The newly formed Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) will feature six teams in its inaugural season, three in the U.S. and three in Canada.

The PWHL officially announced its franchise locations in a news conference Tuesday, but the league provided an early reveal via its newly unveiled account on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. The PWHL account follows exactly six other accounts — those of its teams in the New York City area, Boston, Minnesota, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. Team names and logos will be revealed later.

In choosing its sites, the PWHL hewed closely to the imprint of the defunct Premier Hockey Federation. Investors in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association bought out the Premier Hockey Federation in June, clearing the way for the PWHL as the singular professional women’s league in North America.

The traveling four-team PWHPA played in showcase events around the U.S. and Canada. The seven-team PHF had franchises in Boston, Buffalo, Connecticut, New York/New Jersey, Minnesota, Montreal and Toronto, five of which are represented in the PWHL.

“We wanted a market that was excited about the women’s game, that had a lot of traditional hockey fans that we thought would support women’s hockey,” said Jayna Hefford, the senior vice president of hockey operations for the PWHL.

The PWHL, which counts with Los Angeles Dodgers owner Mark Walter and tennis legend Billie Jean King are among its primary investors, sought markets that could provide arenas large enough to host games as well as dedicated training facilities for the home teams. Washington, D.C., and London, Ontario, were two other potential sites discussed by the league, the Associated Press reported.

Players will soon find out which of the teams they will call home for the 24-game inaugural season, which is set to begin in January 2024. Each team can sign up to three players during a free-agency window starting on Sept. 1, and then a 15-round draft will follow on Sept. 18 in Toronto. Players from both the PWHPA and PHF, plus NCAA graduates and international players, will have the opportunity to declare for the draft.

Teams will be able to sign additional players after the draft, and each roster will feature 23 players. The CBA lays out a salary range of $35,000 to $80,000 per season, and six players on each team will be signed to three-year contracts of no less than $80,000 per season.

The PHWL Players Association ratified its collective bargaining agreement via a unanimous vote in early July, making it the first union in North American women’s pro sports — and possibly all of pro sports — to have a ratified CBA prior to the start of competition. Ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, Brian Burke signed a multi-year deal as the executive director of the Professional Women’s Hockey League Players Association union, a source told Just Women’s Sports. The executive committee for the union, which includes Brianne Jenner, Hilary Knight, Liz Knox, Sarah Nurse and Kendall Coyne Schofield, supervised the hiring.

Burke, 68, most recently served as the president of hockey operations of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins from 2021 to 2023. He also served as a board member for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, which folded in 2019. He called Tuesday the “most exciting day in the history of women’s hockey.”

The PWHL has received advice from the NHL as it plots out its inaugural season, board member Stan Kasten said. The leagues also plan to collaborate on neutral-site games for PWHL teams, special events such as the outdoor Winter Classic series and more.

“They have been fantastically supportive of us from the first minute. … They understand this is our league and we’re going to have to make our own decisions,” Kasten said.

The new professional women’s hockey league, set to launch in 2024, will reveal the number of teams for its inaugural season as well as the cities those teams will call home in a news conference at 11 a.m. ET Tuesday.

Players are set to meet Monday night ahead of the announcement, a source told Just Women’s Sports.

Investors in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association bought out the Premier Hockey Federation in June, clearing the way for a singular professional women’s league in North America. The four-team PWHPA played in showcase events around the U.S. and Canada, while the seven-team PHF had franchises in Boston, Buffalo, Connecticut, New York/New Jersey, Minnesota, Montreal and Toronto.

In addition, Brian Burke has been signed to a multi-year deal as the executive director of the Professional Women’s Hockey League Players Association union, a source told Just Women’s Sports. The executive committee for the union, which includes Brianne Jenner, Hilary Knight, Liz Knox, Sarah Nurse and Kendall Coyne Schofield, supervised the hiring.

Burke, 68, most recently served as the president of hockey operations of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins from 2021 to 2023. He also has worked for the Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames.

The union ratified its collective bargaining agreement via a unanimous vote in early July. It is the first union in North American women’s pro sports — and possibly all of pro sports — to have a ratified CBA prior to the start of competition. The WNBA ratified its first CBA in 1999 ahead of the league’s third season, while the NWSL’s first CBA was finalized in 2022 ahead of the league’s 10th season.

The sale and subsequent shuttering of the Premier Hockey Federation had a seismic impact on women’s hockey — and on PHF players.

Investors in the rival Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association bought out the PHF. While the move cleared the way for a singular professional women’s hockey league in North America, PHF players were left without a home.

More than 120 players already had signed with the PHF for the 2023-24 season, but those contracts have been voided, and the players are not guaranteed a spot in the new league. Many already had started to prepare for the upcoming season, from relocating to their teams’ cities to finding housing, before they learned of the sale Thursday via Zoom call.

Mikyla Grant-Mentis was training on the ice when the news broke. She knew about the scheduled call but expected it to be uneventful, so she counted on teammates to catch her up on the details. Instead, less than five minutes after the start of the meeting, they were texting her to tell her their league was finished.

“I got off the ice and was like, ‘Holy crap, I need to get on this call to see what’s happening,’” Grant-Mentis told SportsNet. “It didn’t really last much longer than that, because I feel like everyone was honestly pretty blindsided and didn’t really have much to say. We didn’t really know what was happening at that point.”

Grant-Mentis already had signed with the Buffalo Beauts for the upcoming season, at a price tag of $100,000.

“The first few days were definitely very tough, because we were expecting to make a certain amount of money next year, have our plans set — pretty much getting ready to move back to Buffalo, for me,” she said. “And then in a very short Zoom call, it was kind of all just torn down.”

Veteran leaders from the PHF have told their fellow players to funnel all media requests to them “until further notice,” according to a message reviewed by Just Women’s Sports. The hope is to ensure “PHF players are unified and consistent with our message across all communication channels.”

A group of 11 players issued a public statement Sunday that expressed optimism about women’s hockey moving forward. But 2021 MVP Grant-Mentis is not one of them.

“I hope this group that was put together is able to benefit us and make waves, so the PHF players are not just left in the dust, so that we are taken care of in this new league,” Grant-Mentis said. “I’m hoping they’ll be able to do something for us in the long run. But, you know, it’s all up in the air. We don’t really know what’s going on.”

Just one year ago, Grant-Mentis signed a historic deal with Buffalo that made her the highest-paid professional women’s hockey player in history. Now, she told Sportsnet, she’ll have to find a part-time job to help pay the bills.

While she’ll join PWHPA and PHF players in vying for roster spots in the new six-team league, there are only so many roster spots to go around. Grant-Mentis should be well-positioned among PHF players, but even if she signs with the new league, she will be taking a pay cut.

Player salaries in the new league will range from $35,000 to $80,000, The Athletic’s Hailey Salvian reported. At least six players on each roster must be signed to deals worth at least $80,000 a year, and no more than nine can be signed to contracts worth $35,000 a year.

“I don’t really have any input, because no one really asked us what we think about it,” Grant-Mentis said. PHF players did not get to vote on the PWHPA’s newly ratified collective bargaining agreement, though they will be able to join the union if they sign with the new league.

“So, we kind of just have to go with what’s going on,” she continued. “And hopefully in a couple of years, we’ll be back up to making $100,000 and everyone being able to survive off the money that they’ll be paid.”

Grant-Mentis also is worried about the friends and teammates who could have a hard time making the new league, saying that people are “kind of missing the whole story.” While the best women’s hockey players will convene in one league, there is a downside for a group of players who “don’t really have a voice,” she said.

“It kind of did ruin a lot of people’s lives in a very quick, 10-minute Zoom call,” she said. “I think people should really see the other side of it. You know, all the people in the PHF that signed contracts were relying on this money, relying on the job for next year. And now there’s a very big (sense of) uncertainty.

“With the limited amount of teams [in the new league], that means not everyone’s going to get a spot. … It sucks. Because a lot of people did put their whole life on pause thinking that we would survive for another five, six years playing hockey, and then start their lives. But that kind of came a little bit quicker than many of us were thinking.”

Last Thursday, PHF players and staff learned that assets of their league had been acquired by the Mark Walter Group ahead of the launch of a new professional women’s hockey league in January 2024. While the PHF portrayed the news as good for the future of women’s hockey, players — whose contracts for the upcoming season are now void — understandably had some questions.

“I think people are having a lot of different, conflicting feelings simultaneously. I think there’s some shock, some anger, some sadness, as well as some hope and optimism and excitement,” PHF Players’ Association (PHFPA) executive director Nicole Corriero told Just Women’s Sports in a phone interview.

Corriero, who got a heads up about the sale from commissioner Reagan Carey last Tuesday, said the players’ association has had internal discussions since the announcement about how to best support players during the transition period.

“The drastic changes that people are going to be having to make in terms of their lifestyle, financial decisions, things like that — along with the uncertainty that’s coupled with it — is really daunting and really challenging,” she said.

Corriero, a former three-time NCAA All-American at Harvard, has led the PHFPA for just over a year. She said the players’ association is committed to ensuring that anyone affected by the sale has an outlet for communication.

“I would say my biggest concerns are the people who were new signees, whether they’re coming out of college or people that are coming overseas,” Corriero said.

“It’s understandable that not everybody is going to get their pom-poms out and be excited, even if there is a lot of positivity, a lot of hope and a lot of optimism for the future.”

While the PHF Players’ Association has not posted anything on its social media channels, on Sunday a group of 11 PHF players representing all seven teams issued a public statement that expressed a message of optimism entering this new era of women’s hockey.

“We are hugely excited to see a unified league that will house all of the best athletes that hockey has to offer and aim to build the strongest league that can stand the test of time,” they wrote.

The players who signed the letter — Jillian Dempsey, Allie Thunstrom, Dominique Kremer, Kacey Bellamy, Kennedy Marchment, Madison Packer, Kaleigh Fratkin, Katerina Mrazova, Sydney Brodt, Ann-Sophie Bettez and Shiann Darkangelo — are among the PHF/NWHL’s most senior veterans.

They are also among the league’s most talented players; 10 of the 11 were named All-Stars in 2023 and all are expected to contend for a spot in the new league. The only non All-Star in the group, Kacey Bellamy, served as PHF scout and player liaison during the 2022-23 season. In April, she announced she was coming out of retirement to sign with the Connecticut Whale.

While some members of the player leadership committee also serve as players’ association representatives, the two groups are separate.

According to Corriero, the players in the leadership committee are “players that the now dissolved league contacted or communicated with to discuss some of the initial news because they can be an initial support system.”

Corriero added: “The leadership committee is not intended to replace the Players’ Association. It has a somewhat different objective in terms of what it’s trying to promote and help to communicate on behalf of the players. It is a separate entity in that it was kind of created in conjunction with the league as a conduit for communication and helping with the transition.”

In a message reviewed by Just Women’s Sports, the player leadership committee asks players to forward any media inquiries or communications regarding the PWHPA, PHF or the new league to a committee email address “until further notice” to ensure “PHF players are unified and consistent with our message across all communication channels.”

Asked how this committee’s goals and mission differ from those of the players’ association, Fratkin wrote: “The Player Leadership Committee and the PHFPA are complementary resources for players who played in the PHF. This is not a faction with separate goals. Our purpose is to be an added liaison for players during this transition.”

The player leadership committee did not respond to a question about how its members were selected. The league also did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding its role in assembling and/or selecting members for the player leadership committee.

Professional women’s hockey players received seismic news Thursday night. At 8 pm ET, players and staff from both the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) and Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) gathered on separate conference calls.

The PHF players – who were addressed by commissioner Reagan Carey followed by their respective ownership groups – learned that assets of their league had been acquired by the Mark Walter Group ahead of the launch of a new professional women’s hockey league in January 2024. The PHF will cease operations.

Members of the PWHPA learned about the PHF sale at the same time. But their call had an additional purpose. After spending the last five-plus months negotiating with their new owners about a collective bargaining agreement, the PWHPA’s bargaining committee proposed the final agreement to members of the association. Following a 72-hour voting window, that CBA was unanimously approved on Sunday night.

The fact that these two things – the sale of the PHF, followed by the confirmation of a new league with a CBA negotiated by PWHPA players – happened nearly simultaneously resulted in confusion, with some fans placing blame on PWHPA players for the demise of the PHF.

“(The PHF purchase) is very, very much a separate transaction and people are confusing the two,” Dodgers president Stan Kasten, who will serve as a member of the new league’s board, told Just Women’s Sports.

While Thursday night’s news provides some clarity for the future of women’s pro hockey in North America – a single league featuring the best players – there has also been plenty of confusion, especially for PHF players whose contracts are now void.

Just Women’s Sports spoke to leaders and players from the PHF over the weekend about what happened and what it means for the future of women’s hockey in North America. Here’s what we learned.

What does this news mean for PHF players in the near future?

According to a PHF signing tracker maintained by Melissa Burgess of the Victory Press, 121 players had signed contracts for the 2023-24 PHF season as of June 28. With the league shutting down in the wake of the sale, those contracts are now void.

For goaltender Kassidy Sauvé, the news of the PHF sale came as a shock. After signing with the Boston Pride in June, she was browsing the internet Thursday morning and designing some black and gold goalie pads that would look good with her new team’s uniform.

Hours later, she learned that the Boston Pride were no more.

“It’s been a tough couple of days,” Sauvé told Just Women’s Sports. “It’s hard when your future changes in the blink of an eye.”

Sauvé counts herself lucky that she hadn’t yet signed a lease in Boston, but she knows some of her PHF teammates and opponents already made big life choices based on the contracts they had signed and the salaries they expected to receive.

“There’s a lot of girls who bought houses or started renting where they were going to play. It’s not just the fact that it happened, but the fact that it happened after people were signing contracts that made it difficult,” she said.

A “Frequently Asked Questions” document was distributed to players and staff, and reviewed by Just Women’s Sports, outlining what players can expect from the league. Here are a few of the highlights.

  • Players enrolled in the PHF health program will receive insurance benefits through September 30, 2023.
  • Players who sign separation agreements will receive 1/12 of their contract for the 2023-24 season or $5,000, whichever is higher.
  • Players who don’t compete in another professional league during the coming season are eligible to receive an additional payout (minimum of $10,000). This will come from a $1,000,000 pool divided among players.
  • Players who were competing in the PHF on visas can receive support to modify their visa.
  • Players who competed in either of the last two PHF seasons will be eligible to receive “a small distribution” from the player equity incentive program. According to PHF owner John Boynton, players will divide two percent of the proceeds from the sale of the league (minus lawyer and transaction fees).
  • Coverage of ongoing workers’ compensation claims – typically used to cover injuries sustained in practice or games – will continue.

It should be noted that these benefits do not apply to players who played in the league for the 2022-23 season but had not yet signed for the upcoming season.

“Technically (those players) have no relationship with the league, they’re not employed,” Boynton said, though he noted that players in that group would be eligible for a share of the equity incentive program.

Many PHF players likely will compete in the new league. And while current PWHPA members are the ones who negotiated and voted on the CBA, former PHF members will be eligible to join the PWHLPA union.

Despite her initial shock, Sauvé said she’s trying to feel hopeful about what’s to come.

“This has been something we’ve wanted for a long time – for everyone to just be on the same page,” she said. “I think, down the road, it will be incredibly beneficial for women’s hockey as a whole.”

What is PHF leadership saying?

PHF leadership presented the sale as good news. In a letter to players and staff, reviewed by Just Women’s Sports, PHF commissioner Reagan Carey called the news “a collective, well-earned victory for each of you who has contributed to the ongoing evolution of the women’s professional game.”

The PHF has previously been criticized for overpromising and underdelivering, one of the reasons many PWHPA players were wary of joining the league. In the same letter after the sale, Carey cited the league’s accomplishments, including setting “the highest salary cap in all of women’s sports.”

But that detail comes with several major caveats. While the PHF announced a salary cap of $1.5 million for the 2023-24 season – technically more than the WNBA’s $1,420,500 cap or the NWSL’s $1,375,000 cap (not factoring in allocation money) – those PHF salaries are not being paid out.

Asked about this discrepancy, Carey defended her reference to the salary cap figure.

“We announced it, we committed to it, we signed contracts for it. And this league, if this deal was not done, would have continued to operate and continued to build on the momentum we had and that number wouldn’t have changed,” she told Just Women’s Sports.

While the sale caught players, fans, and media off guard, Carey said the deal was in the works for a long time.

“It’s not something that came as a surprise, nor was it expedited or rushed in any way. It’s been an evolving conversation that just led to the opportunity to bring these worlds together.”

Carey added: “Perhaps it’s more of a surprise because most attempts to do that (unify women’s hockey leagues) have fallen short in the past.”

As for the timing of the sale, Boynton – whose ownership group oversaw four of seven teams – said they aimed to have the deal done in February or March before players started signing contracts for the new season.

“If there’s one thing I could have changed about this thing, it would be the timing,” he said. “In a situation like this where we’re having these discussions, you can never know whether it’s going to work out or not. So we had to continue to operate the league in preparation for a full season next year.”

The Premier Hockey Federation has been bought out by investors in the rival Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, which clears the way for a singular professional women’s hockey league in North America.

The Mark Walter Group acquired PHF “assets,” per a news release, and plans to build on the foundation of the seven-team league to launch a new league in 2024. The PHF will cease operations.

How does that work?

The Mark Walter Group has been working with the PWHPA and Billie Jean King Enterprises for the past 14 months to plan for a new league. PWHPA players formed a union earlier this year and have been in the process of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement.

Ratification of that CBA would be the final step in forming the new league. The PHF was told that its “infrastructure will be the foundation” that the new league will build itself from, ESPN reported.

The Mark Walter Group will back the league financially, and King and Dodgers president Stan Kasten will be among the board members.

“I have always believed that professional sports should bring the highest levels of performance and organization, and this new league will have the backing and resources it needs to represent the very best of women’s hockey,” said Mark Walter, who is the controlling owner of the MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.

What happens to PHF players?

More than 120 players had signed full-time contracts with the PHF for the upcoming season. Those contracts have been voided using termination language in those contracts, but players will still receive severance and a period of continued health benefits. The PHF was not unionized.

What is the history between the PHF and PWHPA?

The PHF, originally dubbed the National Women’s Hockey League, was founded in 2015. While the league became the first women’s hockey league to pay players, more than 200 of the top women’s hockey players opted to forgo participation until receiving proper resources. Thus, the PWHPA was formed.

Over the last four years, the PWHPA has played in showcase events. The PHF, meanwhile, underwent a name change, expanded and increased its salary cap to $1.5 million. Despite calls for a unified league, the PWHPA planned to move forward apart from the PHF over concerns about its business model and long-term viability, The Athletic reported last year.

When can we expect the new league?

The new league is expected to launch in January 2024, as announced Friday by The Mark Walter Group, Billie Jean King Enterprises and PHF governors Johanna and John Boynton.

The PWHPA had been aiming to launch a league for the 2023-24 season, The Athletic first reported in March. A start date is contingent on the ratification of a new CBA, with PWHPA players voting over the coming days. (PHF players will not be included in the vote.) With the expectation that the CBA will pass, the league would launch in 2024 and the CBA would run through 2031.

A CBA being ratified prior to the start of a league’s launch would be a first for any women’s professional league. The WNBA adopted its first CBA two years after its inaugural season, in 1999, while the NWSL took 10 years to ratify its first CBA. While the PHF had league bylaws, it did not have a CBA in place.

How many teams will be in the league? Where will they play?

The number of teams in the new league and the locations of those teams are still being determined.

The seven-team PHF had franchises in Boston, Buffalo, Connecticut, New York/New Jersey, Minnesota, Montreal and Toronto. The new league is expected to have six teams of 23 players each, three in Canada and three in the United States, with Boston, Buffalo and Connecticut likely nixed, per reporter Ian Kennedy.

Premier Hockey Federation commissioner Reagan Carey is excited about the future of the women’s game.

Women’s professional hockey could be just as popular as the men’s side, Carey said in a discussion with the Washington Post on Wednesday. She highlighted the PHF’s momentum and its push to increase player salaries in speaking, but she pointed to the relative lack of exposure for women’s hockey as an obstacle to its wider success.

“As we get these new opportunities with our media rights and the continued exposure, it’s not a lack of the sport being where it needs to be,” she said. “It’s not a lack of these talented athletes. It’s just a lack of exposure and awareness, and growing that fanbase. So I have no doubt that it can be [as popular as the men’s game].”

The league is looking to build in that direction, having signed a two-year partnership with ESPN to broadcast games. Being able to watch an entire season of women’s professional hockey, Carey said, is “another trailblazing moment for our sport.”

And collaborating with the NHL and the men’s side of the game is something that the PHF wants to continue to do.

“I certainly believe that women’s hockey at the professional level and men’s hockey at the professional level should be teammates,” Carey said. “And working with the NHL certainly provides a lot of resources and support, and they already do that.”

A growing interest in the women’s game has led to an increase in benefits – and pay – for the PHF. The league’s salary cap has grown substantially in recent years and will reach $1.5 million per team in 2023-24 – a tenfold increase since 2021.

The PHF has come a long way from the days when some of the game’s best departed in 2019 over lack of health insurance and low salaries.

Some of those players have started to return, whether it be on the ice or in the front office, and a number of Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association players have made the decision to sign with the PHF in the last year.

“We’re really proud of the advancements we’ve made in a short amount of time,” Carey said, noting that it reflects the confidence the league has in the women’s game. “We’re largely an impatient group. We want to see the future here faster, and we have the right team around us to do that.

“So to be able to be one of the smaller but emerging and thriving leagues for women’s sports in the professional realm, to be leading in salary cap is something, you know, we’re really proud of and hopefully an indicator of where we’re headed.”

While the pay disparity between the men’s and women’s game is still vast – something that Carey said is due to the “infancy” of the women’s professional game – that doesn’t mean that it won’t change.

“This league has been built on a strong vision of being a trailblazer,” she said. “They were the first to pay players – it wasn’t enough at the time – but they were the first to do it. They put a new stake in the ground to say that these players matter, and obviously, there are some bumps in the road with any startup and new league.

“But I think where we are now is strongly that new era phase for this league. … In women’s sports, athletes have had to do so much more than just be elite athletes. And listening to the players and all of us being part of this movement within the PHF and building this new era is important and essential to our success.

“We’re focused on what we can control. We’re focused on what we’re building, and we’re focused on doing it quickly but in a sustainable, responsible way. So, you know, we’ll get there, and, you know, we just have to keep demonstrating and showing everybody what a great sport it is to watch.”

It took overtime, but the Toronto Six finally secured the one prize that has eluded them: the Isobel Cup.

After twice taking a one-goal lead and then watching their lead disappear, the Six finally broke through in overtime to take the 4-3 win against the Minnesota Whitecaps. Tereza Vanisova scored the game-winner, bringing the Isobel Cup to Canada for the first time in the Premier Hockey Federation’s eight-year history. 

The title win also marked the first time a professional hockey team has brought a championship back to Toronto since 2017-18, when the AHL’s Toronto Marlies won the Calder Cup. On the women’s side, the Toronto-area Markham Thunder won the Clarkson Cup in the CWHL in the same season.

The Six reached their first championship game appearance in their three years as a team after they beat the Connecticut Whale 2-1 in a best-of-three semifinal series.

“This has been three years in the making of where we’re at now,” captain Shiann Darkangelo said. “I’m super excited and proud of the group that’s been here and the girls that have been a part of it to bring the Isobel Cup back to Toronto.”

Vanisova was named player of the game and becomes just the second player in PHF history to win three Isobel Cup titles. Her former Boston Pride teammate Jillian Dempsey is the other.

And as for what the win means for Toronto?

“It’s going to be amazing, maybe we’ll have a big parade in Toronto,” coach Geraldine Heaney said. “That will give the young girls in Toronto something to dream about as well.”

The Toronto Six are looking to become the first Canadian team to win the Isobel Cup in the Premier Hockey Federation playoffs.

The Six and the Minnesota Whitecaps will face off in Sunday’s championship game, which is set to be played in Phoenix at the Arizona Coyotes’ home arena. The NHL team has partnered with the league to host the PHF final in a NHL arena for the first time.

The Whitecaps finished 10-11-3 in the regular season. But even after entering the playoffs on an eight-game losing streak, they swept the hosting Boston Pride in a best-of-three semifinal series.

Boston entered as the two-time defending Isobel Cup champion and seemed set up to succeed again, with the PHF’s leading scorer in Loren Gabel (40 points) and leading goaltender in Corinne Schroeder (1.67 goals against average and 0.955 save percentage). But they could not handle the Whitecaps.

The Six bested the Connecticut Whale in the other semifinal series, claiming a 3-0 victory in Monday’s deciding Game 3.

“The last two seasons were kind of disappointments for us, so it makes you that much more hungry going into the next season,” Six forward Emma Woods told Sportsnet. “All the returners are feeling that big-time this year.

“We want to win the Isobel Cup. It’s never come back to Canada. There’s a lot of anticipation and nerves of course too, but a lot of excitement. We’re here to win.”

In her first season with the Six, Brittney Howard led the team with 16 goals (26 points). But Connecticut has the firepower to match in Kennedy Marchment, who had 17 goals on the season and was second in the league in points with 35.

This season has been a big one for the PHF, which increased its salary cap to $750,000 and next season will double that to $1.5 million. The increased investment has meant salaries for players, with some topping six figures for the first time, and momentum for the league, which stands as the only professional women’s league in North America – at least for now.

“Go back to what I probably have been saying the last five, six years,” former player Brianna Decker told SJ Hockey Now. “We need to have one league in order for this thing to work. The PHF is doing a great job. I think it’s come miles and miles compared to how they were, when they were the NWHL and when I was playing for them.

“They’re organized. They’re working on things every single day. They’re driven. Having Reagan Carey in there, it’s been a lot different. At the end of the day, we’ve got to have players all in one league in order for this to work, making it easier for fans and people who are supporting us.”

Full Playoff Schedule

Note: All game times are listed in Eastern Time. All semifinal games will air on ESPN+. *If necessary.

  • Semifinal #1: Minnesota 2, Boston 0
    • Minnesota 5, Boston 2
    • Minnesota 4, Boston 1
  • Semifinal #2: Toronto 2, Connecticut 1
    • Connecticut 5, Toronto 3
    • Toronto 3, Connecticut 2
    • Toronto 3, Connecticut 0
  • Championship: Minnesota vs. Toronto
    • Sunday, March 26 — 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2

The Premier Hockey Federation will have a new highest-paid player next season.

Daryl Watts signed a record two-year contract with the Toronto Six, which will see her earn $150,000 for the 2023-24 campaign. While PHF players are not required to reveal their salaries, Watts will have the highest known salary.

“I think the main reason why I’m releasing it is because women’s hockey has been struggling for so long,” the 23-year-old Toronto native said. “I think a number like this will provide the women’s hockey community great relief and a great sense of hope that the future is bright.”

As a star college player, she won a national title with Wisconsin in 2021. In the 2021-22 season, she racked up 57 points and 28 goals in 38 games for the Badgers.

Her PHF contract smashes the previous record deal signed by forward Mikyla Grant-Mentis last May. Grant-Mentis joined the Buffalo Beauts on a one-year, $80,000 contract ahead of the 2022-23 season.

The seven-team PHF has a salary cap of $750,000 this season. That figure will double to $1.5 million next season, with a projected salary floor of $1.125 million. Watts’ salary for next season reflects that jump. The PHF salary cap has increased tenfold since 2021, when it stood at $150,000.

How do those numbers compare to the WNBA and the NWSL?

The WNBA salary cap stands at $1,420,500 for 2023, with a salary floor of $1,188,990. While the cap is lower than that of the PHF, WNBA rosters hold fewer players, so the average player likely makes more money.

WNBA players can earn a maximum salary of $234,936 in 2023. The minimum salary is $62,285 for the upcoming season, much higher than the PHF’s minimum of $13,500 for the 2022-23 season, though that was created with part-time players in mind.

The NWSL salary cap stands at $1.375 million for the 2023 season. The league does not have a salary floor, but it does have a minimum player salary of $36,400. In 2022, Washington Spirit forward Trinity Rodman signed the biggest contract in NWSL history, worth $1.1 million over four years.