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PHF commissioner: League partnering with Athlete Ally for inclusivity training

PHF commissioner Reagan Carey discussed the league’s work with Athlete Ally. (Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

Last year, the Premier Hockey Federation underwent a rebrand, leaving behind its former identity as the National Women’s Hockey League. The name change was inspired in part by the desire to create a more inclusive environment, starting with the most front-facing aspect of the league.

Yet recent moves – particularly the Metropolitan Riveters’ hiring of Digit Murphy as the team president – have led to questioning of the league’s commitment to inclusivity across gender identities.

Murphy had been affiliated with the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, which has come under fire for its views on transgender athletes, though she cut ties with the group in May 2021 after those views came to light.

New PHF commissioner Reagan Carey acknowledged those concerns Wednesday in an interview with Just Women’s Sports. She said that league and team staff members have been undergoing training sessions in conjunction with Athlete Ally, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving sport for LGBT+ athletes.

“We’re looking forward to ramping up even more training sessions, just to ensure that we can be the most inclusive league, community and environment that we can be,” Carey told Just Women’s Sports. “That requires continued education. We’re not gonna take one class and get everything right.

“That’s the commitment you’ll see from me is that we’re just gonna continue to learn and grow and do it together.”

The PHF consulted with Athlete Ally when crafting its transgender and non-binary inclusion policies, which were announced last October.

Under the new rules, transgender women and nonbinary athletes assigned male at birth are eligible for competition if they have been living in their gender identity for at least two years. Transgender men and nonbinary athletes assigned female at birth are eligible to compete as well, but if they are taking testosterone, they must receive a therapeutic use exemption.

Since then, the league has announced a massive $25 million investment by its Board of Governors and has undergone personnel changes, including the hiring of Carey in April.

Earlier in April, the Riveters brought on Murphy as their president, which coincided with an exodus from the team’s front office, including the departure of general manager Anya Packer, who opted not to renew her contract with the team.

After joining the Riveters, Murphy apologized to the transgender community for her involvement with the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group. She first apologized in a video provided to The Hockey News before backing up the apology on Twitter.

“I am sorry I have been detrimental to the entire trans community throughout this saga,” she wrote. “It’s unacceptable and I am DEDICATED to improvement. I should have been completely forthcoming from the very start about my involvement with that group so that there would be absolutely no confusion about who I truly support. Letting things go on as long as they did led to increasing confusion and damage to the trans community.”

According to Carey, the PHF employees she has met so far have had intentions and efforts aligned with the mission of the PHF: to make the league a welcoming and inclusive community that strives to learn and grow.

“I would hope that [mistakes are] never made with any ill intent, and I don’t believe it has been,” said Carey. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to take ownership for that and we do. We’ll move forward and course-correct as we need to.”

The new commissioner wants the PHF to create space for conversations about difficult topics in order to help the league grow and move forward.

“If somebody’s close-minded and not willing to learn and grow, then we have a different situation,” she said. “So far from what I’ve seen, that isn’t the case with anything I’ve experienced within the league.

“Being able to help provide insights and have different opinions I think is going to be important. It’s healthy for us outside of sport, but certainly within sport and within the league.”