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PWHPA announces five-weekend tour, new league still in works

(Justin Berl/Getty Images)

The Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association will continue its Dream Gap Tour starting in October, it announced Thursday.

The weekend of Oct. 14 will mark the first of five weekend series throughout the fall. Additional series will be held in the winter, and the season will end with a championship in the spring. A “new special event” is also on the schedule, with further details to be released later in the month.

PWHPA teams will no longer be determined by training region. Instead, each team will have 25 players on its roster, and rosters will be determined by a “new player ranking format.” The new format was “developed and reviewed by an external panel of women’s hockey experts,” according to the PWHPA.

The four teams — Team Adidas, Team Harvey’s, Team Scotiabank and Team Sonnet — will still practice at five regional sites in Boston, Calgary, Minnesota, Montreal and Toronto.

In total, 150 players tried out for 100 total spots. Of those 150 players, 43 were past Olympians and more than 75 players had national level experience.

“Coming into our fourth season, we continuously look for ways to increase opportunities for our players to compete as we move towards our ultimate goal of a professional league,” PWHPA operations consultant Jayna Hefford said in a statement. “We also want to continue to provide an exciting product for hockey fans to enjoy, and we’re confident this will be our biggest, most competitive season to date. The depth of talent in women’s hockey increases every year and we’re excited to continue to support our world-class athletes and provide a platform for the best players in the world to perform.”

As Hefford noted, the PWHPA is continuing forward in its plans to form a new league. In May, the PWHPA joined with Billie Jean King Enterprises and the Mark Walter Group with the intention of launching such a league.

The PWHPA’s Thursday announcement, though, said the league “is unable to provide further comment” on plans for the league due to an “NDA with potential partners.”

Previous reports indicated that the league would launch in January 2023, although the league has never announced a specific start date. According to NBC Sports’ On Her Turf, which spoke with a source with knowledge of the situation, that timeline has shifted.

“When I’m up close to it as a player, I wanted it (a new women’s pro league) yesterday. I think we all did,” PWHPA board member Hilary Knight told On Her Turf in a phone interview Wednesday. “Stepping away (and) putting on a business hat, what we’ve accomplished in the last three years is incredible, especially if you take into consideration all the other things that we’re having to juggle.”

As for a new league, Knight is confident that it will come.

“This is an incredibly strong and determined group of women that’s gonna see this thing through,” she added.

Fellow PWHPA board member Kendall Coyne Schofield expressed similar drive and optimism.

“We believe in the vision, we believe in the mission, and we believe in leaving this game better than we entered it,” added fellow PWHPA board member Kendall Coyne Schofield. “Right now, the vision that we have does not exist in women’s hockey. And I think that’s what keeps us going every day.”