The Premier Hockey Federation goes ahead, still hoping to unite professional women’s hockey

On the eve of the Premier Hockey Federation’s seventh season, and its first as PHF, new commissioner Ty Tumminia offered an olive branch to women belonging to the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association.

Basically, it was: Come join us, sooner rather than later.

“I keep presenting a table and a bunch of chairs for people to sit down and really try to unify this in the future,” Tumminia said. “We will always be here for a concept of a league, and the unification will continue to be here waiting for that to happen.

“If the PWHPA wants to join, I think the window is starting to close. So I think they need to make a couple of decisions, either through leadership or through their players to determine whether or not they want to grow the game together. “

But for now, the answer, from Jayna Hefford, PWHPA Olympic-level women’s president, is no.

Members of Boston Pride hold up the Isobel Cup after winning the last NWHL championship.  The league has returned this year as the Premier Hockey Federation.

“We continue to speak to everyone who wants to be involved in the future of women’s professional hockey and we have had multiple conversations with the PHF group,” Hefford said. “Our wants, requests, needs, whatever you want to call them, haven’t really changed. It’s finding a way to have a league that is sustainable in the long term. So it is not something that, in two years, things are going to change. That there is a living wage. We don’t think it exists anywhere at this time. The health benefits are critical to us, especially our players in the United States. “

There are other basic elements that Hefford’s group wants, such as the training and medical equipment that men’s professional teams have to ensure optimal performance.

“Those are things that we believe we should not compromise on. We believe there is a way to get there, ”Hefford said. “We work every day to try to find a way to get there. If they came to us tomorrow and said, ‘Hey, everything, it’s all here, right here in front of you,’ maybe the conversation would be different. But we don’t want to settle when we think we can do better. “

The NHL would like to be involved in a professional single women’s league, but will stay on the sidelines until the two groups unite or a major player emerges. There may be bad blood left since the creation of the NWHL, the predecessor of the PHF, seven years ago. Dani Rylan Kearney started the league when the CWHL was under the impression that he was joining their league. Rylan Kearney has since resigned, replaced by Tumminia.

Tumminia held a zoom video conference “at city hall” on Friday to promote the six-team league, which includes the Toronto Six. The league has broadcast deals with ESPN and Twitch, new owners, a well-received business plan, and appears to have a lot of momentum. Teams are capped at $ 300,000 (US).

“I am proud of what we are doing here,” said Tumminia. “I have owners who are putting their skin on it, rolling up their sleeves, really committing to growing the game in a way that is productive and positive. Our success here last season and this season is a direct result of the owners who really want to grow the game. They are committing through legacy operations, liquidity. They are committing capital beyond this work of blood, sweat and tears. And I think you are seeing that growth as a direct result of our owners who are really trying to grow the game. “

What the PHF doesn’t have are the Olympic-level women who have stayed true to the PWHPA, which is sweeping North America through its Dream Gap tour. That group has risen from the ashes of the defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League and will have a tournament next weekend in Nova Scotia.

“It has been a great success,” Hefford said. “This is our third year. We have a great profile of partners who are committed to us and to our mission. But all that said, that’s not the end goal. We do not seek to be a continuous touring model. We want a league with a home and that is what we are trying to achieve ”.

The Tumminia league has it, if not quite to Hefford’s group specs. Tumminia is clearly unhappy with the narrative of two separate groups competing for the same goal and it sounds like she’s trying to reach out to the PWHPA players, surrounding Hefford and the leadership.

“They have asked for certain changes along the way. We have made changes, real real changes, ”said Tumminia. “We have improved our player benefits package. We pay our players. We give them a contract. We have insurance for them. We’re at the point now where you have to come to the table now if you really want to cultivate it.

“I look forward to growing it together. I want that. We all want that. I think that’s the good thing for the sport. I don’t think it’s good for the sport to keep this narrative of trying to come together. In fact, we have to unite. So I’m here for it. We are here for that. Players have the platform. They are the most powerful in the game. It depends on them. They have to make the decision now. “

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