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PHF sale ‘ruined a lot of people’s lives in a 10-minute Zoom call’

Mikyla Grant-Mentis leads her team onto the ice at the PHF’s 2023 All-Star Showcase. (Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)

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.”

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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