The Major Hockey Federation is doubling down on women’s hockey by announcing plans to raise its salary cap to $1.5 million per team for the 2023-24 season in an aggressive bid to deepen its talent pool by offering players the chance to earn a living wage.
The upgrade, announced Wednesday morning, will double each team’s current $750,000 cap this season, and is part of a $25 million overall, three-year commitment. approved by the league’s board of governors 11 months ago. The PHF currently comprises seven franchises, though commissioner Reagan Carey told The Associated Press that an expansion is once again being considered after the league added a team in Montreal this season.
“This is just another example of us pushing ahead with what we know can be a great sport for a bigger audience, and doing more for the players that are in it,” said Carey. “We consider this announcement a victory for anyone who cares about women’s sports, especially women’s hockey.”
The approval came at the league’s winter meeting, and the salary cap hike now represents a 900% increase since 2021-22, when each team’s salary cap was $150,000. As part of the cash inflow, PHF also began providing players with full medical benefits this season, while also growing the league’s operations staff and upgrading team facilities.
“This is a huge commitment and reflects the dedication of everyone involved with PHF, and understanding the importance of reaching this milestone,” said Carey. “I think it clearly shows the strength of our league and the business development model we have been trying to create and continue to create. It just shows PHF’s confidence and direction.”
As for expansion, Carey said, “it’s definitely on the docket,” without providing further details or a timeline.
This season’s salary increase caused Mikyla Grant-Mentis became the first female hockey player in North America to sign an $80,000 contract, with the Buffalo Beauts. Under the $1.5 million cap, a 20-player roster would generate an average for each player earning $75,000 per season.
Carey said all seven teams had exceeded 75% of their salary cap, with several having reached the cap.
“This is an incredible development, and testament to the unwavering commitment of the people who made this a reality,” wrote PHF Players Association executive director Nicole Corriero in a text to The AP. More importantly, the PA recognizes the many past and current players who have been pioneers of the league and of the sport as a whole. … The success of this league and continued growth would not have been possible without them.”
The influx of money means the team will be in a position to offer salaries in excess of $150,000, which would represent more than the current compensation of US and Canadian national team players. Attracting national team players was considered the final hurdle for the PHF to establish itself as the main stage of women’s hockey in North America.
Most of the national team players balked at joining the PHF. They instead formed the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, which has teamed up with NHL investors and franchises to form its own league. Initial plans to unveil the league by the end of this year it had been pushed back indefinitely to 2023.
PHF’s increase in funding coincides with the league overhauling its business model and ownership, including changing its name from the National Women’s Hockey League two years ago.
The PHF team is now privately owned, although some ownership groups control more than one franchise. In addition to Buffalo and Montreal, the league has teams based in Boston, New Jersey, Connecticut, Minnesota and Toronto.
The NWHL was founded as an early, four-team venture in 2015 by Dani Rylan Kearny to become the first women’s hockey league in North America to pay player salaries. The league initially controlled all of the franchises while relying on outside investors to close revenue gaps from ticket sales and merchandise to pay salaries, travel and administrative expenses.
PHF now has multiple sponsorship deals, and broadcast agreements with ESPN+ and TSN Canada to broadcast all of its games.
Carey, in his first year as commissioner, could not have imagined the level of financial commitment to this woman’s hockey a decade ago during her eight year tenure overseeing women’s play in US Hockey. The challenge then was to find creative ways to keep national team players and prospects in the sport as there were few options for them to make a living playing hockey after college.
“To see how far it has come, no, it would be hard to imagine that this is where we are. And recognizing how many people have to be part of that commitment to move something forward is humbling,” said Carey. “Just great traction and great progress in such a short time.”
AP Sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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