively building a product everyone can be proud of. We look to depart from the divisive narrative that too often plagued the man’s great achievements across professional women’s hockey and become unified as we collectively create Hockey’s future.
As we embark on another league formation, we bring the power and the infrastructure we fought to build. We are hugely excited to see a unified league that will house all of the best athletes that hockey has to offer and aim to build the strongest league that can stand the test of time. The PWHPA was an incredible mirror that asked us to reflect on the changes we desired and fight for them in solidarity, and we will bring that momentum with us.
We are empowered to be entering an environment that has a union and CBA that lays out a roadmap to continue to build on. That work in harmony with our new ownership group will be a great addition to the foundation that years of athletes within our league and before we in the NWHL, CWHL, and WWHL have laid. Although this is the end of the PHF as we knew it this evolution will never erase the tireless and thankless work of our athletes.
This is a moment in a much larger movement that has hundreds and hundreds of names that will one day be enshrined in history. In the face of change, we choose to honor those builders and celebrate the future. We started this thing and we aren’t done yet. Onwards and upwards. Together. – THE PLAYER LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE”
The PWHPA has around 100 members listed, which is most of the Canadian women’s hockey team, and half of the U.S. women’s roster during this year’s world championship. Some names include stars like Hilary Knight and Kendall Coyne Schofield, who are also PWHPA members. This league operated four teams in nine events during the 2022-23 season, including a championship tournament in Southern California. Players of the league trained out of hubs in Boston, Calgary, Minnesota, Montreal, and Toronto.
The PHF has seven teams, featuring two Canadian franchises, and five American franchises. The teams in Canada include the Toronto Six, which won the league championship this season, and the Montreal Force. The other five teams are Boston, Connecticut, Minnesota, Metropolitan, and Buffalo.
This new North American league will be financially supported by Mark and Kimbra Walter. The board members will include Billie Jean King, sports executive LLana Kloss, and Los Angeles Dodgers President Stan Kasten.
The new CBA will run through 2031, and having one in place before the league begins play is a first for professional women’s sports in North America. The new CBA was voted on by only PWHPA members. The next step for the new league is to determine a name that represents both the PWHPA and the PHF. The final step is to figure out where its six teams will be located. Three teams will be located in the U.S. and three will be in Canada.