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The new professional women’s hockey league marked another key milestone today with the opening of training camps for each of the six teams.
The PWHL began to form in early summer when billionaire Los Angeles Dodgers owner Mark Walter and other investors bought out and dissolved the seven-team Premier Hockey Federation. Walter’s group quickly struck a hiring deal with the Professional Women’s Hockey Association, an alliance of Canadian and American players who have spent the past few years trying to form their own league.
Since then, the centrally organized PWHL has announced the locations of its original six franchises (Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, Minneapolis–Saint Paul and the New York area), hired coaches and executives, signed three core players for each team, held its inaugural draft in Toronto also presented the home and away jerseys of each club yesterday.
“It feels like we’ve been at this for 10 years, but it’s only been four months,” said PWHL board member Stan Kasten, who is also the Dodgers’ president. “We had a blank sheet of paper and no employees four months ago, and now we have over 120 employees.”
“When we started this journey, we didn’t have a roll of tape, a set of laces, a skate sharpener … simple things like Band-Aids,” said Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford, the PWHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations. “We’ve worked incredibly hard to make sure that when players come in, they have everything they need to be a professional athlete.”
Indeed, the PWHL has come a long way in a short time. But much remains on the to-do list as the league approaches the start of its first season in January. such as:
Team names and logos: Based on a trademark filing last month, it appears the PWHL will likely call its teams the Toronto Torch, Montreal Echo, Ottawa Alert, Minnesota Superior, New York Sound and Boston Wicked. But the names aren’t official yet, nor have the team logos been released, resulting in that basic, cookie-cutter stuff jersey designs presented yesterday.
Domestic arenas: The league says some games will be played in NHL buildings, which could include a few neutral showcases. But it is not clear where most teams will play their regular season home games. The training sessions are held in the training areas of the teams. This includes Ottawa’s TD Place Arena (formerly the Civic Centre), where the team will also play their games. The team from Toronto is gathered at the Leafs training arena, while Montreal practices at the Verdun Auditorium, the training center for the Canadian national team.
Specific start date and schedule: All the league has publicly revealed so far is that each team will play a 24-game regular season beginning sometime in January. But Kasten said yesterday that the schedule is “98 percent complete,” with “specialty events or neutral venue events” the only dates to be finalized. Hefford said the teams will typically play twice a week, including one weekend game. The playoff format has not been announced.
TV and streaming rights: Negotiations are underway with potential media partners in Canada and the United States. Kasten said “very many, if not all” of the PWHL’s games will be broadcast on linear television in addition to streaming.
Tickets: There is no way for fans to purchase them yet. But the league accepts deposits of US$50 for the right to be “first in line” when seats go on sale.
Player contracts: The PWHL’s initial free agency period in September saw each of the six clubs sign three core players, all of whom are Canadian or US national team veterans and will likely earn close to the league’s top salary of around $80,000 per year. Among them are the Canadian stars Marie-Philip Poulin (Montreal), Sarah Nurse (Toronto) and Brianne Jenner (Ottawa), and the Americans Hilary Knight (Boston), Kendall Coyne Schofield (Minnesota) and Abby Roque (New York). She also signed with her hometown team in Minnesota First draft pick Taylor Heisewho is turning pro after a stellar college career that saw her win both the women’s hockey version of the Heisman Trophy and the 2022 World Series MVP. But as training camps open, less than half of the roughly 180 players in attendance are currently under contract.
As for the camps, they begin with several days of physical testing and orientation before the players take to the ice on Friday or Saturday. All six clubs will gather Dec. 3-7 in Utica, N.Y., for preseason scrimmages, practices and informational meetings before rosters are whittled down to 23 players, plus two reserves, by Dec. 11.
For a comprehensive look at all six PWHL teams heading into training camp, read this article by CBC’s Karissa Donkin. Listen to Boston star Hilary Knight in the latest episode Player’s Own Voice podcast with Anastasia Bucsis.