Women’s hockey in 2023 made Danièle Sauvageau feel like she was reaching the top after years of climbing an ever steeper hill.
“There’s a snowball effect,” Sauvageau said.
The latter, who was the coach of the first Canadian team to win Olympic gold in women’s hockey, at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, is now the general manager of the new Montreal team in the Professional Hockey League. feminine.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Sauvegeau said. I am very happy, because at one point I had doubts. I had doubts that it would come to fruition. »
The need for a professional league in North America, bringing together the best players in the world and combining sponsorship, marketing and broadcast rights, has been a long-desired goal in women’s hockey.
The lack of cohesion, workforce and sustainable financing had prevented such a project from coming to fruition until now.
With the support of former tennis star and minority owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers Billie Jean King, members of the Professional Women’s Hockey League Players’ Association (AJLPHF) have impressed a man with deep enough pockets to invest in their approach.
The announcement earlier this summer that Dodgers owner Mark Walter had purchased the assets of the seven-team Premier Hockey Federation and negotiated a collective bargaining agreement with women who wanted to play in his new league, ended an impasse between the two women’s hockey entities.
The result is a mix of AJLPHF members, former PHF athletes and other players from the university ranks.
The new 157-player league will begin on January 1, with a match between New York and Toronto. The Montreal club will face that of Ottawa the next day, at TD Place, in the Canadian federal capital.
In addition, the Montreal club’s first home match will take place on January 13, against Boston.
“In my opinion, this is the most important year for our sport because of the evolution and launch of the LPHF,” said Jayna Hefford, member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and senior vice-president of the hockey operations of the new league.
“It’s been a long journey, with ups and downs. I think even the leagues of the past, they’re part of the journey. We wouldn’t be here without them,” Hefford continued.
“Attracting an owner like Mark Walter to women’s hockey [is huge]. I can’t imagine a sport that wouldn’t want him as an owner in their sport,” she continued.
“And with someone like Billie Jean King at the forefront of what we’re doing, we finally have the investment to successfully implement this,” Hefford summed up.
The LPHF’s six teams are based in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Boston, New York and Minnesota.
Internationally, the United States reconquered the women’s world title in Brampton, after two years of domination by Canada, and Olympic gold for the maple leaf in 2022.
The Americans also won three of the first four games of the Rivalry Series against Canada.
The other three will take place from February 7 to 11, 2024, in Saskatoon and St. Paul.
The 2024 Women’s World Championship will take place April 3-14 in Utica, New York.