A week has passed since the purchase of the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) by the controlling shareholders of the Professional Female Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), and Ann-Sophie Bettez still has mixed feelings. Even if it means the end for the Montreal Force, this evolution initiates a necessary renewal for women’s hockey.
Bettez’s tone of voice was less dark than expected. After all, the team of which she was captain no longer exists, several of her former teammates will take different paths from hers and uncertainty marks all her thoughts.
“It was a surprise and it takes a few days to digest,” she breathes on the phone.
No one saw such news coming. Not even the players involved. While all of the Force and PHF players were expecting to return to action in October, some of them will have to wait to see how the new league handles roster distribution. Others will simply have to revise their career plans.
“What is most difficult is that some players have moved in anticipation of the next season to come and play here. They rented an apartment, and there, we find ourselves in front of a lot of uncertainty, ”says Bettez.
If the PHF players “fell on the snake”, the PWHPA players lucked up and climbed the ladder. The creation of such a league had been in the association’s plans since its founding in 2019. In principle, the majority of its players should be spared. “You lose more in that,” Bettez thinks, “but looking back, that’s where [women’s hockey] was going. »
Even if the disappointment is deep, the future is bright: “We are really in the advancement of women’s hockey. »
For most observers, the cohabitation of two rival women’s networks was nonsense.
The unification of the best players in the world within the same league was inevitable and even desired by the 35-year-old athlete.
The next step, she believes, will be a strong involvement of the National Hockey League (NHL). If the idea of having two camps repelled Gary Bettman and his associates, having sacrificed the PHF, hopes Bettez, can at least bear fruit. “And maybe open up to eight teams to give a few more players a chance to play,” she added.
Between them, the PHF and the PWHPA had 11 teams. That number will be nearly halved, with six teams in the new league.
The most affected players will undoubtedly be those who have recently come from the university ranks. Simply because they have not had the chance to prove themselves among professionals. Consequently, if there is a repechage, the teams will have too small a sample to select them, compared to the established players of the PHF.
The place of a veteran like Bettez is not assured, however: “There is nothing you can take for granted,” she says.
However, it is obvious that her situation is less precarious than that of some of her young teammates. “My heart goes out to all of you who have made sacrifices to train and make a living out of hockey full time. »
Bettez will therefore have been the first and last captain of the Montreal Force.
The Quebec adventure of the PHF will have charmed hockey fans across the province, from Sept-Îles to Saint-Jérôme via Quebec City, but the project came to an abrupt end. Too steep, no doubt.
Resilient, Bettez decided to be optimistic rather than fatalistic. “Being angry, being disappointed, these are emotions you have to live with. »
Looking to the future, Bettez refuses to dwell on his own fate. She has fought her whole life to advance the cause of women’s hockey, and now that the horizon is clearing up, she wants to be part of this revolution.