The players and coaches in the Premier Hockey Federation have had a theme when discussing the start of the season: grateful.

After last season began with a “bubble” in Lake Placid, New York, then was paused due to a COVID-19 breakout, the league is ready for a sense of normalcy, an entire rebrand later.

Toronto will play at a home rink for the first time, and the league will look to hoist an Isobel Cup under normal circumstances for the first time since 2019.

“I can’t even tell you, it’s been, everyone is just grateful, we’ve been excited since day one of practice,” Riveters coach Ivo Mocek said. “Being back to normal and not all over the place like before the bubble, we needed three different locker rooms where the players would be getting dressed. Now we’re back to one locker room, and the camaraderie is coming back.”

The season begins Nov. 6, and here is a look at the teams:

Boston Pride

Last season: Won Isobel Cup Final.

Added: Kayla Friesen (F), Katie Burt (G), Amanda Boulier (D), Katelynn Russ (F).


Lost: Taylor Turnquist (D), Mary Parker (F).

As much changes, much is still the same for the Boston Pride. It returns one of the league’s strongest rosters, even with the departures of Mary Parker, Briana Mastel and Lexie Laing. Somehow the Pride got stronger.

Kayla Friesen and Katelynn Russ will settle into roles on offense that coach Paul Mara expects to be expansive.

“I expect her to be one of the top players in the league,” Mara said of Friesen. “I’ve seen what she can do in preseason; we’re expecting her to be a big part of our offense and excited to see her get going.”

Buffalo Beauts

Last season: Missed playoffs.

Added: Elea Orlando (D), Cassidy Vinkle (F).

Lost: Lisa Chesson (D), Lenka Curmova (D), Brooke Avery (F).

The Beauts got the short end of the stick by not being one of the Isobel Cup playoff teams after it looked like they had a playoff entry during the Lake Placid season, when the Whale had pulled out. Instead, their season ended prematurely, but not without some positives.

Carly Jackson was a breakout star as the Beauts goalie. Cassidy Vinkle is expected to slot in and help the offense.

“The parity throughout the league will be great,” Mara said. ” … Each and every week is going to be a battle, (Connecticut) got better, Buffalo got better.”


Connecticut Whale

Last season: Lost in semifinals.

Added: Cailey Hutchison (F), Rebecca Morse (D), Allie Munroe (D), Kennedy Marchment (F).

Lost: Kayla Friesen (F), Katelynn Russ (F), Elena Orlando (D), Rachel Ade (D).

The Whale, perennial cellar dwellers in the NWHL, are finding a new era at the same time as the PHF.

Connecticut looked notably sharper last year behind rookie goalie Abbie Ives and the steady development of their young players. Losing Kayla Friesen was a hefty blow, but adding Kennedy Marchment from overseas and Cailey Hutchison from the Metropolitan Riveters should give them enough offense.

Metropolitan Riveters

Last season: Pulled out of season early.

Added: Rachel Ade (D), Brooke Avery (F), Kristen Barbara (D).

Lost: Cailey Hutchison (F), Rebecca Morse (D), Saryoa Tinker (D), Tera Hoffman (G).

The Riveters had a controversial season, there’s no way around it. First, they had to exit the Lake Placid bubble due to mounting COVID cases. Then they had an offseason that saw a lot of their star power depart.


But after losing Hutchison and Morse and Tinker, the Riveters brought in some talent. Kristen Barbara is part of a rebuilt blue line.

“It has been a process,” Mocek said. “We need to get used to each other and jell, not just on the ice but off. That has been going well, but bringing back only two defenders, it’s challenging.”

The Riveters started the season hot before their early exit, but general manager Anya Packer, in her first season, has had to piece together the roster after losing players who were defining parts of the team’s culture.

Minnesota Whitecaps

Last season: Lost in Isobel Cup Final.

Added: Taylor Turnquist (D).

Lost: Amanda Boulier (D).

Year in and year out, the Whitecaps had the most consistent roster in the then-NWHL. That’s still true, as the Whitecaps, who qualified for the past two Isobel Cups and won it three seasons ago, enter 2021 with one of the league’s most solid rosters.

Amanda Leveille is expected to remain an elite goalie, and after the departure of Boulier the Whitecaps brought in up-and-coming defender Taylor Turnquist from the Pride.

“You know Minnesota’s leadership is always going to be great,” Mara said.


Toronto Six

Last season: Lost in semifinal.

Added: Saroya Tinker (D), Tera Hoffman (G).

Lost: Kristen Barbara (D).

A rough offseason following a successful first season has the vibe around the Six all over the place. Reigning Rookie of the Year and MVP Mikyla Grant-Mentis is back for a sophomore campaign, Defender of the Year candidate Saroya Tinker was added, and the legendary Angela James is a part of the coaching staff.

But, everything around team president Digit Murphy — and her association with a transphobic organization, for which she has yet to be fully accountable — in the offseason has a cloud over the club. It’s a stark difference from the feel the last time the Six were opening a season and were seemingly the darlings of women’s hockey.

On the ice, the Six can’t surprise anyone this time around. The league knows what a force Grant-Mentis is, Tinker is projected to take another leap on the blue line, and Brooke Boquist should produce more in an expanded schedule.