Fans will break the ice with the Professional Women’s Hockey League when the inaugural season starts in January, the league announced Tuesday.
The PWHL will be played in Canada and the United States and has the support of the NHL. This isn’t the first women’s professional hockey league and it is a step in continuing to create opportunities for women to excel in the sport.
Women’s sports have continued to grow in viewership and impact. This year saw the NCAA tournament and World Cup set records and open doors for new sports stars to rise, while also showing the work the sports world still has to do to get to a place of true equality.
“We have never seen more excitement and demand for women’s sports,” hockey legend Jayna Hefford, who is the PWHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations said, “and through the launch of this league, the top women’s players in the world will have the opportunity to reach even greater heights.”
When does the inaugural PWHL season start and how many games will there be?
The first PWHL season will start in January 2024 and consist of 24 games played by six teams across Canada and the United States.
What teams will be in the PWHL?
There will be six teams in the inaugural PWHL season. The franchises will be in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto in Canada and Minnesota, New York and Boston in the United States. Team names and logos will be released at a later date.
How will PWHL teams build their rosters?
Each PWHL team can start building its roster on Friday when free agency opens and they can each sign three players.
There will also be a draft. After that, teams can continue signing players as undrafted free agents.
Each team can sign a total of 20 players to its roster.
The league said that it has reviewed the player pool eligibility through a committee that “has extensive knowledge in coaching, scouting, and player development with members representing all levels of the women’s game from professional (PWHPA and PHF) to collegiate programs (NCAA and U SPORTS) to international competition (Hockey Canada, USA Hockey, and IIHF).”
When is the first PWHL draft?
The first PWHL draft will be held on Sept. 18. Players must declare for the draft by Sunday. College players with remaining eligibility are allowed to enter. The draft order will determined via lottery. The draft will be 15 rounds and be held in a snake format.
How much will players be paid in the PWHL?
There is a salary requirement where each team must sign six players to three-year deals worth $80,000 per year. There are no other salary stipulations in the league’s initial release.
When will PWHL training camp start?
The PWHL said training camp will start in November, two months before the season starts in January.
Who is backing the PWHL?
The PWHL is funded by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Mark Walter and his wife, Kimbra. In June, Walter’s company purchased the rights to the Premier Hockey Federation, another women’s hockey league, according to Forbes. The PWHL will replace the PHF, which is essentially dissolved.
Tennis icon and women’s rights pioneer Billie Jean King is on the PWHL Board of Directors with her partner Ilana Kloss and Dodgers executives Stan Kasten and Royce Cohen.
Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford, who won seven IIHF World Championship gold medals with Canada, will serve as Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations.
“On this journey, our players will re-set the bar for greatness and will lift our game to greater heights,” Hefford said in a letter to fans published in English and French. “They will compete for their teammates — and for you. They will inspire the next generation of players, and they will work to continue the advancement of possibilities in our society for confident, powerful, athletic women.”
How has the NHL supported the PWHL?
The NHL released a statement on Tuesday expressing its support for the PWHL.
“The National Hockey League congratulates the Professional Women’s Hockey League on today’s announcements,” the league said. “We remain committed to supporting the women’s game and look forward to working together with the PWHL to grow our sport.”
PWHL board member Stan Kasten, who is the Los Angeles Dodgers’ president, told The Athletic that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has been supportive of the concept, adding the league has offered advice and is open to “doing business” in the future.
“They understand it’s our league,” he said. “But whenever we’ve had a question or a need, they have been right there to assist us and to make suggestions.”
Are there other women’s hockey leagues?
The Professional Women’s Hockey League will replace the Premier Hockey Federation, which was founded in 2015 as the National Women’s Hockey League with four New England-based teams. It expanded to seven franchises across Canada and the United States that competed for the Isobel Cup.
The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association was established in 2019 to be a voice for players in the United States and Canada. The organization holds showcases leading up to a championship tournament where all four teams compete for the title.
There was a feud between the PHF and PWHPA because players didn’t like the business model of the former. When the PHF transferred ownership, the PWHPA agreed on a 62-page collective bargaining agreement to ensure high standards of treatment.
“We’re not celebrating dissolving a league,” Canadian hockey star and PWHPA board member Sarah Nurse said, according to the Associated Press. “We’re excited that we can continue forward together with a league that women’s hockey has really never seen before. There’s been so much hard work and time that has been put into this project, so we’re excited that it is paying off.”