The PWHL strives to bring more attention to women’s hockey and the talent its players offer.
On Aug. 29, 2023, it was announced that there would be a brand new ice hockey league in the works for a start date in 2024. The newly-launched league would be known as The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), which will include three teams in Canada and another three in the United States.
Why is this league a big deal? It all goes back to 2019 when the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) had to cease operations due to economic hardship. Following this situation, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) was created. The union consisted of dozens of female ice hockey players who worked to ensure adequate funding, health insurance, and resources to the women players of different hockey leagues.
Though the CWHL shut down in 2019, the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) was still active and had offered to add the players affected by the shutdown. However, the former CWHL players declined the offer, refusing to play in a North American league again until sufficient resources and funding was presented to the players.
This year, the NWHL—now named the Premier Hockey Federation—made an announcement that they would be selling the league to a new owner. This new owner would be the founder of the new PWHL. The members of the PWHPA have finally established a league that would have the resources and financial structure to support the athletes who had been fighting for change for several years.
The PWHL owners established a collective bargaining agreement that will be effective through 2031 by working closely with the PWHL and partnering with the Billie Jean King group. This is great news for the future of women’s hockey. Not only does the collective bargaining agreement include a minimum salary that the members of the PWHPA are satisfied with, but it also ensures that the league will be around for several years—allowing it to grow instead of fearing another league shutdown.
The National Hockey League (NHL) also released a statement following the announcement of the PWHL that they look forward to helping grow the sport and supporting the new league. Past collaborations of the NHL with women’s hockey leagues, like their All-Star Game, have already brought positive attention to women’s hockey.
The future is bright not only for the players of the PWHL, but for the fans as well. As we know so far, there will be six franchise locations: in Boston, New York, Minneapolis, Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal.
Montreal hockey fans already have a reason to be excited. Star players Laura Stacey, Ann-Renée Desbiens, and even Marie-Philip Poulin—known to many as the best women’s hockey player of all time—have agreed to contracts with Montreal’s new team.
Fans tuned in to watch the inaugural PWHL draft which took place on Sept.18. Franchises until this point have been able to sign up to three free agent players to contracts. During the draft, the six teams were able to fill out the remaining spots on their rosters. The draft player-pool includes some impeccable talent, including dozens of Olympic medalists as well as rookie players. With 268 athletes from around the world eligible to be drafted, it surely is a sight to see for hockey fans.
With this being the first time that the best women’s hockey players will be playing against each other in a league, the start of the PWHL is certainly one to be excited for. Once the teams are set following the draft, training camp will open shortly after. Fans should keep an eye open for information on purchasing tickets, as the league is yet to announce dates, times, and venues for its games. Before we know it, the calendar will flip to 2024, and the first PWHL season will be ready to launch. Whether you are a player or fan, it is undoubtedly an exciting time for women’s hockey.