Questions swirl around new women’s hockey league — U18 Series underway — Must-click women’s hockey links

The IX: Hockey Friday with The Ice Garden, Aug. 18, 2023

Happy Hockey Friday from The Ice Garden‘s Angelica Rodriguez! It’s approaching the two-month mark since news broke that Billie Jean King Enterprises and the Mark Walter Group, who comprise the ownership of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), purchased the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF). A new professional women’s hockey league is now in the works, dissolving the PHF to create one new entity. Since then, we haven’t heard a whole lot, and the clock is ticking, to put it mildly. 

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As we continue to get drips and dribbles from our fellow women’s hockey media, more questions are arising, as are more opportunities to discuss what we’d like to see from both a media and fan standpoint. Here are some key areas for the burgeoning league to consider:

  • More fan experience aimed at adults

This is something I’ve wanted for a while now, as it makes the most sense from a business standpoint. While the PHF and other women’s hockey leagues/movements have done well to market to families and younger girls with dreams of joining the ranks one day, the college-age and older crowd (including multiple age groups with a lot of purchasing power) has been critically overlooked. I went through a list of potential avenues women’s hockey can go down back in January 2022, and I think most if not all of these ideas can apply to the PWHL (what I’m calling this new league for ease and clarity, and what the league itself apparently wants to be known as, as per Melissa Burgess). 

  • Steps toward establishing a farm system

The NCAA exists, yes, but it’s a collegiate system and really shouldn’t be treated like the only tributary into the pro scene. Moreover, the reduction of teams and roster spots in the PWHL leaves quite a few elite players with the possibility of no landing place. Having a farm system similar to that of the NHL will give those players opportunities to remain active, not to mention providing former collegiate players a bridge into professional play and honing their development. 

  • A robust Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiative

This is going back a bit, but a few seasons ago, the PHF announced a DEI team composed of players and execs. While the launch itself was heralded, we didn’t hear a whole lot more from that team of people afterward. I remember thinking about possible events for, say, February, or a continuation of the book discussions and conversations started back around 2021, and being disappointed when they seemed to dry up. Diversity, equity and inclusion should absolutely be a goal for a women’s hockey league (for any league really), so I would love to see more partnerships with organizations both nationally and locally amongst teams in order to promote those goals. (Also ditch Jocelyne Lamoureux, thanks. Trans rights are human rights.) 

  • Better social media presence

I cannot over-explain to you all the difference a good social media team makes — think live tweets during untelevised pre-season games, or marketing players the team knows fans will respond to. These have an incalculable impact on how your target audience will take to you; because of that, I really want to see this new league make a concerted effort to boost and market itself better. Obviously proceed with caution when it comes to certain TikTok trends or hashtags (hi, Seattle Kraken!), but this is honestly the best way you can connect with the audiences you want to attract. 

  • Better media presence, period.

Transparency. Communication. Accountability. All terms that seem to be dirty words these days, but they’re really all we ask of any media relations team. This one might be a bit self-serving but being upfront and communicative makes everyone’s lives easier — and with the PHF’s track record being mediocre at best and the PWHL not getting off to a great start so far, I’d really like this to be achieved sooner rather than later. Any startup is going to have its issues early on, but we still don’t even know where these teams are going to play, and we have four and a half months to go. A little update here and there would be nice. 

This week’s must-click links

Ian Kennedy actually has an interesting look at possible marketing tactics the PWHL can take here. I definitely think it warrants a bigger discussion surrounding ethics and best approaches. 

More big news: The European Women’s Hockey League (EWHL) players announced the formation of their own players’ association, marking a huge milestone for European pro women’s hockey. Mike Murphy shared the PA’s first statement/press release Thursday afternoon. 

The Washington Capitals are taking on a partnership with the U.S. National Women’s Ball Hockey team, including a clinic, a Learn to Play program throughout October and sponsorship of the national team’s final evaluation camp (to take place next month). The World Championships are next June in Switzerland. Stay tuned to The Ice Garden for more on this, including some awesome viz breakdowns by An Nguyen. 

International hockey is also getting back into swing, with Teams USA and Canada facing off their Select U18’s teams against each other in a sort of Junior Rivalry Series (the hashtag is #U18Series, so there you go). Team Canada took game one handily with a final of 4-0, so we’ll see if Team USA can bounce back. The NCAA collegiate team got some revenge for the kids, winning over Canada 4-1 off the stick of Joy Dunne (yes, she’s Jincy’s sister). 

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By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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Written by The Ice Garden