The Premier Hockey Federation announced its COVID-19 Health & Safety Protocols on Friday for the 2021-22 season, which includes the adoption of a full vaccination policy for all member participation.

The full vaccination requirement applies to players, coaches, officials, staff in both full-time and part-time capacities, as well as volunteers and rink partners who may come into contact with each other on a daily or weekly basis.

The PHF considers individuals to be fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving the final dose of any COVID-19 vaccine either fully approved or approved for emergency use authorization by the United States FDA or any COVID-19 vaccine approved by Health Canada.

Signed athletes were notified about the new policy in early September and had until Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, to opt-in or opt-out of their Season 7 contracts.

According to the announcement, the league will not pay the contract of any player who chooses to opt-out of the vaccine policy.

The NWHL’s decision to rebrand itself as the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) has sparked spirited discussion across social media since Tuesday’s announcement.

The league chose the new name “with respect to differences in the gender identity of current athletes, prospective players, and league stakeholders,” as the press release stated. While some applauded the move to be more inclusive, others questioned the timing and intention behind it.

PHF Commissioner Tyler Tumminia says the timing of the announcement was intentional.

“This was the time that if we were going to do a rebrand, we would do it now, so that it actually mirrors the change that is being made internally, externally,” she said. “This is a new era that we’re bringing this into, and we want the face, the brand, the outlook, the entire exterior to look different as well.”

The league implemented the rebrand after months of conducting focus groups and conversations. As it enters its seventh season on the heels of striking its first national broadcast deal and increasing the team salary cap to $300,000, the PHF was inspired to double down on empowerment, gender equity and inclusivity.

Looking ahead, the league plans to introduce new policies that correspond with those values.

“It’s a cultural acceptance within our teams and our ownerships and who we align ourselves with from a business standpoint,” Tumminia said. “This is very important to exercise as we continue to grow.”

The PHF partnered with Athlete Ally in mid-June in an effort to educate its players, staff and community on inclusivity. The league has been working with the organization to modify its transgender player policy, which is currently hormone-focused. Tumminia says the goal is to have the updated policy ready for the start of the 2021-22 season, but there is no official timeline.

Toronto Six forward Mikyla Grant-Mentis played this past season for Digit Murphy. The former coach and current Toronto Six president was previously involved with Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, an organization that seeks to keep women in sports from competing against “trans athletes with male sex-link physical advantages.”

“This year, I think we’re going to do so much to strive for being inclusive towards everyone,” said Grant-Mentis, the 2021 league MVP.

From a business standpoint, the league chose “Federation” as part of its new name to be more welcoming of international players and organizations.

“It’s allowed us to engage internationally, which I’m in the middle of right now, having conversations with business companies in the international market,” Tumminia said.

The PHF lifted the “W” out of its league name to recognize its players as athletes and not just female athletes. The logo, however, still features a subtle “W” in the crown. Tumminia says the letter’s inclusion is a tribute to the history of the league.

“I love it, honestly,” Grant-Mentis said of the new name. “I hope it encourages other female leagues to rebrand the ‘W’ and just become a professional basketball player, rather than a women’s professional basketball player.”

The NWHL will now officially be known as the Premier Hockey Federation.

The league announced the rebrand on Tuesday, introducing the new name as well as a refreshed logo ahead of the 2021-22 season.

In a release, the league said that the change aligns with the league’s aim to have a brand “based on the skill and talent of its athletes as opposed to their gender.” They are the first women’s sports league in North America to forgo the use of the word “women’s” in its title.

“The Premier Hockey Federation is home to some of the best professional athletes in the world who deserve to be recognized for their abilities and to be empowered as equals in sport,” said PHF Commissioner Tyler Tumminia. “This league has come a long way since its inception in 2015 and we believe that this is the right time and the right message as we strengthen our commitment to growing the game and inspiring youth.”

The name is also inspired by “empowerment, gender equity, and inclusivity with respect to differences in the gender identity of current athletes, prospective players, and league stakeholders.”

“From an opportunity standpoint, it’s huge,” said Metropolitan Riveters captain Madison Packer, a member of the league since Season 1. “I understand and appreciate not having to define ourselves as female athletes anymore. Now we are defining players based on skill and what they bring to the game. This is about recognizing that regardless of gender, athletes are talented.”

The move comes after the 2021 season saw the league set new records and reach increased visibility, so much so that they announced in April that they would be doubling the salary cap for the upcoming season. Additionally, all six teams are now privately owned.

The PHF season is set to begin Saturday, Nov. 6.

With the end of Athletes Unlimited’s lacrosse season approaching, the top of the individual leaderboard is crowded, with no clear cut favorite to win the inaugural season.

Dempsey Arsenault currently leads the league with 1133 total points. But she has yet to fully separate herself, with fifth-place Caylee Waters holding 1010 points — a mere 123 points back of Arsenault.

As we head into week four, here are the biggest questions we’ll be asking:

Can Kayla Wood reclaim the top spot?

Wood has continued to set herself apart as one of the best defenders in the league after winning the first two weeks of play. Currently ranking second behind Arsenault, she’s continued to rake up points by winning games and being named game MVP. (She currently has 105 MVP points — 75 more than Arsenault.)

As a defender, it’s harder for Wood to rack up as many individual stat points, with 148 compared to Arsenault’s 348. So far, Wood only has one goal and one assist this season, but she’s continued to grab points by securing ground balls, controlling draws and, most importantly, winning games.

Though she’s just 45 points back from the leader, Wood also has to contend with a rising Taylor Cummings, who’s just five points behind the defender and quickly climbing up the rankings.

How well did Taylor Cummings draft?

Speaking of Cummings — for the first time this season, the Maryland legend had an opportunity to draft her own team this week after finishing in the top four the week before.

Cummings told Just Women’s Sports before the season that if she had the chance, she would draft midfielder Marie McCool. Lo and behold, that’s exactly what she did.

Cummings has steadily been climbing the leaderboard for weeks and now is within striking distance of the individual title. Averaging just over two goals a game, she has the most individual stat points of any player in the league and is currently just five points back of Wood and 50 back of Arsenault. Where Cummings lags both is in win points.

To catch up in that category, Cummings will have to have drafted as well as she’s been playing.

If she picked the right roster and can rattle off some wins, Cummings could be the leader entering the final week.

Which goalie can separate herself?

Interestingly, the fourth and fifth spots in the rankings are both held by goaltenders, Kady Glynn and the aforementioned Waters. With only 57 points separating the two, it’s anybody’s game for who will take home bragging rights as the top goaltender — and potentially the league winner.

Glynn has more win points, having won more periods and games than Waters. Waters, on the other hand, has been racking up the MVP points, with her 135 being tied for first.

Glynn’s overall lacrosse savvy will be tested this week as she, too, drafted a team of her own for the first time. This could ultimately bolster her overall win points and separate her from Waters. Or it could do the opposite, as Waters was selected to Cummings’ squad and could find herself racking up some win points of her own.

Tune in: Team Arsenault vs Team Wood kicks off the weekend on Friday, August 13th at 5:00pm ET on CBS Sports Network.

Catch the full schedule of games here.

Editor’s note: Athletes Unlimited is a sponsor of Just Women’s Sports.

Thirty women’s college hockey players found new homes Tuesday night during the 2021 NWHL Draft.

The six NWHL teams made their selections over a total of five rounds. And for the first time in league history, fans could watch the process live on Twitch.

The Connecticut Whale, selecting first overall for the first time ever, took forward Taylor Girard from Quinnipiac University.

The Buffalo Beauts selected defender Emilie Harley second overall, making her the first of a draft-high three players taken from Robert Morris University. A few weeks ago, the school announced it was cancelling its hockey programs.

Toronto had eight total selections, including three consecutive picks in the first round, the most of any team. Buffalo followed with seven while Minnesota had five, Connecticut and Metropolitan had four apiece and Boston had two. Of the 30 players selected, 16 are forwards, 13 are defenders and one is a goaltender. They hail from a total of 24 different college programs.

Special guests announced each selection Tuesday night, including Miami Marlins GM Kim Ng, Gotham FC GM Alyse LaHue and NHL defenseman P.K. Subban.

The NWHL’s international draft is set to take place July 25.

All six NWHL teams are now privately owned. 

The NWHL announced Monday morning that the Minnesota Whitecaps and Buffalo Beauts have been sold to two of the league’s Board of Governors. 

NLTT Ventures, LLC, led by Andy Scurto and Neil Leibman, purchased the final two teams under the Women’s Hockey Partners umbrella. All six teams are now independently owned. 

While the ownership group currently holds the two teams, they won’t be able to forever. Per the release, owners will be required to divest from clubs until they only hold a stake in one team. It’s unclear what the timetable for that will be. 

Scurto will serve as Governor for the Beauts while Leibman will hold the position for the Whitecaps.

The NWHL continues to expand its reach.

After announcing that they would be doubling the league salary cap, the NWHL announced today that they will be holding the first-ever NWHL International Draft that will debut on Sunday, July 25. 

The event will be a single round, featuring all six teams, beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET. 

“The NWHL International Draft will help strengthen league talent and competitiveness while growing professional women’s hockey beyond our North American borders,” said Lisa Haley, the NWHL’s Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, in a release. “This is an event we hope develops over time with unique interest and exposure of our brand overseas and another opportunity to generate excitement for our fans.”

In order to be eligible for the draft, players must have been born outside of North America, at least 21 years of age on or before September 1, 2021, and have not previously played in the NWHL or used up any eligibility at the NCAA or U SPORTS level.

Half of the National Women’s Hockey League’s teams are now privately owned. 

In approving the sale of the Connecticut Whale to Shared Hockey Enterprises, a group of investors led by Tobin Kelly, the league is well on its way to accomplishing its goals. The move follows the NWHL’s announcement that the league’s salary cap will be doubled for the upcoming season.

“It has been our goal since transitioning to a joint venture model in October to find strong ownership groups who believe in the NWHL and recognize the growth potential for the league and professional women’s hockey,” said NWHL Commissioner Tyler Tumminia. “Tobin’s commitment to supporting our athletes, building community partnerships, and enhancing the fan experience represents another significant milestone in league history as we prepare for our seventh season.”

Kelly, a Needham, Massachusetts native, has strong ties to the hockey community. He is the founder of Arc Hockey, an equipment and apparel company, and established the Youth Pond Hockey Festival, the largest outdoor youth tournament in the United States. 

Kelly has also coached girls and women at the youth and high school levels. 

“All of us who have established SHE are excited to continue the amazing growth made by the NWHL and to fulfill the NWHL’s goal of providing the opportunity for elite women athletes to earn a living wage playing the sport they love,” said Kelly. “Finalizing the purchase of the Whale with my co-investors is the culmination of a dream that I have held for decades. I am excited to get to work with the Whale players and staff to continue their great work and bring new resources to growing the Whale’s presence in Connecticut.”

One of the four founding teams to play in the NWHL’s inaugural 2015-16 season, the Whales advanced to the Isobel Cup Playoffs in the COVID-shortened 2021 season, where they lost to the Minnesota Whitecaps in the semis. 

The National Women’s Hockey League announced on Wednesday a significant increase to team salary caps.

All six NWHL teams’ salary thresholds will double from $150,000 to $300,000 for the 2021-22 season.

The move indicates the league’s commitment to increased investment and its vision for financial growth. NWSL commissioner Tyler Tumminia cites sponsorship deals, like the one inked with Discover, as signs of that progress.

Salary increases come on the heels of a season complicated by COVID-19. The NWHL was forced to suspend its 2021 season in Lake Placid, N.Y. in early February after multiple players tested positive for the virus and teams opted out over COVID-19 concerns.

Despite the shortened schedule and disruptions, the NWHL’s Isobel Cup (which resumed on March 26) still saw a dramatic increase in ratings, drawing over 100,000 viewers on NBCSN.

Moving into its seventh season, the NWHL hopes pay increases will help draw and retain top talent, further advancing women’s professional hockey in the United States.

In the end, there were no miracles on the ice this go-around in Lake Placid, as the NWHL was forced to suspend its season one day before the Isobel Cup semifinals were set to begin. Derailed by a multi-team COVID outbreak, the league was set to make history by airing women’s hockey games on a major cable network for the first time. Instead, everyone went home.

Not only was the announcement a disappointment for fans and players, but the available reporting now tells the story of a league that potentially cut corners in preparation for taking on this challenge, putting both teams and the community at risk.



While it’s fair to have thought that the NWHL could pull off a two-week tournament based on the success of other bubble situations (including the NHL), the safety measures in Lake Placid fell quite short of the mark, and a deeper look into the protocols the NWHL followed shows that the procedures put in place did not create a sealed bubble.

Before entering the environment, it is not clear that players and staff were required to quarantine, which meant that even though they had to test negative within 72-hours of leaving for the tournament and were tested again once they arrived, they were vulnerable to bringing in the virus undetected. This risk was further compounded as the games began before athletes were re-tested.

Though commissioner Tyler Tumminia shared during her press conference on February 3rd that PCR and rapid tests were administered “pretty much daily,” that fact, if true, wouldn’t reverse the potential initial exposure from the lack of pre-travel quarantine.

The Athletic has likewise reported that teams potentially stayed in hotels that were open to the public, brought in new players after the tournament bagan (to replace those with COVID), and shared staff among squads. The New York Times has reported that TikTok videos appear to show players hanging out together outside of their rooms while not competing, a violation of NWHL protocols.

A spokesperson for the league previously noted that fines would potentially be levied for breaking protocols. Meanwhile, a team’s official Instagram account showed players out and about in Lake Placid together.

You only have to follow the league’s changes in vocabulary to get a sense as to how the season unfolded. At the start, it was called a “bubble.” The league then started calling their set up a “modified bubble.” By the end, Tumminia was referring to it as a “restricted access environment.” Which brings us to the next big issue.



All leagues operating within bubble environments have had to contend with HIPAA requirements that protect the identities of those who test positive for COVID-19. That said, the NWHL did little to communicate just how many cases it had, only characterizing players as “unavailable” when they could not play, further fueling speculation and confusion.

The canary in the coal mine arrived when the Riveters were forced to pull out of the tournament on January 28th after passing the allowed threshold of positive cases. When the Connecticut Whale mysteriously withdrew from competition days later on February 1st, it triggered sirens that all was not well in Lake Placid.

The NWHL did not share the extent of the spread in real time — a highly questionable decision when public knowledge about community activity and contact tracing are key to controlling the virus. The league also declined to explain why the Whale were leaving, saying they’d leave it up to the team to speak. Days passed before the Whale broke their silence. For a moment, it looked like their departure might have been left a complete mystery.

As of last week, we now know that six members of the Boston Pride, including coach Paul Mara have also tested positive, with Mara telling The Boston Globe, “If I could take on all the symptoms our organization feels myself, I would… I feel terrible for them. They don’t deserve this.”

Connecticut Whale coach Colton Orr likewise told the New York Times that about two-thirds of his players tested positive.

Regarding the opaque communication surrounding player availability and the number of cases, Tumminia stated, “The reason we chose to say ‘unavailable’ was mostly because of HIPAA policies and rules. That was a defined league policy going into it. I am not allowed to tell you who has COVID. Also, the amount of numbers right now is also something that the league has taken a stance that we weren’t going to talk about. There’s varying degrees of privacy levels and HIPAA levels, and we had agreed with ORDA that we would not disclose that information.”

Protecting players’ rights is one thing. Leaving everyone in the dark is something else entirely.



The NWHL needed to do more than just seal their bubble. Compared to other sports, the league needed to be far more scrupulous in its preparation given the inherent risks posed by the nature of hockey itself.

As epidemiologist Theresa Chapple-McGruder told the New York Times, hockey brings an increased risk of COVID transmission compared to other sports: “You’re indoors in a cold environment, so the virus is going to live longer in the cold, and then all the heavy breathing, close contact — it’s just exactly what you need to spread the virus,” she explained  “It’s similar to what we saw in the meatpacking industry, because cold helps the virus survive. Hockey is no baseball.”

Now, the dangers posed by the league’s safety shortcomings have not only impacted players, coaches, staff, and the surrounding community, but they could also affect the NWHL’s positive momentum. This year, the league took major steps forward in terms of expansion, securing majors sponsors (Discover and Dick’s Sporting Goods), and locking in broadcast deals. Those were all serious accomplishments which now run the risk of being overshadowed by the league’s inability to safely stage a two week season.



As for the hockey that was played, the Toronto Six showed everyone what happens when you combine the prowess of Shiann Darkangelo, Mikyla Grant-Mentis, Brooke Boquist, Breanne Wilson-Bennett, Sarah-Eve Coutu Godbout, and Emma Woods. Throughout the series, the Six exhibited a dominant offense and a team with solid puck possession. In the end, the NWHL’s newest team walloped their opponents statistically, outshooting the rest with a 15.83 SOG/GP. Though the Metropolitan Riveters snagged a win against them, Toronto’s showing in Lake Placid proved they are a team with incredible strength and clear staying power.

Boston and Buffalo were initially battling it out for a playoff berth before the Whale withdrew from competition. Entering the season as major underdogs, the Beauts showed up to play in Lake Placid, beating the Pride in their first meeting. The Boston squad then found their footing, answering the Beauts with a 6-0 win in their second match up before snagging another win in the third game against Buffalo.

Minnesota skated away from Lake Placid as the still-reigning Isobel Cup champs, having won the last title game staged in 2019. (The 2020 Championship game was cancelled due to COVID.) The Whitecaps ended the season with all of their players still available for games, which gave them a depth advantage throughout the tournament.

Though Connecticut didn’t get the chance to challenge the reigning champs, they held their own throughout the competition while putting up a valiant effort against powerhouse teams like Toronto. The Whale ended their tournament early with players Tori Howran, Kayla Friesen, and Brooke Wolejko all listed as “unavailable.”

While they were the first team forced to leave the tournament due to COVID exposure, before their season was cut short, the Riveters held the Whitecaps to a single score in what would be New York’s last game and only loss. The addition of Kelly Babstock alongside Rebecca Russo gave the team far more offensive heft than they had for the 2019-20 season.

At this juncture, the season is technically suspended, not cancelled, though it’s unclear how, if, or when it will conclude. As Tumminia noted in her presser, “I have not yet defined what that raising of the Cup is going to look like. I can assure you, we definitely will try to define an ending to season six, and not let it be a cliffhanger.”



Looking back on the season, there are many unanswered questions that the league will be forced to reckon with. No one can control a pandemic, but it’s clear that the NWHL’s operations were not as tight as they needed to be, and the league’s less-than-transparent communication only made the situation worse.

But lost in the ongoing conversation about COVID is one about another issue plaguing the NWHL—racism. While the league has released statements regarding its entanglement with Barstool Sports, it has yet to issue a statement unequivocally supporting Saroya Tinker, whom Barstool Sports founder David Portnoy suggested should be jailed for her criticism of the website.

The Barstool controversy has created collisions between current players, former players, and staff taking opposing sides, threatening the well-being of players and the cohesiveness of the league. Clearly, leadership will be needed to mend the cracks. While the NWHLPA released a fairly poignant note on February 1 regarding the anti-racism work it plans to implement, the league’s surface level tweet about Black History month relied on a hashtag to make its strongest statement. It’s clear that the NWHL’s leadership has significant work to do when it comes to supporting its Black players, enacting meaningful change, and fomenting productive conversations.



The good news for the NWHL is that it now has a real opportunity to prove that it’s ready for the big leagues. The full story of the 2021 season won’t be written until the next season begins, when the league will have a chance to prove that it’s learned from it’s “bubble” experience.

The blueprint for success is there, and with over a million viewers tuning in to the league’s Twitch channel this past season, as well as the continued support of their sponsors, the league has the pieces it needs. Now it needs to step forward and show that it’s ready for the spotlight.