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Keeping Up With Women’s Hockey: What Happened To The PHF-PWHPA Negotiations

PWHPA League

Mondays are for coffee, being late for work and women’s hockey news. Anyone who’s an avid WoHo follower knows that you have to expect the unexpected – and it’s almost always on Mondays. This can be stressful because not every women’s hockey news is a good or pleasant one. But if you missed the past couple of weeks, here’s a small “keeping up with women’s hockey” to help.

PWHPA Decides To Officially End Conversations With PHF, Creates Own League

To the WoHo rookies, the most important thing to know for now is that currently there’s only one North American women’s league: the Premier Hockey Federation. But there’s also the PWHPA a.k.a Professional Women’s Hockey Player’s Association, formed mainly by the best players in the world. The PA exists as a type of union to fight for better conditions in women’s hockey while promoting the sport around North America. But what is the PHF-PWHPA situation? Well, that’s tricky.

The ‘PHF vs. PWHPA’ Situation

The PHF was born in 2015 under the name NWHL – National Women’s Hockey League. Meanwhile, the CWHL – Canadian Women’s Hockey League – was still functioning but struggling to survive. Three years later, the CWHL unexpectedly shut down and left many players and workers without a job. It sucked big time. In 2019, the PWHPA was created by many of the Canadian league’s players to demand better conditions and support for the athletes who wanted to make a livable wage off of hockey. It is their right after all.

But why is there a “crisis” between those two organizations? The PHF, for many years, didn’t have a proper salary cap and many of its players had to work in other places and pay to play hockey. That’s exactly what the PA didn’t want to happen. They had a handful of (rightful) demands like livable wages, health care benefits, proper equipment and a place to practice/play, and others. The PHF worked hard to make it happen while trying to build an identity as a professional league. And they’re succeeding.

PHF Board of Governors Approves Bigger Funding and Salary Cap

In January 2022, the PHF’s Board of Governors committed to investing over $25M in direct payments and benefits to players over the next three years starting next season. This was a big step in the right direction for women’s hockey, as the investment includes a $750,000 salary cap and health care benefits (including paid maternity leave). Besides the funding increase, they also announced several deals and partnerships – including one with Warrior to provide equipment for all PHF teams. Now, the players won’t have to pay for their own hockey gear.

The PHF also announced two new expansion teams for the 2022-23 season, once based in Montreal and the other in a U.S city that has not been disclosed yet.

NHL Meets With PHF And PWHPA to Discuss the Future

Now here’s where things get tricky. After months of silence from the PWHPA regarding whether or not they would join the PHF after the new improvements, the NHL announced there would be a meeting with both sides to discuss “the future”. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had said multiple times the men’s league would not intervene nor support any sides before they solved their problems. The meeting was set for March 23 and no news came out of it. But on April 11, multiple sources confirmed the PWHPA voted to end all discussions with the PHF and move on with their own plans.

New Kids On The Block: PWHPA Will Form a League

With the decision to shut the door on the PHF conversations, the PWHPA now has the chance to focus entirely on its plans. And that’s what they have been doing. Rumours of a new WoHo league have been around since last year but nothing concrete was out yet. But, as of Friday, things are getting real. Jeff Marek reported on Twitter that the PWHPA will launch a six-team league in both Canada and the United States. The season will go from January until April of 2023, teams will have 23 skaters and a 32-game schedule. But the highlight of the new league is their salary cap. According to Marek, the salary floor is $35,000 and the average will be around $55,000 with benefits. That’s a considerable rise from the PHF.

There’s no information on where the funding will come from for the league as of now. The PHF has yet to disclose their salary conditions, including a floor for their teams.

April Is A Busy Month For The PHF Players And Staff

While the PWHPA was working on their new league, the PHF was also working hard to make things happen for their own players. Not everything is good news – and not everything is official yet so keep that in mind. But they’re trying and the new league will likely push them to continue trying their best.

Nicole Corriero Named PAPHF Executive Director

To start with, their player’s association named a new Executive Director, Nicole Corriero. This came after the small disaster in January where they named Alex Sinatra and then fired her a couple of weeks afterwards. But the focus here is that they now have a legal representative that can work together with the players to make sure their wants and needs will be heard by the team. That’s likely why the salary and player’s contracts haven’t been announced yet.

Anya Packer Steps Down As Riveters General Manager

On the same day that Corriero was named the new ED for the PAPHF, Metropolitan Riveters general manager Anya Packer announced she won’t renew her contract with the team. This comes after several reports that the team hired Digit Murphy as their new president. For those unaware of the mess, Murphy was associated with the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, whose views are transphobic and are against transgender rights. Up until May 2021, she was listed as a supporter on their website. She ended up cutting ties with the organization after her support was brought to public view by many PHF fans and reporters. She is currently the President and Director of Player Personnel for the Toronto Six.

Packer stepping down from the Riveters and the PHF is a gigantic loss for the league and organization. She was a big contributor to equality and growth for years, as a player, Executive Director of the PA and as GM. Even though she did not say whether she’s not returning because of Murphy or not, it’s difficult not to consider it.

Multiple others left the Riveters with Packer, according to some PHF journalists.

What Comes Next For Both Organizations

For many people, it’s hard to conceive that the PWHPA and the PHF couldn’t come to an agreement. Of course, everyone wants to see the best players play against each other in one league like it is in the NHL. But looking at it from a different perspective, starting in January, there will be 14 women’s hockey teams in North America for players to choose from. It’s also more options for fans to watch and follow, with all their favourite players getting a space in a professional league.

From a business standpoint, in the short term, the players will also have more leverage when negotiating their rights from now on. Both leagues will be forced to keep each other on their toes in order to keep their players. This is not a guaranteed thing but it’s set to make things better for the athletes.

And what the future holds for women’s hockey, only time can tell. Maybe in the future, both leagues will merge into one and will grow past their problems. Maybe North America will have two professional women’s hockey leagues and they’ll compete with each other for a cup. Who knows! But for now, having two leagues is what will happen. And even though there are multiple problems that still need solving, both are worth supporting – for now.

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