The details of the brand new PWHL
The GIST: Pro women's hockey is back, baby! The Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL) revealed its new name yesterday, along with key details and dates for the new league.
The details: Composed of the now-defunct PWHPA and PHF, the PWHL will begin a 24-game season in January 2024 with six inaugural teams — Boston, Minnesota, Montreal, New York, Ottawa, and Toronto. Notably, Buffalo and Connecticut — two cities in the PHF since its inception — won't cheer on hometown franchises in the new league.
- As for the timeline, free agency kicks off this Friday, followed by a 15-round draft on September 18th in Toronto. From there, it's tryout szn, when undrafted talents can try to make a roster or be signed as free agents.
- Training camps start in mid-November, allowing for two months of cohesion before the puck drops in January. After the inaugural season, the PWHL plans to move to a November start and a 32-game season.
The backstory: This June, news broke that PWHPA partners the Mark Walter Group and Billie Jean King Enterprises acquired the PHF, marking the end of a years-long rift between the two leagues. The PWHL will get a boost from these owners, who wield MLB and WTA experience, among other ventures
- Even though small-market PHF cities like Buffalo and Connecticut lose out in the short-term, the unification of competing professional leagues has paved the way for many great North American sports leagues — like the NFL and MLB — and should be crucial for women’s hockey’s success.
NHL support: The PWHL rebrand includes more than just a shiny new name and game plan — it's got a pretty sweet collab partner in the NHL. The league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly pledged support, hinting at possible neutral site games, and newly-appointed executive director of the PWHL Players’ Association, Brian Burke, is the former prez of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Getting in on the ground floor: The PWHL builds off the PWHPA’s foundation of being for the players, by the players, as many former pro hockey players have invested in the league’s formation. Other investors should also be interested in the space, especially as NHL viewership increases among female fans and women’s hockey games draw record numbers.
- The PWHPA already boasts big-name sponsors like Secret, Gatorade, and Air Canada, and the NHL connection will likely bring even more brand crossover opportunities. With women's sports as a whole seeing record-setting viewership numbers, the future of pro women's hockey is brighter than ever. Is it January yet?