Minnesota among 6 markets chosen for new women’s hockey league
The newly created Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) has revealed where its six franchises will be based for its inaugural season.
Tuesday morning, the league announced the Twin Cities, Boston and New York City’s tri-state area will host its United States-based franchises and Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto its Canadian organizations.
The PWHL, which will feature a collection of the world’s top women’s hockey players, plans to launch play in January and is backed by Los Angeles Dodgers owner Mark Walter and retired women’s tennis star Billie Jean King. The group is essentially building a league from scratch, a process that was spurred in late June when Walter bought out the rival Premier Hockey Federation — the league the Minnesota Whitecaps played in — to clear the way for one North American professional women’s hockey league.
In addition to unveiling the six inaugural markets, the PWHL also said Tuesday that its schedule will feature 24 regular-season games per team and rosters will start to be formed during an initial free agency period that will start Sept. 1. However, a majority of the league’s players will be selected during a draft on Sept. 18.
“On behalf of ownership and our board, I am honored to announce the official name of our new league and to unveil the blueprint for this historic inaugural season. And we are especially proud to be providing this new platform for elite women athletes,” Los Angeles Dodgers President Stan Kasten, another of the league’s financial backers, said. “Our great game has the power to captivate and connect sports fans everywhere, and we are thrilled to plant roots in six of North America’s most passionate hockey markets.”
“Today, we look ahead to a phenomenal future for the PWHL,” Jayna Hefford, PWHL senior vice president of hockey operations, said. “We have never seen more excitement and demand for women’s sports, and through the launch of this league, the top women’s players in the world will have the opportunity to reach even greater heights.”
The league is still finalizing the six general managers for the franchises and a player evaluation advisory committee is serving as an additional resource for the team leaders.
A draft lottery will determine the draft order for the first round, and subsequent rounds will follow a “snake format” where the reverse order of the previous round is used in each following round. After the 15-round draft, undrafted players will immediately be able to sign with teams.
Each team will be allowed to have up to 20 standard player agreements leading into training camps in November, with six players on each team getting three-year deals worth at least $80,000 per year.
There is still much work to be done before training camps are scheduled to open, with coaching staffs needing to be hired and the league identifying broadcast partners.
In another development, a fourth person confirmed to the Associated Press that former NHL executive Brian Burke has been hired to become the PWHL Players Association’s first executive director. Burke, who last served as the Pittsburgh Penguins president through April, has a lengthy track record of involvement with women’s hockey dating to 2013 when he was a board member of the now-defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League. The Hockey News first reported Burke’s hiring.
The PWHL has been four years in the making, and launched by the formation of the PWHPA in the aftermath of the CWHL folding in 2019. The PWHPA, made up of a majority of U.S. and Canadian national team members, balked at joining the rival PHF, which at that time was known as the National Women’s Hockey League.
The NWHL began as a four-team league and launched in 2015 as North America’s first women’s hockey league to pay players a salary. The PHF grew to seven franchise with each team preparing to open next season with a $1.5 million salary cap.
PHF teams were based in Boston, Toronto and Montreal, along with East Rutherford, New Jersey; Hartford, Connecticut; Buffalo, New York; and Richfield, Minnesota.
The PWHPA instead chose to pursue its vision of having a controlling interest in a league with what it viewed as a more sustainable economic model and fair wages for players. The framework of that vision came together in May 2022 when the PWHPA formed a partnership with Walter and King.
The PWHPA in July unanimously ratified a collective bargaining agreement that runs through 2031 and features a salary range of $35,000 to $80,000 for players on active rosters. Rosters are expected to include 23 players.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.