PHF selects Reagan Carey as new commissioner — On Her Turf’s Alex Azzi talks transparency — Must-click women’s hockey links

The IX: Hockey Friday with Anne Tokarski, April 29, 2022

Happy Hockey Friday! On Tuesday, the PHF announced the appointment of former USA Hockey general manager of the women’s programs Reagan Carey as its new PHF. Carey will step into the role left empty by former commissioner Tyler Tumminia, who elected not to renew her contract after two years with the league. Carey will enter the role full-time beginning May 10.

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“Throughout my career, I have been fortunate and honored to have played a part in growing and improving the landscape of women’s hockey at all levels,” said Carey in the PHF’s release. “I continue to be energized and committed to moving the needle in the right direction and will be dedicated to the work required to build trust and elevate the PHF into a beacon for professional women’s hockey. I’m excited for the opportunity to continue making history with a relentless pursuit of success on all fronts. Through our work we will aim to honor past pioneers of our sport, and inspire young girls to see a vibrant future in the game by ensuring that athletes who want to train and compete at the highest professional levels will always have a home at the PHF.”

Carey was selected as the result of a search committee chaired by Board of Governors member and Connecticut Whale owner Tobin Kelly, along with Andy Scurto, Johanna Boynton, Lisa Haley, Susie Piotrkowski, and, of course, Digit Murphy.

“Having been a part of both the U18 program and U.S. Women’s National Team during Reagan’s tenure with USA Hockey, I’ve seen her passion and dedication in action and always appreciated how much she cared about the athletes,” said Toronto Six captain Shiann Darkangelo of Carey’s appointment. “I am very excited for the knowledge and expertise she will bring to the PHF in this important leadership role to help continue the growth of our game.”

Carey brings a wealth of knowledge in the sports and corporate worlds to her new office, including a lengthy tenure at the helm of USA Hockey’s women’s national teams. She helped build rosters for the U-18 Women’s World Championship squads that secured four gold medals, along with constructing five senior World Champion teams. She also built the American Olympic team that took home their first gold medal in twenty years in PyeongChang.

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This Week in Women’s Hockey

Wisconsin extends head coach Mark Johnson’s contract (USCHO)

Looking back, moving forward: A conversation with former PHF commissioner Tyler Tumminia (The Ice Garden)

Amanda Kessel joins NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins’ executive management program (The Hockey News)

Girls hockey programs show promise in non-traditional American markets (US News)

Five at the IX: Alex Azzi on PHF and transparency

Alex Azzi, former hockey player and current writer for NBC Sports’ On Her Turf, sat down with The IX to talk about the importance of transparency and accountability in women’s hockey.

Question: You’ve played a pretty critical role in spotlighting women’s hockey for NBC through On Her Turf. While there’s often a lot of criticism around mainstream media’s coverage of women’s hockey, how do you see yourself helping normalize that coverage at NBC Sports?

Alex Azzi: I’ve been really inspired by some of the coverage that we’ve seen of other women’s leagues like the NWSL and the WNBA. I think one of the misconceptions, sometimes, is that in women’s sports, like they’re so fragile, like, you can’t be critical because it’s going to break … And I don’t think that’s what journalism should ever be about. But I also think that the type of accountability that comes with critical reporting is necessary for both the game to grow and also for players … I think it’s important for players to receive that, you know?

I think we look at some of the issues that have been exposed in other women’s leagues and I don’t think that they would have taken quite as long to expose if that critical reporting had been there from day one. I don’t think that that’s on the individual reporters — I think it’s on kind of the structure that we see around women’s sports in the way that it’s continually under-invested [in] and undervalued.

And so yeah, I think I see critical coverage as a good thing, as a healthy thing, as something that only can help the game continue to grow. And then also think like, critical isn’t necessarily negative. It’s just like honest and contextualized coverage as well.

Q: You’ve been pretty vocal about transparency and accountability with regards to the PHF, and you haven’t shied away from asking important people the tough questions. What fuels your desire to hold those in power accountable for their words and actions in and around women’s hockey?

Azzi: I think just the players. I think that, you know, what’s been important to me is making sure that, as I’m working on some of these stories, to make sure that I’m also hearing from some of the players because I do think it’s important that it’s, you know, issues that they might be concerned about as well.

I will say that I think that women’s hockey, going back to kind of that comparison of women’s basketball and soccer, I think there is still a really strong like culture of silence in women’s hockey in some ways…where people don’t necessarily always feel empowered or able to speak out or, or even just like to recognize issues. So I think that is a little bit challenging sometimes.

I think sometimes like, there’s this sense, in women’s sports, like you can’t say anything because it’s too fragile, and it’s gonna break and I think that women’s hockey…still is struggling with that a little bit.

Q: You’ve regularly covered women’s hockey for a while now, and not just the controversial topics, either — you’ve published game recaps from the NCAA and PHF postseasons and authored pieces about important announcements, like the rescheduling of the 2022 U-18 tournament. Why do you think it’s important to balance that insightful, critical analysis with regular day-to-day coverage? 

Azzi: Yeah, I think that it’s just like, holistic, contextual coverage is important. And you know, I think anyone that works in women’s sports knows that whenever there’s controversy, like more reporters show up…like I look back at that last Lake Placid conference [from the PHF] when everything was, you know, falling apart and like there were more reporters there than had covered, you know, a single postgame press conference.

And so I think that’s always disappointing when, you know, you work hard to cover something and only the mainstream outlets show up at the very end, when it’s falling apart. And so yeah, I think that it’s important to just have like, holistic, contextual coverage of everything. Because I think it also, you know, helps understand how we got here, who was hired, what changed in the league, that then helps you down the road to understanding just like the structure of how everything works and who’s in charge.

Q: With so much change in the women’s hockey landscape over the past couple of months, what do you think the leaders in the sport need to do to bring some stability to the game?

Azzi: I think just like, honesty and transparency, you know? I had been pressing the [PHF] for quite a while on whether or not there was going to be a minimum salary for next season and never got a super clear answer there. But finally, on Tuesday, they did send over info on the minimum salary for next season, which is $13,500.

And I think like that, to me, it was really big because it was like, I don’t think that it needs to necessarily be a huge number. I think like, transparency in itself has a value. And so I think especially with like, the PWHPA forming its own league, like I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing for there to be two leagues. I just hope that on both sides like there’s the transparency and honesty in terms of like, not trying to trick people into being involved with something based on like, false pretenses, so I think that transparency can go a long way in that.

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
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By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
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Written by Anne Tokarski