Professional Women’s Hockey has arrived in Ottawa.
Ottawa has been named as one of the original six franchises in the new Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL). Starting in January, the yet to be named team will play a 24 game regular season against five other clubs: Toronto, Montreal, New York City, Boston and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The league is being backed financially by American Mark Walter, the part-owner of the L.A. Dodgers and co-owner of Chelsea FC. The board of directors includes former tennis star Billie Jean King; Stan Kasten and Royce Cohen, two of Walter’s executive colleagues from the Dodgers; and sports executive Ilana Kloss.
Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford will serve as the league’s senior vice-president of hockey operations and released this statement today:
A letter from our leadership to our hockey community. pic.twitter.com/RAqdXow3RN
— PWHL (@thepwhlofficial) August 29, 2023
Rosters for the inaugural season will begin forming during an initial free agency period starting September 1st. During this period, each franchise can select three players of their choice, presumably the best of the best.
Everyone else will be made available in the PWHL Entry Draft on September 18th.
The PWHL was created in June when the Mark Walter Group and Billie Jean King Enterprises acquired the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF). Ottawa was not part of that league but it’s suddenly part of this new one.
So what changed in June to potentially alter the Ottawa hockey landscape? That’s when Michael Andlauer reached an agreement to buy the Ottawa Senators, which has led to speculation he may also be behind this sudden push for a women’s hockey franchise in the nation’s capital.
The league hasn’t officially announced anything on team nicknames or arenas, although there have been reports that Ottawa may play at TD Place Arena, where the 67s play.
As for nicknames, it seems likely that PHF champion Toronto (Six), Montreal (Force), Boston (Pride) and Minnesota (Whitecaps) will retain the names they had in the PHF.
The league will handle the hiring of general managers for each of the six teams and announcements are expected shortly.
The PWHL should not be confused with the other PWHL – the Provincial Women’s Hockey League – where the Nepean Wildcats, Ottawa Lady Senators, Ottawa Lady 67s, and the province’s other top U-22 women’s teams compete. That league recently rebranded after 19 years to become the OWHL U-22 Elite.
It’s often been said that the elusive long-term success of any women’s professional hockey league will rely on at least some support from the NHL. And based on the league’ statement today, the new PWHL appears to have it.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) August 29, 2023