Courtesy of The PWHL
On Tuesday, major news hit the hockey world. The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) officially launched and an onslaught of new information was released regarding the inaugural season, league plans, draft/free agency and more. After plenty of failed attempts at having a successful unified professional women’s league in the sport of hockey, there is a lot of excitement around the future of the PWHL. As we enter the new era of professional women’s hockey, here’s what you need to know.
How We Got Here
Over the summer, news broke that the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) had been bought out by the owners of the Professional Women’s Hockey Player Association (PWHPA) and the decision was made that a new, single unified league would be created for women’s hockey. Prior to this summer, both leagues operated on their own terms and had a plethora of talented players on the rosters. The PHF was made up of six teams: Boston Pride, Toronto Six, Connecticut Whales, Metropolitan Riveters, Buffalo Beauts and Minnesota Whitecaps. Those teams competed to win the Isobel Cup which was the main goal of each season. The PWHPA had four region based teams that played in a variety of showcases and tours throughout North America. Neither league was backed or supported by the National Hockey League (NHL). Now that the ownership has created the PWHL, both of the previous leagues are part of the women’s hockey history.
Courtesy of @thepwhlofficial
Now that a new era for women’s hockey has officially begun, it’s important to know the basics about the new league. The PWHL’s inaugural season will begin in January 2024 and will feature six new teams based in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, New York, Boston and Minneapolis-St. Paul. While there have not been team names or logos announced yet, the league has chosen major hockey cities to start which is important to the success of professional women’s hockey. Plus, the league’s Board of Governors is made up of Billie Jean King, Ilana Kloss, Royce Cohen and Stan Kasten.
Courtesy of @thepwhlofficial
Now, how do the rosters get created? Sept. 1 to Sept.10 is the initial free agency period where each team can sign three players to contracts. All players who plan to play in the PWHL’s 2023-24 season must declare for the draft by Sept. 3. And the PWHL’s first ever draft will be held on Sept. 18 which will fill out the rosters. Undrafted players can sign with any of the teams after the draft, but each team’s roster cannot exceed 20 players. Training camps will begin in November and fans have plenty of time to get excited about professional women’s hockey before the season starts!
What’s To Come
While the creation of the PWHL is seen as a great thing for women’s hockey, it’s important to note the ups and downs of the decision. Prior to the PWHL, the NHL has never backed a professional women’s league usually due to the issues surrounding not having just one league. The NHL’s support of the PWHL is already a huge step of improvement.
Courtesy of @PR_NHL
Plus, several NHL players have spoken out in support of the sport and new league as well. In an interview with NHL.com, star defenseman Cale Makar was asked about the PWHL and said, “You have six places that are very good hockey cities so they should pull well, and it should make it exciting for people that just watch whether it's men's or women's hockey. It's awesome to see.”
On the flip side, the creation of the PWHL leaves some fans with a lot of questions and unhappiness. All of PHF team names will not be used in the PWHL despite several teams being in the same city which means the history and local roots each of those teams had will no longer matter. And although it has been reported that the league is working on a transgender policy, all the inclusivity work that existed in the PHF has also been reversed until the PWHL sets all the policies for the league.
Either way, the future of professional women’s hockey is brighter now with the creation of the PWHL. Our excitement will continue to grow until January when we get to see the biggest stars in the sport on such a new and big stage. So pick the team who you want to support and get ready for an action packed season that will be a part of history!