What massive investment into the PHF means — Kyleigh Hanzlik talks transferring, Border Battle — Must-click women’s hockey links

The IX: Hockey Friday with Anne Tokarski, January 21, 2022

On Monday night, the PHF sent an email out to media members with scant details about a major announcement that would be taking place Tuesday morning at 7 AM ET. From there, it wasn’t hard to find speculation circulating the Twittersphere, with many people hoping for new partners, sponsors, and even new teams. Beneath it all, though, there was an undercurrent of distress.

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After all, most of us remember where we were in March 2019 when the CWHL announced abruptly announced it was ceasing operations.

But when Tuesday morning rolled around, the news was beyond many of our wildest dreams. The PHF’s Board of Governors approved a $25 million investment into the league — believed to be the largest single investment into women’s hockey to date — to be spread out over the next three years. The league also hinted at not one, but two new expansion teams ahead of next season, bringing the total number of teams to eight and expanding the season schedule to 28 games per team.

Can we just take a second and breathe a sigh of relief? This is good news, everyone. This is huge news…and we’re allowed to be happy about it.

“The PHF has been steadfast in its vision to grow the game under a new era that truly provides leading opportunities for athletes in the sport who deserve to be treated as professionals,” said Tyler Tumminia, PHF Commissioner, in the provided release. “This amazing investment by ownership reaffirms the strength of their commitment to being difference-makers who advance the professional game so that our athletes can thrive as role models who continue to inspire the next generation.”

While I’m not too stoked about that last sentence — athletes deserve to exist as athletes on their own, rather than always being held to some extreme standard as role models — I think we can agree with the commissioner that women’s hockey players deserve to be treated like professionals, no matter what league they play in.

The press release detailed an increase to the salary cap, effective next season, that would see the cap more than double: from $300,000 to $750,000 available per team. While no salary maximum or minimum has been set, there’s a chance that we could see franchises fielding rosters made up of full-time hockey players…that also happen to be non-men. That’s pretty dang impressive.

In addition to those benefits, I’ve included a snapshot from the release that details the rest of what will soon become available to players in the coming season:

The PHF will further support its growth and the development opportunities for its athletes through expansion, updating facilities, purchasing new equipment, and increasing ice time in the form of more practices and an expanded 28 game schedule. All players will benefit from 10 percent of the equity of each team, which will be contributed to an investment pool owned by the PHF players, enabling them to share in the league’s financial success. Additionally, players will have control over their own likeness and be able to profit from their image.

Across social media, players, fans, and other associated personnel alike celebrated the news.

The PHF also released a minute-long video hinting at #TodaysPHF, a new era for the league. You can watch the video in full below.

There’s always lots of news to stress about in women’s hockey, and there inevitably always will be…but maybe for today, we can celebrate.

This Week in Women’s Hockey

PHF winter break news roundup (The Ice Garden)

Yale adds Clarkson Cup champion Erica Kromm to coaching staff (USCHO)

Division I Women’s Hockey: Weekend Wrap (USCHO)

US Olympian Abby Roque one of Sports Illustrated’s four Olympic cover athletes (Insider)

Sweden announces Olympic roster (IIHF)

PHF players react to expanded salary cap, expansion (The Ice Garden)

Ohio State women’s hockey helping to grow the game with CBJ’s Hockey for Her (NHL.com)

Five at the IX: Kyleigh Hanzlik

The IX had a brief conversation with Minnesota women’s hockey graduate transfer Kyleigh Hanzlik, who will lace up her skates against one of her former teams in this weekend’s Border Battle between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Question: So you are from Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, and spent two years at the University of Wisconsin playing for the Badgers. What was that like, as a native of the state?

Kyleigh Hanzlik: Yeah, it was a really great opportunity to be able to be from Wisconsin and be playing for Wisconsin and represent the state, you know, being from the state. When you do that, you get some more fans at games and things like that have larger support system just since traveling wise, it’s a little bit easier for family and friends to come to the games. So yeah, it was really it was really great to be able to have that opportunity.

Q: You played for the Badgers back in 2019, when the team won its fifth national title. Tell me a little bit about the experience of winning a national championship.

Hanzlik: Yeah, that is an experience of a lifetime. Probably one of the greatest weeks of my life, arguably, one that I’m never definitely going to forget. It was a really great group of girls and it was a lot of fun to be able to be a part of that.

Q: The Border Battle rivalry between Wisconsin and Minnesota is obviously intense, definitely made more so by the fact that Wisconsin’s 2019 national title came at the expense of Minnesota. What’s it like being on the other side of that rivalry three years later?

Hanzlik: It’s definitely interesting and different. I love it on both sides. in present time, I’m gonna be honest, I love it a little more on this side now. So I’m really excited to see what that weekend’s gonna feel like just having been on the other side and now being on this side of things.

Q: You made the temporary jump to professional hockey this season with the PWHPA. What went into that decision to join the organization and do you see the PWHPA in your postgraduate plans?

Hanzlik: So originally, I wasn’t sure if hockey was gonna be…I guess continued on in my future when I came here. And I found that I really, really was missing hockey a ton and that just not having it in my life right now was…it was hard for me. So I found that [playing with the PWHPA] was a really great alternative and opportunity to continue getting to be able to play and getting to practice and continue meeting more people through that. So I really I had a lot of fun with it. I know I never played in a game, but the practices were a blast and the coach was super awesome. In terms of if I’ll be a part of that in the future, I’m not really sure yet just because of school and whatnot. There’s quite a few unknowns with everything.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your decision to come back to the NCAA and finish out this season with Minnesota.

Hanzlik: Coach Frost asked me to come in for a meeting and kind of shared where things were sitting with their current situation and kind of with COVID coming up and injuries and there was a spot opening and it’s just one of those opportunities you really don’t want to pass up, because who doesn’t want to play another semester of college hockey?

Q: Last question: How much are you looking forward to playing Wisconsin at the end of the month?

Hanzlik: Yeah, it’s gonna be a blast. I’m really excited to get to be a part of that again. I still have some friends on the Wisconsin team as well, so that’s going to be very interesting, but yeah, I’m just I’m looking forward to it. It’s always great hockey. And [it’s] personally one of my favorite weekends to get to watch, even [when I played] at Robert Morris, I was still kind of keeping up with those Border Battles because it’s just great hockey.

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