Professional Women's Hockey League

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • Professional Women's Hockey League
  • Ligue professionnelle de hockey féminin (French)
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2023–24 PWHL season
SportIce hockey
Founded2023
First season2023–24
Owner(s)Mark Walter Group
CommissionerJayna Hefford (SVP)
No. of teams6
Countries
  • Canada (3 teams)
  • United States (3 teams)
Broadcasting
Official websitehttps://www.thepwhl.com/en/

The Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL; French: Ligue professionnelle de hockey féminin, LPHF) is a professional women's ice hockey league in North America, wholly owned and operated by the Mark Walter Group. It consists of six franchises, three each from Canada and the United States, who play a regular season of matches to earn one of four places in a postseason tournament that determines the champion. On April 4, 2024, the Walter Cup was introduced as the leagues championship trophy. The Walter Cup was created in partnership with global luxury jeweler, Tiffany & Co.

Differences between the PWHL and other professional hockey leagues, include a 3-2-1-0 points system, terminations of penalties following a short-handed goal, best-of-five shootouts, and greater restrictions on body checking. The league's matches are broadcast nationally in Canada by the CBC and TSN, their French-language affiliates Radio-Canada and RDS, and Sportsnet. In the United States, it is broadcast in syndication, while worldwide it is streamed on YouTube.

The collapse of the Canadian Women's Hockey League in 2019 led to the establishment of the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), a non-profit organization that advocated for greater professionalism in women's ice hockey. PWHPA members boycotted existing leagues, including the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF), with the goal of establishing a stable, unified professional league, and worked to build a collective bargaining agreement with Mark Walter and Billie Jean King Enterprises. The Mark Walter Group acquired the assets of the PHF following its 2022–23 season. Subsequently, the PWHPA worked with the Mark Walter Group to establish a unified league with new ownership and management. The league's first draft took place in September 2023, and its first season began in January 2024.

History[edit]

Antecedents and the PWHPA[edit]

Top-level and professional women's hockey in North America has developed in starts and stops since the late twentieth century.[1] The National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) launched in 1999, featuring teams mainly in Ontario and Quebec. Some teams from Western Canada competed intermittently, but a Western Women's Hockey League was formed in 2004. The Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) largely replaced the NWHL and ran for 12 seasons, from 2007 to 2019, with teams competing for the Clarkson Cup.[2] The CWHL, which operated on a non-profit basis, did not pay player salaries, but it did offer stipends and bonuses at times as it aspired to become a professional league.[3] However, the league lacked financial stability and it abruptly folded in 2019.[4] A new National Women's Hockey League (later called the Premier Hockey Federation), which did offer player salaries, was established in the United States in 2015, before expanding into Canada in 2020.[5] However, after the dissolution of the CWHL, hundreds of prominent women's players, including Canadian and American Olympians, founded the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association (PWHPA) and opted to boycott existing leagues in pursuit of a unified, financially stable professional league.[6] In the meantime, the PWHPA attracted partnerships with corporate sponsors and NHL teams, organizing exhibition tournaments to generate support for their goal.[7]

In 2022, the PWHPA entered a partnership with the Mark Walter Group and BJK Enterprises—led by Los Angeles Dodgers owner Mark Walter and Billie Jean King, respectively—with the intent to launch a new professional league.[8] In 2023, the two business partners purchased the assets of the Premier Hockey Federation, and the PHF ceased operations.[9][10] The PWHPA negotiated a collective bargaining agreement ahead of the launch of the new professional league the union had been working towards.[11]

Founding[edit]

The establishment of the Professional Women's Hockey League was announced by the Mark Walter Group in August 2023, along with the location of its six charter franchises: Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Montreal, New York City, Ottawa, and Toronto.[12][13] Teams began constructing their rosters that summer, with an initial ten-day free agency period to sign three players.[14] Emily Clark, Brianne Jenner, and Emerance Maschmeyer became the league's first players when they signed with Ottawa.[15] The inaugural draft took place in September at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre in Toronto, where Minnesota chose Taylor Heise as the first pick in a fifteen-round, ninety-player draft from a pool of 286 eligible players.[16] Potential franchise nicknames were registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in October: Boston Wicked, Minnesota Superior, Montreal Echo, New York Sound, Ottawa Alert, and Toronto Torch.[17] The league announced that, due to time constraints, the teams would not be given nicknames until after the inaugural season, and would wear jerseys featuring the name of the teams' locales in a diagonal wordmark.[18][19]

Minnesota's first home game was one of three during the first season that would set a professional women's ice hockey attendance record.

Prior to the start of the inaugural season, all six teams congregated at the Utica University Nexus Center in early December for a five day evaluation camp, including scrimmages used to experiment with new rules.[20][21] The first match took place on January 1, 2024, when Toronto hosted New York at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.[22][23] New York's Ella Shelton scored the league's first goal en route to a 4–0 win.[24][25] Its Canadian television audience of 2.9 million viewers was the largest for a sports or entertainment broadcast that day, beating the 2024 NHL Winter Classic.[26][27] The attendance record for a professional women's ice hockey match would be set three times during the ensuing season: 8,318 at Ottawa's first home game at TD Place Arena on January 2,[28] 13,316 at Minnesota's first home game at the Xcel Energy Center on January 6,[29][30] and 19,285 at the inaugural "Battle on Bay Street" match at Scotiabank Arena on February 16.[31] The Battle on Bay Street also drew the largest ever crowd for women's ice hockey, surpassing the 18,013 that watched Canada play Finland at the 2013 Women's World Championship.[31]

Organization[edit]

The PWHL and all six of its teams are owned by the Mark Walter Group. The Advisory Board of the PWHL is formed by Ilana Kloss, Stan Kasten, and Royce Cohen. Jayna Hefford is the Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations and Amy Scheer is the Senior Vice President of Business Operations.[32] Billie Jean King and Cassie Campbell-Pascall sit as advisors to the Board.[33][34] The league hired over 100 staff members to support league operations, distinguishing it from past women's hockey leagues that have lacked such operational support.[1] The PWHPA organized a formal player's union in early 2023—the PWHL Players Association (PWHLPA)—that became the players' union representing all PWHL players.[35] Unique to professional women's hockey, the PWHL established an eight-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the players' union.[36][37] The CBA establishes that each team must sign at least six players to a minimum salary of $80,000, and no more than nine players to a league minimum salary of $35,000, with teams instructed to achieve an average salary of $55,000. The base and average salaries are slated to increase 3% per season through the end of the agreement in 2031.[38] The CBA further outlines performance and team bonuses, including a $63,250 bonus for the championship-winning team, and other financial incentives, including housing stipends.[38] Brian Burke acts as the executive director of the players' union.[39]

Format and rules[edit]

Pos Team W OTW OTL L Pts
1 PWHL Montreal 6 0 0 0 18
2 PWHL Toronto 3 2 1 0 14
An example of the 3-2-1-0 points system; Montreal has 18 points for 6 wins, while Toronto has 9 points for 3 wins, 4 points for 2 overtime wins and 1 point for an overtime loss, adding up to a sum of 14 points.

The inaugural PWHL season consists of a 24-game schedule lasting from January to May, during which each team faces the other five opponents at least four times.[40] From the 2024–25 season, the schedule will be expanded to 32 games played from November to May, each team facing their opponents at least six times.[41] The schedule includes a mid-season break during the annual IIHF World Women's Championship in April.[40] A 3-2-1-0 points system is used for classification, whereby a team is awarded 3 points for a regulation win, 2 for an overtime or shootout win, and 1 for an overtime or shootout loss.[42] At the end of the regular season, the best four teams qualify for a postseason tournament that determines the champion, comprising two semi-finals and a final played as a best-of-five series.[43][44]

PWHL rules closely follow National Hockey League and International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) standards, with some notable innovations.[45] A "jailbreak" rule allows a team to terminate a minor penalty against by scoring a short-handed goal.[42] During best-of-five shootouts, any player is eligible to shoot at any time, including taking multiple attempts.[45] Like the Swedish Women's Hockey League, the PWHL breaks women's ice hockey and IIHF conventions and allows body checking, with the rule-book outlining that checking is permissible "when there is a clear intention of playing the puck or attempting to 'gain possession' of the puck", allowed principally along the boards.[46][47] League executive Jayna Hefford has stated that body checking was included at the behest of the players.[46] Other allowances of body checking include "if two (2) players are in pursuit of the puck, they are reasonably allowed to push and lean into each other provided that "possession of the puck" remains the sole object of the two (2) players." There are two main factors which cause a bodycheck to be seen as "legal" vs. "illegal". The first factor is being able to determine whether or not gaining possession of the puck is the sole purpose of the player initiating the body check. An blatant example of an illegal body check would be if a player is across the ice from the puck, and they initiate a body check against another player. This shows that gaining possession of the puck was not the sole purpose of the player because they were not in a fight for said puck possession. The other factor which determines the legality of a body check is the movement of players. Under rule 52.1 "a player, who is stationary is entitled to that area of the ice. It is up to the opponent to avoid body contact with such a player." If a player were to initiate a body check on a player who is stationary and without the puck, then that would be grounds for a referee to assess a penalty.

Teams[edit]

Locations of teams competing in the 2023–24 PWHL season in eastern Canada and the United States

As of the 2023–24 season, six teams compete in the league: PWHL Montreal, PWHL Ottawa and PWHL Toronto from Canada, and PWHL Boston, PWHL Minnesota and PWHL New York from the United States.[48][49] Described as the league's own "Original Six",[50][51] the teams' locations were chosen for being markets of National Hockey League franchises with "track records of supporting hockey and, specifically, the women's game."[52][53] The teams represent five of the seven markets the Premier Hockey Federation had franchises in at its dissolution; the Buffalo Beauts and Connecticut Whale were not given PWHL replacements, while Ottawa gained a franchise.[49][54] Franchises in London, Ontario, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C. were also considered for the original six.[55] Though all of the teams currently lack nicknames, crests, and stylized jerseys, unique club identities will eventually be adopted in the future.[56][57]

Of the six teams, two share their home ice with an NHL team: Minnesota play all their home games at the Minnesota Wild's Xcel Energy Center, the largest-capacity venue in the league at 17,954,[58][59] and New York plays some of their home games at the New York Islanders' UBS Arena.[60][61] New York also share Total Mortgage Arena with the American Hockey League's (AHL) Bridgeport Islanders.[61][62] Montreal similarly splits its home games between two venues, the Verdun Auditorium and Place Bell; the latter they share with the AHL's Laval Rocket.[63][64] Boston plays at the Tsongas Center at the University of Massachusetts Lowell,[65][66] Ottawa play at TD Place Arena in Lansdowne Park,[67][68] and Toronto play at the Toronto Metropolitan University's Mattamy Athletic Centre in Maple Leaf Gardens, the smallest-capacity venue in the league at 3,850.[69][70] One-off matches at other NHL venues, Little Caesars Arena in Detroit; PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh; and Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, will also be played.[71][72][73]

2023–24 Professional Women's Hockey League teams
Team Location Venue Cap. General manager Head coach Captain
PWHL Boston Lowell, MA Tsongas Center 6,003 Danielle Marmer Courtney Kessel Hilary Knight
PWHL Minnesota Saint Paul, MN Xcel Energy Center 17,954 Natalie Darwitz Ken Klee Kendall Coyne Schofield
PWHL Montreal Laval, QC Place Bell 10,062 Danièle Sauvageau Kori Cheverie Marie-Philip Poulin
Montreal, QC Verdun Auditorium 4,114
PWHL New York Bridgeport, CT Total Mortgage Arena 8,412 Pascal Daoust Howie Draper Micah Zandee-Hart
Elmont, NY UBS Arena 17,255
PWHL Ottawa Ottawa, ON TD Place Arena 8,585 Michael Hirshfeld Carla MacLeod Brianne Jenner
PWHL Toronto Toronto, ON Mattamy Athletic Centre 3,850 Gina Kingsbury Troy Ryan Blayre Turnbull

All-Stars[edit]

For its inaugural season, the PWHL announced that it would collaborate with the National Hockey League on its All-Star festivities, intending to host its own All-Star game in future seasons.[74][75] PWHL All-Stars participated in the "PWHL 3-on-3 Showcase" on February 1 during the 2024 NHL All-Star weekend in Toronto where it featured 24 PWHL players divided between Team King and Team Kloss—named after Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss, respectively—coached by Cassie Campbell-Pascall and Meghan Duggan.[75]

Broadcasting[edit]

Internationally, the Professional Women's Hockey League is streamed via the league's official YouTube channel. In Canada, the league is also avaliable nationally on TSN, Sportsnet, and CBC(In French on RDS, Radio-Canada and IciTouTv). In the United States, the league is available regionally on Bally Sports North, NESN, SportsNet Pittsburgh and MSG Network.[76][77]

Attendance Records[edit]

Many of the PWHL arenas boast capacity sizes which are commendable to such a young program, although there is some discrepancy between locations (PWHL Minnesota plays at the Xcel Energy Center which holds 20,554, while PWHL Montreal plays at the Verdun Auditorium which holds 4,000). Despite this inconsistency, a record breaking number of fans attend games. On January 6, 2024 in PWHL Minnesota v. PWHL Montreal the previous attendance record was broken (5,938). The Xcel Energy Center recorded the total attendance for the game at 13,316. This record, however, did not last very long, on February 16, 2024 the record was broken during a game between PWHL Toronto and PWHL Montreal in Scotiabank Arena. The final attendance was recorded at 19,285, not only setting a record for the PWHL, but selling out the arena. On Saturday March 26, 2024 the United States attendance record was broken for a 2nd time in the season. Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan hosted PWHL Ottawa v. PWHL Boston with a record attendance of 13,736 seats filled of the 19,515 total seats available. On March 20, 2024 tickets went on sale for the April 20, 2024 game of Toronto v. Montreal, dubbed "Duel At The Top" which is set to take place in Bell Centre in Quebec, Montreal. Within an hour of tickets going on sale the Bell Centre, which holds 21,000 people sold out.  

References[edit]

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  64. ^ "PWHL releases inaugural season schedule". The Montreal Gazette. November 30, 2024. Archived from the original on January 18, 2024. Retrieved January 18, 2024. Montreal's team [...] will split its 12 home games between the 4,100-seat Verdun Auditorium and 10,000-seat Place Bell in Laval, which will host at least four games.
  65. ^ Healy, Emma (November 28, 2023). "PWHL Boston will play home games at Lowell's Tsongas Center, including home opener Jan. 3". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on January 18, 2024. Retrieved January 18, 2024. ...the PWHL announced Tuesday that its Boston team will play home games at UMass Lowell's Tsongas Center...
  66. ^ Hurley, Christopher (December 24, 2023). "Boston GM Danielle Marmer excited about inaugural PWHL season in Lowell". The Lowell Sun. Archived from the original on January 18, 2024. Retrieved January 18, 2024. The 24-game regular season schedule will feature a dozen home games at the Tsongas Center...
  67. ^ "Ottawa's pro women's hockey team to share TD Place Arena with junior 67's". Ottawa Citizen. September 2, 2023. Archived from the original on January 18, 2024. Retrieved January 18, 2024. The as-yet-unnamed hockey team will play at the TD Place Arena (formerly Civic Centre Arena) in the Lansdowne Park complex.
  68. ^ Pringle, Josh (September 2, 2023). "New women's pro hockey team in Ottawa will play at TD Place". CTV News Ottawa. Archived from the original on January 18, 2024. Retrieved January 18, 2024. Ottawa's new professional women's hockey team will play its games at TD Place this season.
  69. ^ Kennedy, Ian (December 23, 2023). "Canada's PWHL Teams Are Sold Out For Openers, Ottawa Smashes Record". The Hockey News. Archived from the original on January 18, 2024. Retrieved January 18, 2024. PWHL Toronto will fill Mattamy Athletic Centre with 3850 fans per game.
  70. ^ Donkin, Karissa (November 28, 2023). "Toronto to host New York in PWHL's 1st regular-season game on New Year's Day". CBC Sports. Archived from the original on January 18, 2024. Retrieved January 18, 2024. Toronto's primary venue, Mattamy Athletic Centre, has the smallest capacity of the six teams...
  71. ^ Ramsey, Jared (February 6, 2024). "Professional Women's Hockey League to host a game at Little Caesars Arena in March". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on February 7, 2024. Retrieved February 7, 2024. ...there will be more options at Little Caesars Arena than just the Detroit Red Wings. The Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL) announced Tuesday the league will host a game between its Boston and Ottawa franchises...
  72. ^ Damp, Patrick (February 7, 2024). "Professional Women's Hockey League hosting game at PPG Paints Arena next month". CBS News. Archived from the original on February 7, 2024. Retrieved February 7, 2024. As the Penguins continue to express interest in bringing a Professional Women's Hockey League team to Pittsburgh [...] PWHL Montreal and PWHL Toronto will be playing a game at PPG Paints Arena...
  73. ^ The Canadian Press (January 25, 2024). "Scotiabank Arena to host PWHL's 'Battle on Bay Street' between Toronto and Montreal". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on January 26, 2024. Retrieved January 26, 2024. The united North American circuit announced Thursday its Feb. 16 game between Toronto and Montreal will be played at the home of the NHL's Maple Leafs and NBA's Raptors.
  74. ^ "Poulin, Knight highlights PWHL representatives at NHL All-Star weekend". TSN. CP. January 15, 2024. Archived from the original on January 16, 2024. Retrieved January 17, 2024.
  75. ^ a b Ayala, Erica L. (January 16, 2024). "2024 NHL All-Star Weekend: Brianne Jenner among 24 PWHL players set to participate in women's 3-on-3 showcase". CBS Sports. Archived from the original on January 17, 2024. Retrieved January 19, 2024.
  76. ^ "Professional Women's Hockey League announces national broadcast partnerships for inaugural 2024 season". CTV News. December 29, 2023. Archived from the original on January 2, 2024. Retrieved January 4, 2024.
  77. ^ Shircliff, Elaine (December 31, 2023). "How to Watch the Inaugural PWHL Season". fullpresshockey.com. Retrieved May 29, 2023.

Bibliography[edit]

“13,736: New American Professional Women’s Hockey Attendance Record Set In Detroit - The Hockey News Womens News, Analysis and More.” Accessed March 18, 2024. https://thehockeynews.com/womens/pwhl/13736-new-american-professional-womens-hockey-attendance-record-set-in-detroit.

Brown, Desmond, and Derick Deonarain · CBC News ·. “Record Attendance at Toronto PWHL Game Shows Interest, Support in Women’s Hockey Is Growing, Advocates Say | CBC News.” CBC, February 18, 2024. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/vtoronto-girls-hockey-pwhl-1.7118750.

ESPN.com. “PWHL Game in Minnesota Sets Attendance Record,” January 7, 2024. https://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/39255313/pwhl-game-sets-new-attendance-record-women-ice-hockey.

Kennedy, Ian. “PWHL Officially Announces Venues.” The Hockey News Womens News, Analysis and More, November 28, 2023. https://thehockeynews.com/womens/pwhl/pwhl-officially-announces-venues.

Press ·, Abdulhamid Ibrahim · The Canadian. “PWHL Toronto’s Shutout of Montreal at Scotiabank Arena Sets Women’s Hockey Attendance Record | CBC Sports.” CBC, February 17, 2024. https://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/pwhl/montreal-toronto-pwhl-recap-feb-16-1.7118264.

PWHL Official Rules 2024, March 25, 2024. https://www.thepwhl.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2024/01/PWHL-Rulebook-Final-v-Jan-2024.pdf

External links[edit]