The new Women’s Professional Hockey League unveils six franchises

Greg WischinskyAspenAugust 29, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. ET3 minutes to read

The new professional women’s hockey league was officially unveiled Tuesday with six inaugural franchises and a 24-game regular season starting in January 2024.

The PWHL will feature three teams in the United States and three teams in Canada. American franchises are located in Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul and New York City area. Canadian franchises are located in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario. Details of the main arenas, team names and logos will be released.

The schedule for the 2024 season will be announced in the coming months. It is expected to include a break for the IIHF World Women’s Championship in April.

Inaugural season rosters will begin forming during the initial free agency signing period beginning September 1. The majority of the league’s founding players will then be selected during the 2023 PWHL Draft on September 18th.

The PWHL says it is in the “final stages” of securing six general managers for the franchises, all of which are owned and operated by the league.

The PWHL is funded by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Mark Walter and his wife, Kimbra. The Mark Walter Group purchased the assets of the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) in June to effectively dissolve that league in order to launch the PWHL as the only professional women’s hockey league in North America.

The PHF was founded in March 2015 as the Women’s National Hockey League, which at the time was the first women’s professional hockey league to pay its players. It rebranded in September 2021. Five of the six PWHL franchises are located in cities that had PHF teams during the 2022-23 season, all but Ottawa.

The demise of the PHF ended a years-long feud between that organization and the Professional Hockey Players Association, which was composed of stars from the US and Canadian national teams. These players were not willing to join the NWHL or the PHF, citing a lack of confidence in their business models. PWHPA toured North American arenas, playing a series of exhibition games between the United States and Canada in preparation for the international tournaments.

PWHPA has been working with the Mark Walter Group and Billie Jean King Enterprises for over a year to create their own league to compete with the PHF. Instead, the years-long journey to “One League” ended with the dissolution of the PHF and the formation of the PWHL.

The new league is supported by a board of directors that includes King, Chief Athletic Officer Ilana Kloss, Dodgers President Stan Kasten, and Dodgers Senior Vice President of Business Strategy Royce Cohen.

“On behalf of the owner and the Board of Directors, I am honored to announce the official name of the new league, and reveal the blueprint for this historic inaugural season. We are especially proud to provide this new platform to elite female athletes.” Kasten said. “Our great game has the power to attract and connect with sports fans everywhere, and we are thrilled to be planting roots in six of North America’s most passionate hockey markets.”

Jenna Hefford, commissioner of the now defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League, is the PWHL’s Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations. Longtime NHL executive Brian Burke, who was fired as president of hockey operations for the Pittsburgh Penguins in April, will help run the PWHL Players Association.

Any player interested in the 2023-24 PWHL season must declare for the draft by Sunday, September 3. There will be a 10-day free agent period from September 1-10 prior to the draft in which teams can sign up to three players each. Current or graduated NCAA players or collegiate program players are not eligible for this initial free agency period.

According to the PWHL’s collective bargaining agreement, teams can sign up to 20 players before training camps in November. Six players on each team will be signed to three-year contracts for “a minimum of $80,000 per league year.”

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