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New Toronto Six owner slams PWHPA for ‘suppressing’ women’s hockey

New Toronto Six owner and hockey Hall of Fame member Angela James is hitting back at the PWHPA, accusing the league of stunting the development of women’s hockey over its refusal to combine forces.

The comments were originally posted on Facebook but later shared on Twitter by Toronto Six player Saroya Tinker.

“I do not have a political agenda here nor have I been a part of either league for the past 10 years,” James wrote. “I do know I coach in a professional pro competitive hockey league. Right now, I’m so disappointed in the PWHPA. Whose interest are you protecting? It isn’t the interest of the non-national team players that have supported your association for 3 years now without playing a league game.”

After highlighting the PHF’s recent $25 million investment by league owners and salary cap increases, James called out the PWHPA for their seeming lack of planning.

“I have yet to see a plan from the PWHPA or I would have included it,” she continued. “Why can’t you work out these differences instead of suppressing and handcuffing the elite athletes in the progress of the pro game already made.

“Women’s hockey is bigger than the PHF and the PWHPA, together we can make history. The best women players in the game deserve to be competing at the pro level in ONE league.”

James, who was the first and remains the only Black player to captain Canada’s National Women’s Team, has also been serving as an assistant coach for the Six during the current PHF season.

The PHF and PWHPA have been at odds since the PWHPA was formed in May of 2019. PWHPA members at the time did not like former commissioner and founder Dani Rylan Kearney’s management style. There were also concerns over the league’s financial shortfalls, with the league cutting players’ salaries by more than half just a month into its second season.

In forming the PWHPA, players hoped to create a more sustainable economic model that held more player support.

Over the past two weeks, that objective has come into greater focus as the league has reportedly been in talks with NHL teams and major corporate sponsors to form a new league within the next year.

As the PHF has gained increasing support and revamped itself, further questions have been raised after commissioner Tyler Tumminia resigned, citing personal reasons. The PHFPA also parted ways with its executive director after just three weeks.

According to James, the PHF has met all of the PWHPA’s demands to come together as one league.

“They have already agreed to everything on the PWHPA’s wish list to my knowledge and still not good enough,” James wrote. “How about combining your resources for the better of the game, and everyone set aside their egos?”

PWHPA advisor Liz Knox seemed to hit back at James’ comments on Twitter, writing: “Management, coaches, front office, (etc.) speaking on behalf of players’ experience instead of supporting the true voice of the players is exactly why the PWHPA was formed.”

The comments came days before the PHF officially announced on Monday the sale of the Toronto Six to a new ownership group. James is included amongst the group, which is led by retired NHL forward Anthony Stewart. Bernice Carnegie and Ted Nolan are also members of the ownership group.

They are the first BIPOC and Canadian investors in PHF history. Nolan is a member of the First Nation’s Ojibwe tribe and was the NHL’s coach of the year in the late ‘90s while Stewart, whose father is from Jamaica, is the chair of Hockey Equality.

“Together with my partners, we know how much representation matters and how important role models are for young hockey players,” said Stewart. “It brings me great joy to be part of something special and help strengthen a platform that will make the game better for the next generation and grow the game in the community that I love. We believe the PHF is well-positioned to become a leader in professional sports and look forward to continuing to build the Toronto Six into a winner on and off the ice.”

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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