PHF, PWHPA meet for NHL-mediated conversation — Nadine Muzerall talks Ohio State’s first national title — Must-click women’s hockey links

The IX: Hockey Friday with Anne Tokarski, March 25, 2022

Welcome to Hockey Friday, everyone. What a week it has been and what a week is on the way.

In case you missed it (and how could you have?), Ohio State women’s hockey won its first national championship on Sunday off the stick of transfer Kenzie Hauswirth. In today’s Five at the IX, we chatted with Ohio State head coach Nadine Muzerall in the post-game press conference about the history she and her team made, and how they got to this point.

Last week, Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek reported that the National (men’s) Hockey League had asked representatives from the PHF and PWHPA to meet “in an attempt to come to an arrangement that would bring the two leagues together” (source). According to Associated Press and ESPN, that discussion happened on Thursday and was “constructive,” per representatives from the PHF (source).

Which leads us to a crossroads.

On one hand, we have the concept of a single women’s professional hockey league in North America where players are paid a living wage, with access to a revenue split, adequate health insurance, and an empowered voice in the negotiating processes. For most, this singular league would have backing and financial support from the NHL, and would feature the best women’s hockey players in North America — names like Hilary Knight, Marie-Philip Poulin, Sarah Nurse, and Kendall Coyne Schofield.

But “one league” isn’t the only option. The PHF and PWHPA can continue to operate as two separate entities, even if (and/or when) the PWHPA creates a formal, more traditional league. These two entities will be sure to compete, but maybe not in the sense you’re envisioning — not for viewers or sponsors or financial backing, but for the best talent. And, as such, they can push each other to be better by offering new and innovative incentives for the players they want to join them.

Think of it this way — one of the PWHPA’s founding assertions was the importance of health coverage should they be injured on the ice. For a long time (seven years, actually), the PHF didn’t offer health insurance to its players. But now, with the $25 million investment from its board of governors, the league is at a point where that health insurance for on-ice or training-related injuries is becoming a reality. This is just one way that the two organizations have pushed each other to be better and inspired each other to ask for and demand more from each other.

I’m firmly in the camp that these two organizations can cooperate…but I don’t know if they have to in order to be successful.



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This Week in Women’s Hockey

Riveters place artist Jo Dabney in the spotlight (NHL.com)

Ohio State’s ‘Cinderella’ story began with the hiring of coach Nadine Muzerall (Columbus Dispatch)

2022 Women’s U-18 World Championship to be held in Madison, WI in June (The Ice Garden)

Syracuse announces head coach Paul Flanagan is retiring (CuseIce/Twitter)

2022 PHF Playoff Preview: X-Factors (The Ice Garden)

Former RMU Colonials reflect on national championship win with Ohio State (USCHO)


Five at the IX: Nadine Muzerall

Ohio State head coach Nadine Muzerall led her team to their first national championship on Sunday. The post-game press conference was a jubilant one laden with the kind of stunned disbelief that can only come after a win of this magnitude.

Question: You mentioned “fast, physical, fierce” being your mantra all season long. How did today’s win exemplify that mentality?

Nadine Muzerall: With ever shift, you know, it’s playoff hockey, you’re gonna get pucks that bounce around and just absorb that, create contact, continue to impress, and be aggressive. I think one of our bread and butters is our our forecheck and how relentless we are and we created a lot of turnovers, a lot of movement from below and hitting our D. I just think that we were very active on the puck and very active in the neutral zone and transition and I thought what was a game-changer for us was controlling between the blue lines. I thought were patient when we needed to be but again, our fitness is, I think, a game-changer for us, you know, 39 shots to 19 and continuing to put a, you know, a full court press on them really and I compliment everything that they’ve sacrificed and their commitment throughout the whole year to get to this point because obviously it was worth it.

Q: You took over six years ago when the program was not in a good place. You had never been a college head coach…so can you just kind of put into words what this means to you, the journey that you’ve been on, and been close to for so many years finally come through?
(Question from the Columbus Dispatch’s Bill Rabinowitz)

Muzerall: Oh, I don’t know if I can put it really in words but I have told the ladies a little bit of a story in the locker room where I just came off of Hockey Canada and I was there for two and a half weeks. It was late August, August 20th, and inOhio State kept calling me and miss call and I was like, “What do they want?” and Diana Saybau, my athletic director at the time … give her credit for hiring me and giving me a chance and building this program. And remember my husband, who was a BIG 10 football player said, “Are you out of your mind? This is The Ohio State. It doesn’t get any bigger than this.” And I just remember me saying, “Well, their hockey team’s not very good.”. And he said, “Well, change that.” And to have the resources to do that and the people supporting you and was just honestly a lot of tireless nights. And just so committed to wanting to win, you know, I give credit to Brad Frost for hiring me at Minnesota and giving me an opportunity to learn from him and grow from him in a prestigious program such as Minnesota. And, of course, working with Mel Davidson and Hockey Canada, they helped groom me but you know, I just very grateful to the Ohio State for believing in me as an assistant coach and giving me this chance. And I think it’s important for these young women to see like, you can do it. It’s crazy and it’s a wild ride but with a good support system, it’s possible. So I just want to thank them too, for trusting in me and buying into the culture because it wasn’t easy, by any means, to sacrifice a lot so I’m just grateful around.

Q: When you took over his program,, you had this vision for this program to get to where it is now. To be here now, does it feel as good as you imagined it would?
(Question from Northeastern’s Matt Houde)

Muzerall: It’s hard to do an interview, to be honest, like right after because your brain’s racing and it’s just…seems so surreal, but this is something that’s forever, that can never be taken from these young ladies and I mean, of course they’re enjoying this moment but it’s one of those things when you come back 15 years later … just the amount of pride that you left a legacy. You know, it does feel very, very sweet. I think the pressure of finally you know getting to be number one and having to chip away and, you know, we had such tough competition with Quinnipiac and Yale and I compliment them because they got us prepared for today. And of course [Minnesota Duluth] is always a fantastic opponent. But you know, again, it’s just been so nice to see the support from not only Ohio State but the whole state of Ohio and trying to really grow the game in Columbus and a lot of credit to the Blue Jackets as they’ve been very supportive of us. And so it does feel unreal, actually, but I’m just gonna like go home and sleep for a little bit and then take it in, I guess.


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: Anne Tokarski, @annetokarski, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Anne Tokarski