Women's hockey history was made on Wednesday, with PWHL Minnesota taking home the inaugural league championship Walter Cup.

After Boston forced a Game 5 in double-overtime on Sunday, Minnesota went on to notch a decisive victory with a final score of 3-0. Liz Schepers, Michela Cava, and Kendall Coyne Schofield all found the back of the net for Minnesota, with Schofield’s coming on an empty-netter to end the game. 

The win came after a disappointing Game 4 loss at home that saw a game-winning — and possibly championship-winning — Minnesota goal waived off. But back in Boston, Minnesota was determined not to leave without that Cup. 

"I just think to have something so good taken away, like last game, I just think we knew we had to have it," Taylor Heise, who was named Playoffs MVP after posting a league-leading eight postseason points, told the Athletic. "Like that feeling [of winning] — you had it and you want it back."

The captain and oldest member of the roster, Coyne Schofield had the honors of taking the first lap on the ice with the Walter Cup in hand. 

"It makes me want to tear up thinking about it. She's done so much for this sport," Heise said about the captain. "She's definitely one of the people that's helped this sport grow and one of the reasons why this arena is sold out here tonight."

Minnesota goalie Nicole Hensley relayed that Coyne Schofield, who helped to found the PWHL, was more than worthy of the win.

"There’s so much about this day that she deserves," said goalie Nicole Hensley. “She has obviously done so much for this sport and for this professional league. It’s completely fitting that she’s the first one to touch the Walter Cup.”

Perhaps fittingly, Minnesota began the season with a win over Boston and ended it the same way. And yet as they entered the playoffs, the odds were stacked against them,

Minnesota started postseason play as the lowest seed after ending a regular season that saw record-breaking attendance numbers on a five-game losing streak. Then, on the brink of elimination against top-seeded Toronto — who started the first round on a 2-0 series lead — Minnesota won three straight to advance to the Finals.

"It’s honestly hard to put into words," said Coyne Schofield. "As soon as we got in, we never looked back. There were times we were down, but we weren’t out. Some people may have counted us out, but we believed in us, the entire way."

New York won the first-ever PWHL game on Monday, dominating Toronto in a 4-0 win.

It was a historic moment for women’s hockey, with Ella Shelton getting the first goal in PWHL history.

It was a monumental day for the new women’s hockey league, with lines for the sellout crowd out the doors and wrapped around the block to get in to watch New York win the first game in PWHL history.

New York followed up with three third-period goals from Alex Carpenter, Jill Saulnier and Kayla Vespa. New York goaltender Corinne Schroeder made 29 saves to get the league’s first shutout.

Billie Jean King, who helped to found the league, was present to witness history and give Toronto their starting lineup.

“Today was one for the history books, as the Professional Women’s Hockey League (@thepwhlofficial) played their 1st game in Toronto,” she wrote on social media. “@PWHL_Toronto took on @PWHL_NewYork, the game was action-packed, & the arena was full of terrific fans.”

Last Thursday, PHF players and staff learned that assets of their league had been acquired by the Mark Walter Group ahead of the launch of a new professional women’s hockey league in January 2024. While the PHF portrayed the news as good for the future of women’s hockey, players — whose contracts for the upcoming season are now void — understandably had some questions.

“I think people are having a lot of different, conflicting feelings simultaneously. I think there’s some shock, some anger, some sadness, as well as some hope and optimism and excitement,” PHF Players’ Association (PHFPA) executive director Nicole Corriero told Just Women’s Sports in a phone interview.

Corriero, who got a heads up about the sale from commissioner Reagan Carey last Tuesday, said the players’ association has had internal discussions since the announcement about how to best support players during the transition period.

“The drastic changes that people are going to be having to make in terms of their lifestyle, financial decisions, things like that — along with the uncertainty that’s coupled with it — is really daunting and really challenging,” she said.

Corriero, a former three-time NCAA All-American at Harvard, has led the PHFPA for just over a year. She said the players’ association is committed to ensuring that anyone affected by the sale has an outlet for communication.

“I would say my biggest concerns are the people who were new signees, whether they’re coming out of college or people that are coming overseas,” Corriero said.

“It’s understandable that not everybody is going to get their pom-poms out and be excited, even if there is a lot of positivity, a lot of hope and a lot of optimism for the future.”

While the PHF Players’ Association has not posted anything on its social media channels, on Sunday a group of 11 PHF players representing all seven teams issued a public statement that expressed a message of optimism entering this new era of women’s hockey.

“We are hugely excited to see a unified league that will house all of the best athletes that hockey has to offer and aim to build the strongest league that can stand the test of time,” they wrote.

The players who signed the letter — Jillian Dempsey, Allie Thunstrom, Dominique Kremer, Kacey Bellamy, Kennedy Marchment, Madison Packer, Kaleigh Fratkin, Katerina Mrazova, Sydney Brodt, Ann-Sophie Bettez and Shiann Darkangelo — are among the PHF/NWHL’s most senior veterans.

They are also among the league’s most talented players; 10 of the 11 were named All-Stars in 2023 and all are expected to contend for a spot in the new league. The only non All-Star in the group, Kacey Bellamy, served as PHF scout and player liaison during the 2022-23 season. In April, she announced she was coming out of retirement to sign with the Connecticut Whale.

While some members of the player leadership committee also serve as players’ association representatives, the two groups are separate.

According to Corriero, the players in the leadership committee are “players that the now dissolved league contacted or communicated with to discuss some of the initial news because they can be an initial support system.”

Corriero added: “The leadership committee is not intended to replace the Players’ Association. It has a somewhat different objective in terms of what it’s trying to promote and help to communicate on behalf of the players. It is a separate entity in that it was kind of created in conjunction with the league as a conduit for communication and helping with the transition.”

In a message reviewed by Just Women’s Sports, the player leadership committee asks players to forward any media inquiries or communications regarding the PWHPA, PHF or the new league to a committee email address “until further notice” to ensure “PHF players are unified and consistent with our message across all communication channels.”

Asked how this committee’s goals and mission differ from those of the players’ association, Fratkin wrote: “The Player Leadership Committee and the PHFPA are complementary resources for players who played in the PHF. This is not a faction with separate goals. Our purpose is to be an added liaison for players during this transition.”

The player leadership committee did not respond to a question about how its members were selected. The league also did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding its role in assembling and/or selecting members for the player leadership committee.

Members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) ratified their collective bargaining agreement via a unanimous vote Sunday night after a 72-hour voting window.

The new CBA also comes on the heels of the confirmation of a new women’s professional hockey league, which is slated to launch in January 2024 with financial and leadership support from the Mark Walter Group and Billie Jean King Enterprises.

The union, dubbed the Professional Women’s Hockey League Players Association (PWHLPA), was voluntarily recognized by its new employer, though the league itself is yet to be named. It is 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. The WNBA ratified its first CBA in 1999 ahead of the league’s third season, while the NWSL’s first CBA was finalized in 2022 ahead of the league’s 10th season.

The PWHPA’s bargaining committee — consisting of Kendall Coyne Schofield, Brianne Jenner, Hilary Knight, Liz Knox and Sarah Nurse — negotiated with the league’s new owners for five months. They kept PWHPA players up-to-date on the negotiation process until the final CBA was proposed on Thursday night.

The new women’s hockey CBA outlines salary and facility requirements and guarantees benefits and standards for health insurance, housing stipends, a 401(k) program, relocation expenses, per diems, hotel accommodations, pregnancy benefits, childcare coverage, parental leave, nursing accommodations and more. 

Hailey Salvian of The Athletic reported that salaries will range from $35,000 to $80,000 or more during the initial year of competition, with minimum salaries set to increase by 3% each year. Salvian also reported that the CBA includes stipulations that no more than nine players can be paid the league minimum and that, during year one, at least six players per team will be signed to three-year $80,000-plus guaranteed contracts.

According to a source who reviewed the document, there isn’t a traditional salary cap. Instead, the CBA is structured on salary averages to ensure that the divide between lowest and highest paid players doesn’t grow too large.

 “It sets us up with this foundation and expectations. Players know what they’re going to get,” PWHPA operations consultant Jayna Hefford told Just Women’s Sports.

“There are player protections and workplace safety (requirements). There are standards that are going to have to be met as it relates to facilities and where players train. All of that is critical to the success of a long term, viable league.”

Stan Kasten, a member of the league’s new board who was part of the negotiating process, praised the players involved. 

“I can’t say enough about the determination of this group of PWHPA players. They fought for what they believe, they were determined, passionate and really, really smart,” Kasten told Just Women’s Sports.

“They held out until they got the rights, the protections, the facilities – all of those things that elite athletes deserve. And they didn’t settle for second best, they waited. And they wound up with something that is kind of a dream come true for all of us involved in this.” 

When the PWHPA filed its articles of incorporation in 2019 following the collapse of the CWHL, as players looked for more than what the PHF (then NWHL) could guarantee, the group cited sustainability as one of its goals.

“We are prepared to stop playing for a year—which is crushing to even think about—because we know how important a sustainable league will be to the future of women’s sports,” Shannon Szabados, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for Canada, said at the time. 

It ultimately took four years, not one, but Kasten said the new ownership group is in it for the long haul. 

“We have not just a long-term vision, but a permanent vision, and that requires funding,” he said. “It requires infrastructure. And, most of all, it requires strength of ownership and leadership. And we’re starting with Mark Walter and Billie Jean King and, I’m sorry, it doesn’t get better than that.”

There is a long history of women’s sports leagues — including women’s hockey leagues — launching without proper funding, infrastructure, or safety measures in place. That was even one of the factors Sally Yates cited in the U.S. Soccer-commissioned report into abuse in the NWSL. 

“In the haste to get the League off the ground, the Federation conducted limited financial due diligence on the new league’s prospective owners and did not put in place the infrastructure or planning necessary to support the League over the long haul. Instead, the focus was on putting eight teams on the field,” the Yates report read.

The new hockey league is looking to avoid such pitfalls.

“Fans maybe don’t understand why (a CBA) is so important, but when we look at those other leagues, when we look at what’s happened in women’s hockey, a lot of those difficult things that have happened were because there weren’t player protections and workplace safety and termination clauses,” Hefford said. 

While current PWHPA members negotiated and voted on the CBA, former PHF members will be eligible to join the PWHLPA union.

Members of the U.S. women’s hockey team make less money than their Canadian rivals.

Canadian players not only have access to a larger pool of funds, but Hockey Canada is providing funding for five developmental players in addition to funding its 23-player roster, the Associated Press reported Thursday. In comparison, USA Hockey limits its funding to 23 players.

The report comes after a long battle between American players and USA Hockey over the benefits and provisions in their new contract.

A source familiar with the negotiation process told Just Women’s Sports that U.S. players tried to get similar developmental funding, but USA Hockey refused to cover the expense. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity due to a confidentiality clause in the U.S. contract.

In addition, Canadian players receive a percentage of ticket revenue from the annual Rivalry Series games played in Canada. There’s no comparable revenue sharing agreement in the U.S. contract.

The NHL is providing some funding to U.S. players as part of the new deal, something the league initially began doing following the 2017 boycott, per the AP report. For reference, the NHL has given USA Hockey money for the boys-only national team developmental program (NTDP) for decades.

Canada’s contract, which lasts just one year, went into effect on Oct. 1, 2022, and was announced in December. The U.S. contract, which lasts for three years, was never announced but was signed in January. The old U.S. contract was initially set to expire in August 2022 — right in the middle of the 2022 World Championship — but the two sides agreed to an extension ahead of the competition.

U.S. players have long been critical of USA Hockey’s treatment and promotion of the women’s team, in addition to the resources and funding provided to the country’s female athletes. In 2017, U.S. players threatened to boycott that year’s World Championship unless USA Hockey came to the table and provided the women’s team with more equitable funding and support. According to the AP, while the pool of money allocated to U.S. players has increased since 2017, it has not kept up with the pace of inflation.

Both Hockey Canada and USA Hockey consider players independent contractors, not employees. As a result, players are unable to collectively bargain or unionize. That’s a major difference from the soccer world, where both the U.S. and Canadian teams are unionized. Canada’s national soccer team is currently embroiled in a dispute with Canada Soccer over its own collective bargaining agreement.

Team USA won the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship title on Sunday night in a thrilling come-from-behind victory. The U.S. defeated Canada, 6-3, at the CAA Centre in Brampton, Ontario, to win its 10th women’s hockey world title — and first since 2019.

The final score was not indicative of just how tight the game was. Canada led three times on Sunday night, with the U.S. coming back each time.

Tied 3-3 with just over three minutes remaining in regulation, U.S. captain Hilary Knight scored the go-ahead goal on a 5-on-3 power play — her 100th career world championship point. Knight, who also scored Team USA’s second goal of the night, completed her hat trick just 27 seconds later.

Aerin Frankel anchored the U.S. in net, turning away 24 shots.

Canada entered the final with momentum in the cross-border rivalry, having won the last two world championship titles, plus Olympic gold in 2022. Then add in that Canada was on a five-game win streak versus the U.S., which included a nine-round shootout victory during the preliminary round.

For the 22nd time in 22 tournaments, the U.S. women’s hockey team will play in the final of the IIHF Women’s World Championship.

The U.S. defeated Czechia, 9-1, at CAA Centre in Brampton, Ontario, on Saturday to book a spot in this year’s championship game (Sunday 7pm ET, NHL Network). Team USA will play the winner of Saturday’s other semifinal (Canada vs. Switzerland).

The U.S. kicked off scoring into the first period with an Amanda Kessel power play goal (video embedded below).

While Kessel’s was the only goal scored in the first period, the U.S. opened the floodgates in the second with two goals from Hilary Knight, one from Abbey Murphy, one from Abby Roque, and another from Kessel.

Czechia also recorded its lone goal of the game the second period with this snipe from 16-year-old Adéla Šapovalivová, who is making her second senior world championship appearance in Brampton (video embedded below).

 

With the win, the U.S. women’s hockey team continues its unprecedented streak of World Championship finals appearances. Beginning with the first IIHF Women’s World Championship in 1990, the U.S. has qualified for the final each and every time, winning the world title on nine occasions.

Archrival Canada has made the world championship final every year save one: 2019, when the Canadians were upset by Finland, 4-2, in the semifinal round.

Women’s Hockey World Championship – Year-by-Year Finals History

  • 1990: Canada def. United States, 5–2
  • 1992: Canada def. United States, 8–0
  • 1994: Canada def. United States, 6–3
  • 1997: Canada def. United States, 4–3 (OT)
  • 1999: Canada def. United States, 3–1
  • 2000: Canada def. United States, 3–2 (OT)
  • 2001: Canada def. United States, 3–2
  • 2003: Tournament cancelled due to SARS outbreak
  • 2004: Canada def. United States, 2–0
  • 2005: United States def. Canada, 1–0 (SO)
  • 2007: Canada def. United States, 5–1
  • 2008: United States def. Canada, 4–3
  • 2009: United States def. Canada, 4–1
  • 2011: United States def. Canada, 3–2 (OT)
  • 2012: Canada def. United States, 5–4 (OT)
  • 2013: United States def. Canada, 3–2
  • 2015: United States def. Canada, 7–5
  • 2016: United States def. Canada, 1–0 (OT)
  • 2017: United States def. Canada, 3–2 (OT)
  • 2019: United States def. Finland, 2–1 (SO)
  • 2020: Tournament cancelled due to COVID-19
  • 2021: Canada def. United States, 3–2 (OT)
  • 2022: Canada def. United States 2–1

After an up-and-down regular season, the Wisconsin Badgers put on a postseason clinic, winning the 2023 NCAA women’s hockey national championship on Sunday. With the win, the Badgers broke their tie with the University of Minnesota for most NCAA titles in women’s hockey (7).

Wisconsin defeated defending national champion Ohio State, 1-0, at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, Minnesota. Badgers first year Kirsten Simms scored the lone goal of the game, 13 minutes into the first period. It marks the first time Ohio State’s women’s hockey team was shutout in over a year.

Despite the program’s historic success, Wisconsin didn’t enter this year’s NCAA tournament as the favorite. The Badgers had a rough start to 2023, dropping five straight games in January (including two to Ohio State). After losing to Minnesota in the WCHA Championship earlier this month, Wisconsin got an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament as the No. 6 seed. They went on to defeat No. 3 Colgate in the quarterfinals, No. 2 Minnesota in the semifinals (winning with a thrilling OT goal), and then met No. 1 Ohio State in the championship game.

All seven of Wisconsin’s women’s hockey NCAA titles (2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2019, 2021, 2023) have been won under longtime Badgers head coach Mark Johnson.

Ohio State graduate student Sophie Jaques was named the 2023 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner, which is awarded annually to the best Division I women’s college hockey player. Jaques is the first Ohio State athlete and first Black player to win the award. She is also just the second defender to receive the honor, joining Harvard’s Angela Ruggiero, who won in 2004.

“I am extremely honored and humbled to receive the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award,” Jaques said during her acceptance speech at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, Minnesota on Saturday. “I am grateful to be a recipient of an award named after the incredible athlete, scholar and human being, Patty Kazmaier. While this is an individual award, I have been supported by a whole team of people throughout this season and my career at Ohio State, and I owe this all to my coaches and teammates over the last five years. Receiving this award is something I never even could have imagined was possible.”

Jaques is the WCHA record holder in career goals by a defenseman (61) and also owns 95 career assists. The Toronto native is the 10th Canadian winner of the Patty Kazmaier award, joining Jennifer Botterill (2001, 2003), Sara Bauer (2006), Sarah Vaillancourt (2008), Vicki Bendus (2010), Jamie Lee Rattray (2014), Ann-Renee Desbiens (2017), Daryl Watts (2018), Loren Gabel (2019), and Elizabeth Giguere (2020).

Jaques was a top-three finalist for last year’s Patty Kazmaier award and went on to help Ohio State win its first ever NCAA championship in women’s hockey. The Buckeyes will attempt to defend their national title in Sunday’s final against the Wisconsin Badgers (4 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

Last spring, Jaques graduated magna cum laude with her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and she is currently pursuing her master’s degree at Ohio State in the same field. The 22-year-old is also the vice president of SHEROs, which according to an Ohio State press release, is an “organization that provides a safe space for minority female student-athletes to have open discussions and promote diversity in sport.”

The other finalists for the 2023 Patty Kazmaier award were Northeastern University forward Alina Mueller and Colgate forward Danielle Serdachny. Mueller was also a top-three finalist in 2020.

Wisconsin freshman Caroline Harvey scored a clutch overtime winner in Friday night’s Frozen Four semifinal against the University of Minnesota to send the Badgers to Sunday’s NCAA women’s hockey championship game.

“Honestly, I blacked out, but it was pretty crazy,” Harvey said of her game-winner at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, Minnesota.

Harvey, 20, deferred her freshman year at Wisconsin in order to compete at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, where she was the youngest member of the silver medal-winning U.S. hockey team. On Thursday, the New Hampshire native became just the second Wisconsin freshman to earn All-America honors.

Friday’s NCAA semifinal marked the sixth meeting between Minnesota and Wisconsin this season and was the third determined in overtime, with two other games ending in a tie.

Minnesota took the early lead after 2022 Patty Kazmaier winner Taylor Heise scored just over three minutes into the game. In the third period, Wisconsin scored two goals in 57 seconds with tallies from Laila Edwards and Sophie Shirley. After pulling goalie Skylar Vetter for an extra attacker, Minnesota forced overtime with 1:11 remaining in regulation thanks to a goal from Madeline Weathington.

In Friday’s other NCAA hockey semifinal, Ohio State defeated Northeastern 3-0. Ohio State enters Sunday’s championship aiming to defend its 2022 NCAA title, while Wisconsin could break the record for most NCAA titles in women’s hockey. The Badgers are currently tied with Minnesota at six titles each.

Sunday’s NCAA hockey championship game between Ohio State and Wisconsin will air on ESPNU (4 p.m. ET).