The Boston Pride and Toronto Six meet in the semifinals of the 2021 Isobel Cup playoffs in March. (Michelle Jay/NWHL)

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.”