Premier Hockey Federation begins eighth season in style

Mikyla Grant-Mentis, center, signed an $80,000 deal with the Buffalo Beauts in May. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Premier Hockey Federation is back.

While the Boston Pride kicked off their title defense in style with a 4-0 win over Connecticut, expansion team Montreal got their first win in their first-ever game.

With a lot of movement, and some significant roster turnover, in the offseason, teams look different than they did last year. The front office does, too. PHF commissioner Reagan Carey was appointed in April and has since brought on familiar faces like U.S. Olympians Kacey Bellamy and Brianna Decker as well as long-time Team Canada manager Melody Davidson.

This as the league implemented its new $750,000 salary cap, which was announced in January. As a result, Mikyla Grant-Mentis signed the largest professional contract for a women’s hockey player at a record $80,000 for the upcoming season. A multitude of other stars will earn at least $50,000 this season.

“I think it’s a very exciting time with the PHF as salaries continue to increase,” said Toronto Six captain Shiann Darkangelo. “We’ve seen different dollar amounts with girls playing overseas, in China, things like that. But to see it here in North America is huge.”

A new, two-year broadcasting deal with ESPN was also announced in the offseason. In all, Carey told The Athletic that it’s a “new era” for the league.

“Everybody’s excited about the increase in the salary cap,” she said. “We’re all on the same page knowing that’s a huge step forward, but it’s nothing that we’re resting on.”

“Having a broadcast partner like ESPN certainly helps us in a lot of areas, whether it’s just fan involvement, and fan retention, as well as sponsorship and just being able to share the great stories that are within the PHF.”

On Saturday, the Toronto Six and Boston Pride both sold out their home openers, a sign of growth for the league beyond expansion.

New expansion team Montreal kicked off their inaugural season in style, with a shootout win over the Boston Pride.

While Montreal is the lone expansion team this season – after it was announced previously that there would be two teams being added to the league – they certainly won’t be the last. Carey said that the league is exploring expansion. They join other major women’s leagues, like the WNBA and the NWSL, as women’s sports continues to experience unprecedented growth.

“The exciting part of being in women’s sports right now is that (it) used to be a phone call out to people to see who might be interested,” Carey said. “Now, we’re seeing the calls come in, and the interest comes to us in a lot of markets that weren’t on our radar even in April.”