The PHF signings keep coming — Still waiting on the PWHPA — Must-click women’s hockey links

The IX: Hockey Friday with The Ice Garden, June 2, 2023

Nothing makes me yearn for hockey news more than today’s 95-degree heat (35 degrees for my fellow Canadians). So join me, Simon Hopkins, for a rundown of this week’s offseason news with some editorial commentary and some must-click women’s hockey links.

Continue reading with a subscription to The IX

Get unlimited access to our exclusive coverage of a varitety of women’s sports, including our premium newsletter by subscribing today!

Join today

The six PHF teams’ aggression on the free agent market is playing to their benefit. They’re locking down more and more young talent before those players test the waters of other leagues. The PWHPA remains tight-lipped on the future of their supposed league with fair salaries. There have been rumors of a PWHPA-designed league with big-money contracts — coming soon — for a long time. For some players, waiting for a PWHPL contract that might not come isn’t worth it. And why would they wait? Players are making six figures in the PHF. 

From my perspective, the only college players we’ve seen remain undeclared this year or sign with the PWHPA last year are those likely to make the Canadian or American Olympic teams. Staying within the PWHPA circle is crucial to playing for either international giant, but how much does that appeal outweigh the cash the PHF offers? 

Big money on this side of the Atlantic Ocean is encouraging other Olympians to stay here. Most Europeans must play a couple of domestic seasons in their home country before being eligible for the national roster, but elite players get that box ticked before they’re 18. European Olympians like Alina Mueller and Emma Soderberg are choosing to stay in North America following NCAA careers. Stars who would have once been almost sure to sign with a major team in Sweden or Switzerland see the PHF’s appeal. There are no players in the PWHPA who competed for any team at the world championships in April other than Canada and the USA. 

As someone who loves this sport and wants to see it grow, it worries me that speculation about a league that hasn’t materialized could inhibit women’s hockey’s growth. A year ago, I might have told you that competition might drive a better product, but that isn’t what this is — the PWHPA is currently being propped up by speculation and its ties to the national rosters. This hurts players’ ability to negotiate for better deals in the prime of their careers. It also prevents the stability needed to grow a fan base. 

I have no idea if a PWHPA league is coming this year, and I don’t know what its impact would be.

Could two leagues cause a player bidding war, meaning players make more money? Maybe! 

Could two leagues create an unhealthy rivalry which damages the overall culture and quality of worldwide women’s hockey? Possibly. 

Is this a grumpy reporter ranting a little bit? Absolutely. 

We don’t know what’s happening, and not knowing is frustrating. The PWHPA hasn’t released a press release in three months, so we’re in another offseason with no idea what’s in store for September. Last year I wrote an article titled What’s up with the PWHPA and every word could be read as if it were published yesterday.

Ian Kennedy compiled the most comprehensive report of what we know about what we don’t know. He outlines what they’ve said is coming and what the passage of time means.

I’ll step off my soap box now, and share some of the week’s top stories below.

Want women’s hockey content? Subscribe to The Ice Garden!

Here at The IX, we’re collaborating with The Ice Garden to bring you Hockey Friday. And if you want the women’s hockey goodness 24/7? Well, you should subscribe to The Ice Garden now!

Czechia Awarded 2025 IIHF Women’s World Championship – The Hockey News

There’s no question that Czechia is the rising star of international hockey. Their men’s team is resurging like the days of Jaromír Jágr, and their women’s team has exploded onto the world stage. Domestic focus on hockey and women’s sports is allowing for its growth. And a local tournament might just be what Czechia needs to kick hockey interest with young Czech girls into hyperdrive. The 2025 women’s world championships will be in beautiful Czechia.

USA’s Hilary Knight is 1st IIHF Female Player of the Year – Greg Wyshynski

The IIHF awarded Hilary Knight its first-ever Female Player of the Year award this week. Knight is undeniably one of the best ever, but was she the best female player this year? Probably not. 

Players like Caroline Harvey, Marie-Philip Poulin, Loren Gabel or Aerin Frankel might deserve some of that pie. Some pointed out online that this seemed like a bit of a lifetime achievement award which, though deserved, is a separate conversation from Player of the Year. 

Other players had better regular season performances than Knight, but Hilary Knight put on a show on the IIHF stage. She captained Team USA, who reclaimed the gold medal at the world championships. Knight led the tournament in goals and scored a hattrick in the final — that sealed the deal. 

Ouellette Leads IIHF Hall of Fame Induction Class, Dombrowski Makes History – Ian Kennedy

In more announcements by the IIHF this week, the 2023 class for the International Hockey Hall of Fame included Sandra Dombrowski and Caroline Ouellette. Ouellette is world-class on more than one front. She was a dynamic force on the best teams of the early 2000s, winning NCAA titles, Clarkson Cups, twelve world championship medals and four Olympic Golds. She’s coached U Sport’s Concordia Stingers to back-to-back finals appearances. 

Joining her is Dombrowski, who played a short international career over a decade before Ouellette. But Dombrowski became the first woman to referee an IIHF championship game and was the first woman on their officiating committee. Both are trailblazers of hockey. 

PHF Celebrates Pride Month – Paul Krotz

The PHF’s Pride Month logo, designed by Tay Thompson, is sick. No further comment.

PHF Signings – The Ice Garden Staff

PHF free agency stayed hot this week. There were too many signings this week to pick from. You can check out dozens of stories at The Ice Garden.

That’s it for this week from The Ice Garden. The wonderful Alyssa Turner will be writing to you next week. Happy Pride!

Love, Simon

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 The Ice Garden