Momentum and more in women’s hockey — Beau Marchwick talks PHF-EliteProspects partnership — Must-click women’s hockey links

The IX: Hockey Friday with Anne Tokarski, May 13, 2022

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Today, we’re going to be talking about momentum — and, fortunately, not the type that’s the product of mass and velocity. Instead, we’re talking about the momentum that’s established online and on paper, the kind of feeling that can’t be quantified.

Momentum (and doesn’t that word look weird already?) has long been a hot topic in women’s hockey. We talk about the momentum that was established by the World Championship, by the Olympics, by collegiate national titles, and by grassroots initiatives in communities across North America. We talk about using the momentum that these events establish to attract new fans; we talk about using the momentum that these events establish to build what already exists into something greater.

It’s no secret that the PWHPA wanted to use the momentum of the 2022 Beijing Olympics, and all the eyes it put on their game, to launch a sustainable women’s professional hockey league. But with nearly three months gone since the Canadians brought home the gold medal and no new league announced by the organization nor any of those Olympic medalists departing their year of centralization and joining the PHF, you have to wonder if some of that momentum has dissipated.

Women’s hockey fans don’t necessarily think so.

“As a fan of women’s hockey, there is always the hope that the momentum from the Olympics will carry over and bolster the game in the [in-between] years,” said Courtney Adams, a long-time women’s hockey fan I connected with via Twitter. “Between the media reporting on a new PWPHA league and the changes with the PHF, it feels like we can see that momentum being converted into growth.”

“I think the individual players from the Olympics within the PWHPA have done a great job capitalizing off the moment, which by association has helped elevate the PWHPA,” said Claire Palmer, who sits on a committee dedicated to growing women’s hockey in her hometown of Golden, B.C., and has followed the women’s game for years since hanging up her own skates.

There are obstacles to that growth, though. The PWHPA hasn’t had a consistent streaming partner for its showcases, with games split between CBC, YouTube, and other local stations and a rotating cast of commentators.

On the other hand, prior to the 2021-22 season, the PHF announced a landmark streaming deal with ESPN+…in the United States. International fans, including Canadian fans of the league’s only Canadian franchise, are relegated to Twitch, which, though free, doesn’t have the same streaming capacities or broadcast crews as exist in the United States.

“Both [organizations] are super hard to watch in Canada,” said Palmer. “They’re low-key inaccessible to a huge market, which is a failure of Canadian media to capitalize on Olympic momentum.”

That being said, neither Palmer nor Adams believe the moment for the PWHPA to announce their new league has passed — nor has the moment passed for the PHF in the U.S.

“While I would have liked to have seen an announcement a bit sooner (especially with the release of the television ratings of the gold medal game), I assume there were a lot of moving parts involved,” Adams said. “[The PWHPA] should definitely be pressing forward now though and utilize the star names to generate excitement, especially since the season won’t start until January.

“It almost feels like the PHF is stepping its game up in response to a new PWHPA league, and it’s so important to the game that the players have options and will hopefully be provided with the best playing atmosphere possible, regardless of where they play,” she added.

As we’ve discussed before here at The IX, we don’t think two leagues competing for talent from the same player pool is necessarily a bad thing. Echoing Adams, two leagues means that each organization will be bettering itself in order to appear more attractive to prospects.

Palmer believes the time for the PWHPA to announce its league is fast approaching, and cautions the organization against waiting past the World Championship in August. “…if it doesn’t come together this season, then the moment has passed. I expect [then] that support for the PHF will take off because people want to see a league, they don’t want to see a showcase every few weekends. They want a tangible team to follow.”

No matter what happens this summer, though, or whether we start or finish the season with one or two women’s hockey leagues, it’s important to remember that more women’s hockey is always a good thing.

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This Week in Women’s Hockey

Around the Rink in the PHF: May Moolah (The Ice Garden)

Mikyla Grant-Mentis reflects on becoming the highest-paid women’s hockey player in history (Sportsnet)

Venla Hovi named head coach of the PHF’s Riveters (The Ice Garden)

WCHA Commissioner Jen Flowers to leave the WCHA after 3 seasons (USCHO)

Five at The IX: Beau Marchwick

Beau Marchwick is a women’s hockey fan and advocate who has worked with hockey’s premier statkeeping site, Elite Prospects, for years now. We chatted with him about what EP’s partnership with the PHF has meant to him, to the league, and to the players involved.

Question: Talk to me a little bit about how the partnership between EliteProspects and the PHF came to fruition.

Beau Marchwick: Well, honestly, the seed of an idea for a partnership between EP and the PHF started in March of 2020. Amanda Zanghi and Dani Rylan invited me to meet with them at a Whitecaps playoff game. I was flattered, but it was a little last minute and I wasn’t able to make it happen unfortunately. Even though that meeting didn’t happen, it got me thinking.

Although I feel that EP is a very visible and trusted hockey brand and website, we are actually a lot smaller company than some people might think. I knew it would be tough to commit dollars to the NWHL/PHF, so I started to think about what else we could offer that would be valuable to women’s hockey and the PHF specifically. The last few years we have been investing a lot of time and effort into improving our premium package and what it can offer to players and staff. So I had the idea of giving a free year of EP Premium to all the players and coaches of the PHF and turning them loose.

Q: Talk to me a little bit about why this partnership is unique.

Marchwick: Well, as I mentioned, this is more of a value partnership than a dollar partnership. So we are giving players and staff free premium profiles that retail for about $100/year. 8 teams with ~30 players/staff comes to about a $24,000 value. It doesn’t seem like much, but really it is worth as much as the PHF players and staff are willing to put back into it. Some of them might just get verified, get a new profile picture, and be done. I am hoping more of them take advantage of the fun features though. You can update your gear preferences (CCM/Bauer/Verbero etc.). You can endorse teammates just like on LinkedIn, but for Faceoffs, Speed, Shooting Accuracy. Coaches can use EP to play around with their lineups. Coaches can endorse players. Coaches can bookmark players in college they may want to keep an eye on for 23-24 free agency! And this is just a few of the features we have to offer right now, with more features on the way for this coming season. Shameless plug, check out these links for more info!……

A lot of these players coach on the side as well… they can also use this free premium package to update the team’s they coach as well or the girls and boys they might provide private lessons to. This doesn’t just unlock premium for themselves, but for everyone else they know that plays hockey.

Q: What is it like collaborating on this kind of scale not just with the PHF as a whole, but with the players too?

Marchwick: Honestly it is one of the coolest things about women’s hockey. Hockey is such a small world, but women’s hockey is even smaller. These players have been working their tails off for years and often with less resources than their male counterparts. It’s not fair. It sucks, so I was trying to think of a way to give them a leg up for once. I think EP Premium could be something like that and I would love the opportunity to talk to more of the players about what they can do with their free Premium accounts!

Q: What did it mean to you personally when the PHF and EliteProspects announced their partnership — and was the response to the announcement on social media rewarding?

Marchwick: It was rewarding, absolutely. I have been updating stats and rosters for girls and women’s hockey for about 4 years now on EP. For the most part it is pretty monotonous data entry and thankless work. I never really thought I would one day be helping set up a partnership with a professional league! Now It is time to execute and get to work. Now that we are starting to see Free Agency signings, I have been in touch with a few GMs and coaches about getting their premium accounts set up and helping them out with any questions they might have. It is still the offseason though, so I am trying not to bombard them with all of my enthusiasm at once, and this is one hell of an offseason for women’s hockey!

Q: You’ve long been an advocate for better statkeeping in women’s hockey — why do you think it’s so important to document scoring events, player histories, etc.?

Marchwick: At our core that is what we are at EliteProspects. We are hockey historians logging every stat, award, or detail for every year for every player because you don’t always know who is going to take that next big step. When your team signs a player from Europe you have NEVER heard of, my goal at EP is to already have 2-3 years at minimum of data for that player. I can’t provide that information without accurate statkeeping and historical information. With accurate information though we can ensure that EP is a place where news outlets and fans will come to find information about a new player or coach’s history and their story.

Not only that, but you can see complete league records like who has the most PIM in PHF/NWHL history? Who has the highest Pts/Game in a season? That stuff is all there and you can very easily get lost for hours in the data. Different leagues may come and go throughout the years, but EliteProspects is a big enough brand that we will be here to log them all and we won’t be going anywhere!

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Anne Tokarski