Angela James, Hockey Hall of Fame member, opened what could be a growing rift between North America’s top two women’s professional hockey teams on the eve of joining a new ownership group of Premier Hockey Federation’s Toronto Six.
James posted a long note on a Facebook group page days before the PHF announced the sale. She accused the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association of stifling the sport’s growth due to its refusal to unite. Saroya Tinker , a Six player, republished her message on her Twitter account.
“Right now I am so disappointed in PWHPA. James wrote, “Who’s interest are you protecting?”
She said, “Why don’t you try to work out these differences rather than suppressing and handcuffing elite women’s hockey athletes in the advancement of the pro-game already made?” “Women’s Hockey is more than the PHF or the PWHPA. Together we can make history.”
James, who was an assistant coach for the Six this season, stated that she was speaking on her personal terms and didn’t realize she was part the group that bought the Toronto franchise. Bernice Carnegie, cochair of the Carnegie Initiative, was also part of the ownership group.
Liz Knox, a PWHPA adviser, responded to James’ criticism. Knox tweeted Sunday without mentioning James. She stated that “management, coaches and front office (etc.) speak on behalf of players’ experiences instead of supporting players’ voice. This is precisely why the PWHPA was created.”
The Six’s sale to a group that was praised for its diversity was overshadowed by the back and forth.
James is Canada’s only Black national team captain. Nolan, who was the NHL’s Coach of the Year with the 1996-97 Buffalo Sabres is a member the First Nation’s Ojibwe tribe. Hockey Equality is headed by Stewart, whose Jamaican father is also from Jamaica.
The group bought the Six team from BTM Partners. Six was established as an expansion franchise in two years.
The PHF was formerly called the National Women’s Hockey League. It was rebranded last summer. Established in 2015, it is North America’s only professional women’s hockey league. The PHF will expand its roster from six to eight teams next season, offer health care and more than double its salary cap at $750,000 per team.
A majority of the PWHPA members are Canadian and U.S national team players. It was established in May 2019, following the dissolution of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Since then, the two organizations have been at odds. PWHPA members are reluctant to play for the NWHL’s former commissioner Dani Rylan Kearney because of differences in Kearney’s management style. Concerns also were raised over the private-investor-backed league’s financial shortfalls. The league cut players’ salaries by half a month after its second season began. It was also criticised for not always covering players’ meals and travel expenses.
Instead, the PWHPA pushed for a league that had a more sustainable economic model and provided better support for players.
The past two week saw signs that the PWHPA was closing in on its goal. Talks intensified with selected NHL teams as well as major corporate sponsors to create a league within the next one year.
PHF has been undergoing a series transformations over the past two-years. The league has a new business model and its teams are now owned by independent entities. It is also headed up by a board.
Yet, there are still questions after Commissioner Ty Tumminia stated that she resigned after this season. She had overseen much of the PHF’s transformation. Tumminia, who was the franchise’s first chairwoman, will also be leaving the league.
James asked the PHF what the PWHPA would like. He cited the $25 million pledged by league owners over the next three years to raise salaries, improve infrastructure, and add health care.
James wrote that “they have already agreed to all of the PWHPA’s wish lists to my knowledge, and still not enough.” “Let’s combine our resources to benefit the game and let everyone forget their egos.”