The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, or PWHPA, announced on Friday that it plans to create a women’s hockey league beginning in January. This league, reportedly, will be initially composed of six teams consisting of both PWHPA and Premier Hockey Federation, or PHF, players. The PHF, which was formerly the National Women’s Hockey League, contains seven independent teams.
The new league acquired assets of the PHF, according to the press release, and “has spent months negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with the PWHPA.” The release further reads that “the new league will undertake a thorough and equitable process to ensure that it features the best women’s hockey players in the world.”
While PWHPA players were involved in the negotiations, both PHF and PWHPA players found out about the new league at the same time as the news broke on social media, according to Melissa Burgess of The Victory Press.
Through the acquisition, all PHF contracts will be dissolved and the league in itself will cease to exist. In total, this unnamed league will consolidate 11 teams — seven from the PHF and four from the PWHPA — into six teams with 23 roster spots each. These numbers would leave over 120 professional hockey players without contracts, despite some having just signed deals as recently as weeks ago.
The news came as a surprise to many players, some of whom had already used their previous contracts for large purchases such as leases. The previous contracts had served as incentives for many rookies joining the league in lieu of other pursuits, and the news leaves players without any contractual guarantees.
It is yet to be announced exactly how teams and players will be selected, but it has been reported that PHF players will be treated as unrestricted free agents, and therefore allowed to sign with any team but not guaranteed a contract.
The new league’s $1.5 million salary cap will leave each player with an average salary of $55,000 a year. However, the PHF made history this year in giving many of its players six-figure contracts, something previously unseen in women’s hockey.
There are many key differences between the PHF and PWHPA, one of them being that the two organizations are rivals. The move aims to get rid of the existence of two competing organizations, but merging them into one leaves many questions unanswered.
Another difference between the two organizations is their approach to transgender athletes. Under the PHF, transgender women and nonbinary players have been allowed to compete granted that they have been “living in their … identity for a minimum of two years,” since 2021. This leaves fans and analysts alike wondering if the same rules will stand in the new league, especially as a prominent PWHPA board member, Jocelyne Lamoureux, has been outspoken about her support for the exclusion of transgender athletes.
The acquisition doesn’t only affect the athletes. The abolition of the PHF as an entity also implies the loss of employment of other PHF staff, including coaches, media departments and other behind-the-scenes employees. The change further impacts fanbases, who are now left without teams to support as the new league will start from scratch not only geographically, but also regarding media, branding and other aspects unrelated to hockey.