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PHF, PWHPA discussions during Wednesday meeting ‘constructive’

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The Premier Hockey Federation and the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association met Wednesday in an attempt to bring the two sides together.

The meeting took place in New York and was at the request of the NHL, as first reported by Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek.

The six-team PHF deemed the discussions “constructive” but would not say whether more meetings have been scheduled. The only professional women’s hockey league in North America, the PHF begins its playoffs Friday in Tampa.

When reached by the Associated Press on Thursday, PWHPA executive Jayna Hefford and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly declined to comment.

PHF players said that they were more focused on the end of the season than the talks during a Tuesday media call.

“To be completely honest, there is very little of my attention being placed on the talks because the focus is 110 percent on the team and our two games that are left,” Connecticut Whale captain Shannon Doyle said. “I really haven’t been focusing on it at all for the sole purpose of, I have a job to do and it’s got a week left.

“After that, I might take some time to see what’s up and help if I can,” she added, noting that her hope is that she can one day leave hockey “better than I found it.”

Both the PWHPA and PHF are experiencing substantial growth.

In January, the PHF announced a $25 million investment by its board of governors that will see a significant increase in the league’s salary cap – 150 percent over the next three seasons. Additionally, players will now receive healthcare benefits and 10 percent equity in their respective teams.

Expansion is also on the table, with the PHF looking to add two more teams and bring its total to eight.

The PWHPA currently lists 10 NHL teams as partners, although most teams are hesitant to partner with a women’s league without NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s approval. The NHL repeatedly has said it would not support women’s hockey financially while there are two competing leagues.

The PWHPA and PHF have been at odds since the PWHPA was formed in May 2019. PWHPA members had left the PHF, calling into question former commissioner and founder Dani Rylan Kearney’s management style. Questions over the league’s financial shortfalls also arose as the league cut player salaries by more than half a mere month into its second season.

In forming the PWHPA, players sought to create a more sustainable economic model better supported by players.

Reports have indicated that the PWHPA is on its way to forming a full-fledged league, which would include a substantial, multi-million dollar funding opportunity. The deal is expected to have a commitment range of eight to 10 years.

A source with knowledge of the PWHPA’s internal discussions told CBC Sports that in order for the PWHPA to change its course and align itself with the PHF and the NHL, Bettman would have to propose “a very substantial offer.”

The PWHPA is also reportedly confident in their abilities to move forward without outside involvement.