PHF Montreal roster updates — Progress toward PWHPA — Must-click women’s hockey links

The IX: Hockey Friday with Eleni Demestihas, August 5, 2022

Hello everyone, nice to be back! While I was gone, quite a bit happened. Notably, the PHF Montreal roster began to take shape

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As of today, Montreal has signed ten skaters and one goalie. The headliner and the name that has created the most buzz is Ann-Sophie Bettez, a small, speedy thirty-four year old forward who has spent her entire career playing in Quebec. Bettez spent five years at McGill University, where she scored at well over a point-per-game pace. She began her professional career in the 2012-2013 season with the Montreal Stars of the CWHL, and in her rookie season she scored thirty-three points in twenty-three games. In seven CWHL seasons, Bettez amassed 263 points. If you were looking for a legend of the game to build your PHF roster around, I’m not sure you could have done much better.

Joining her is Kim Deschenes, a University of Montreal alum who played five seasons in the CWHL and has been with the PWHPA Montreal hub for the past three years. Deschenes has the tools to be a significant threat on a solid roster with good linemates, and her size makes her difficult to defend along the boards. Several of these signings played together in the CWHL and for the PWHPA Montreal hub, which will likely make it easier for them to find chemistry as a team. Sarah Lefort, who graduated from Boston University with a genuinely insane 183 career points and 200 PIM (penalty minutes), has already demonstrated chemistry with Bettez, and if they can continue that trend, the PHF will certainly be put on notice.

Jade Downie-Landry, another McGill alum, will be one of at least a few true rookies on this roster after scoring a career-high fourteen goals last season. Another rookie I would keep your eyes on next season is Kristina Shanahan, who served as the captain for the University of Vermont the past two years. Shanahan is small but has a powerful stride, and she demonstrated many times at the NCAA level that her brain is just as fast as her hands.

PHF Montreal’s lone goaltender signed to this point is Tricia Deguire, a rookie goalie who spent six seasons at McGill University. Her career save percentage over 84 games sits at a ridiculously impressive .941, and she has four years of playoff experience under her belt, so she’s no stranger to pressure. I observed earlier this week that the goalies currently signed for this PHF season are trending taller, and Deguire, at 5’8”, certainly fits that mold.

There have been several other signings in the meantime, including other teams. The Ice Garden keeps a handy signing tracker where you can see all of them at once. 

On the PWHPA front, I’ve heard a few things personally, but there have been no announcements, so it’s difficult to know for sure exactly how this is taking shape. Still, I’ll try my best to summarize.

Initially, it was reported that the PWHPA would be launching a league in the early spring of 2023. As time progressed, it began to sound more like the league would launch in the fall of 2023, which would leave the PHF as the only organized professional league in North America for the 2022-2023 season. I’m not sure if either report was incorrect or if plans have changed for other reasons, but I’ve now heard that there will be PWHPA activity during the 2022-2023 season.

That being said, it’s not entirely clear to me how the league will be structured, or if it will be called or considered a league. What I’ve been told, and what has been reported over at the Ice Garden by Simon Hopkins as well, is that there will be five ‘hubs’ like there have been in the past: Montreal, Calgary, Toronto, Minnesota, and an as-of-yet undetermined east coast hub in the United States. Players will apparently practice three times a week in these hubs, and then rosters will be put together for what I’ve heard described as ‘showcases.’ Players will be paid, which is a big step forward from the Dream Gap Tour, where payment was unclear at best and it seemed that for the most part you would only get paid if you won. Notably, I’ve been told that players will all be getting paid the same amount.

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Here are some questions I still have:

Who will be coaching, and how will rosters be decided?

I’ve heard there will be tryouts later this month, but I’ve also heard that players rostered for the American and Canadian national teams will be given priority, and only one hundred players will play across the organization. 

There of course has to be a cap on rosters if players are being paid, but it also means there will be dozens of players who have been with the PWHPA for several seasons and will not get to play— or be paid— at all. That might explain the number of former PWHPA players who have signed in the PHF already this offseason, banking on making more and playing more than they might in the stripped-down PWHPA setup.

Are the games between teams going to be showcases, as they were in the Dream Gap Tour?

If so, it’ll be interesting to see the venues for games. If not, and the teams are playing in home venues (ie, Montreal visiting the Minnesota hub at, say, TRIA Rink), it will look more like the leagues most fans and players are used to.

As a lawyer, I have other, perhaps less interesting questions too— where is the money coming from, and are there any strings attached? Will the players be classified as employees or independent contractors? How will they, and the premises they skate at, be insured? What will the COVID policy or policies look like, especially with respect to travel? Will there be a players’ association to allow the players to organize and align with each other outside the gaze of team management? Will there be full-time staff for each team? Dedicated Twitter pages for each team? And so on.

It seems like a lot of questions to have answered by this fall if they’re holding tryouts this month, but it’s possible there are already answers to every question I’ve posed and more.

The PWHPA has not released any kind of statement or press release. But they did post this really cute video of Hannah Brandt mic’d up.

The last thing I want to mention this week isn’t specific to women’s hockey, but it’s important and a really cool opportunity in the hockey community at large. The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association has partnered with To Hockey With Love, a hockey newsletter (and one I personally think everyone should subscribe to), to offer a mentorship program for aspiring hockey writers from marginalized communities. If this is of interest to you or anyone you know, please spread the word far and wide.

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Written by Eleni Demestihas