The newly formed Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) will feature six teams in its inaugural season, three in the U.S. and three in Canada.
The PWHL officially announced its franchise locations in a news conference Tuesday, but the league provided an early reveal via its newly unveiled account on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. The PWHL account follows exactly six other accounts — those of its teams in the New York City area, Boston, Minnesota, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. Team names and logos will be revealed later.
In choosing its sites, the PWHL hewed closely to the imprint of the defunct Premier Hockey Federation. Investors in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association bought out the Premier Hockey Federation in June, clearing the way for the PWHL as the singular professional women’s league in North America.
The traveling four-team PWHPA played in showcase events around the U.S. and Canada. The seven-team PHF had franchises in Boston, Buffalo, Connecticut, New York/New Jersey, Minnesota, Montreal and Toronto, five of which are represented in the PWHL.
“We wanted a market that was excited about the women’s game, that had a lot of traditional hockey fans that we thought would support women’s hockey,” said Jayna Hefford, the senior vice president of hockey operations for the PWHL.
The PWHL, which counts with Los Angeles Dodgers owner Mark Walter and tennis legend Billie Jean King are among its primary investors, sought markets that could provide arenas large enough to host games as well as dedicated training facilities for the home teams. Washington, D.C., and London, Ontario, were two other potential sites discussed by the league, the Associated Press reported.
Players will soon find out which of the teams they will call home for the 24-game inaugural season, which is set to begin in January 2024. Each team can sign up to three players during a free-agency window starting on Sept. 1, and then a 15-round draft will follow on Sept. 18 in Toronto. Players from both the PWHPA and PHF, plus NCAA graduates and international players, will have the opportunity to declare for the draft.
Teams will be able to sign additional players after the draft, and each roster will feature 23 players. The CBA lays out a salary range of $35,000 to $80,000 per season, and six players on each team will be signed to three-year contracts of no less than $80,000 per season.
The PHWL Players Association ratified its collective bargaining agreement via a unanimous vote in early July, making it the first union in North American women’s pro sports — and possibly all of pro sports — to have a ratified CBA prior to the start of competition. Ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, Brian Burke signed a multi-year deal as the executive director of the Professional Women’s Hockey League Players Association union, a source told Just Women’s Sports. The executive committee for the union, which includes Brianne Jenner, Hilary Knight, Liz Knox, Sarah Nurse and Kendall Coyne Schofield, supervised the hiring.
Burke, 68, most recently served as the president of hockey operations of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins from 2021 to 2023. He also served as a board member for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, which folded in 2019. He called Tuesday the “most exciting day in the history of women’s hockey.”
The PWHL has received advice from the NHL as it plots out its inaugural season, board member Stan Kasten said. The leagues also plan to collaborate on neutral-site games for PWHL teams, special events such as the outdoor Winter Classic series and more.
“They have been fantastically supportive of us from the first minute. … They understand this is our league and we’re going to have to make our own decisions,” Kasten said.