A new professional women’s hockey league will see the light of day in January in North America after an agreement was reached between rival factions of the sport.
Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Mark Walter, his wife Kimbra, team president Stan Kasten and tennis legend Billie Jean King will help run the league after Walter’s company buys out Premier’s assets hockey federation (PHF).
The deal announced Friday ends a years-long feud between the PHF, which has seven teams, and the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), a group that includes many players from the U.S. and Canadian national teams who don’t wanted to join the league formerly known as the NWHL.
“I am extremely proud of our PWHPA group, who have remained true to our vision and our efforts to forever change the landscape of professional women’s hockey,” said Kendall Coyne Schofield, PHWPA member and star of the team. American women, in a press release. Over the past four years, we have worked tirelessly to bridge the gap between young girls and boys and those who dream of becoming fans of the sport. »
The draft could also see the NHL play a bigger role. Commissioner Gary Bettman said he and the team owners don’t want to get involved in a dispute and will support only one league, once it’s formed.
“The National Hockey League congratulates the Professional Hockey Players Association and the Premier Hockey Federation on their agreement,” the NHL said. We have already started discussions with representatives of this unified group on how we can work together to continue to develop women’s sport. »
Over the past 14 months, the PWHPA has worked with the Mark Walter Group and Billie Jean King Enterprises to launch its own league.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to advance women’s sport,” said Ms. King. I have no doubt that this league can capture the imagination of fans and a new generation of players. »
The PHF was scheduled to enter its ninth season this fall. Instead, it should go out of business. The new league will bring together the most accomplished players from North America and will likely include talented players from Europe and Asia who have played in the PHF.
On this subject, Kevin Raphaël, the president of the Force of Montreal, member of the PHF, makes it known “that we do not yet have a direction in relation to what is coming. We are waiting and we remain patient for the rest of things. We should know more in the next few days. »
One of the PWHPA executives, Jayna Hefford, and PHF commissioner, Reagan Carey, are expected to play prominent roles in the new league.
“This is another step forward for women who play professional hockey and for girls who dream of it every day,” said Johanna Boynton, who along with PHF co-governor John Boynton will also be part of of the league management.
Among the many questions that need to be settled is that of the number of teams and where they will play. The PHF, which had doubled the salary cap for each team to $1.5 million at the start of the season, had teams in Boston, Toronto and Montreal, as well as East Rutherford (New Jersey), Hartford (Connecticut), Buffalo (New York) and Richfield (Minnesota).
The PWHPA was certified as a union in the spring and completed negotiations for a collective agreement. A 62-page contract was presented to PWHPA members on Thursday evening, and the group has until Sunday evening to ratify it and the new league’s bylaws, according to a person familiar with the details who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity before the deal was announced.
If approved, the deal will run until 2031 and provide for a minimum salary of $35,000 for players on active rosters, the person said.
In the meantime, the PHF players’ existing contracts have been cancelled, although an agreement has been reached to pay those under contract part of their wages until September, the person told Reuters. PA. Some players are losing contracts they signed worth more than $150,000 over two seasons.
The higher salaries have enabled the PHF to attract several top international players, including Switzerland’s Alina Muller, Sweden’s Emma Soderberg and former Finnish goalkeeper and former PHF board member Noora. Raty.
North American women’s professional hockey has seen league after league over the century, with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) closing its doors in 2019 after 12 seasons in which some of the best players in the world demonstrated their skills. TO DO. Dani Rylan Kearney started the NWHL in 2015 as a four-team, investor-funded league, but the league struggled at times and was renamed PHF.
The PWHPA was created in 2019 following the demise of the CWHL. Its members refused to join the NWHL and preferred to pursue their vision of a league with a sustainable economic model and better compensation.
Earlier this month, PWHPA board member and American star Hilary Knight insisted that the PHF was not the best model to build women’s professional hockey, even though the division in the sport persisted.
“I make this distinction: the more women who get paid to play the sport they love, the more awesome it is,” Knight said. What bothers me is the illusion of professionalism and what women’s hockey should be, and being content with what it is, right? And I think that’s the big difference: let’s call things by their name. »