Less than a year after the Lake Placid attempt in Season 6, the Professional Hockey Federation — formerly known as the National Women’s Hockey League — is gearing up for its seventh year.
The league begins play Nov. 6 but has already announced a few preseason games beginning Oct. 1, when the defending Isobel Cup champion Boston Pride faces the Providence College women’s hockey team. Later in the month, Connecticut faces Yale, and the Metropolitan Riveters go to Princeton.
On the ice, there shouldn’t be many changes from a year ago, with the bulk of players returning, aside from a few who went overseas, mostly in anticipation of the Olympics. Off the ice, everything is entirely different.
Like last season when the league began its campaign in Lake Placid, New York, COVID-19 is still in play. Unlike last season, teams are hoping there aren’t massive, season-suspending outbreaks. Part of combating that happened this week with COVID-19 protocol announcements.
The league is requiring all players to be fully vaccinated. Any player who wants to opt out in lieu of vaccination had until Sept. 10. Those contracts would be voided and the players wouldn’t be paid.
According to several sources, at least Boston, Metropolitan and Connecticut are fully vaccinated.
“The health and safety of everyone associated with the PHF is a top priority,” PHF Commissioner Tyler Tumminia said in a statement. “In consultation with global healthcare leaders, vaccination for COVID-19 continues to be a critical component in promoting and protecting the health and safety of all players, staff, and their families.”
Earlier in the week, Boston added defender Amanda Boulier, who previously played in Minnesota, and the Riveters brought back Tatyana Shatalova and signed International Draft pick Romana Kosecka. Minnesota is the only team to announce the bulk of its roster.
In an interview with The Ice Garden website last week, Tumminia gave an update on the status of the Players Association, who have been without a director since April. The league announced its rebrand and COVID-19 policies without a director in place.
“They’ll then get together, with the former director likely, and they will come up with a new candidate on who they’d like to fill that role,” Tumminia said. “Then all of the players vote on that. I am removed from that process completely. In our bylaws, it states that the last business day before the start of the season is the deadline to name their new PA Director.”
More rebrand fallout
Last week’s rebrand from the NWHL to the PHF was met with mixed reviews. Overall, players appeared to embrace the change, especially with taking the gender out of the name of the league.
“It’s a really good message,” Buffalo Beauts goalie Carly Jackson said. “Not all of us identify as women. Some people are nonbinary, some people identify in other ways. That opens the door for people to feel a little bit more comfortable.”
The league is working on redoing its transgender inclusion policy, which has banned testosterone among other policies.
The PHF hired Chris Mosier and Athlete Ally to help revise the policy, but the name change was a start that players have gotten behind.
“Details like this will bring a shift of focus to the product on the ice,” Jackson said. “To be identified by character, skill sets and playing style instead of gender is critical. We are hockey players, we’re high-level, elite athletes. That’s important.”
This week, former CWHL player Jessica Platt announced her retirement from professional hockey. She was the first openly trans woman to play professional women’s hockey.
Platt was most recently a part of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association. Before that, she had played 49 games over three seasons as a defender with the Toronto Furies of the now-defunct CWHL.
Platt was recognized as one of Canada’s Women of Influence’s “Top 25 Women of Influence” for 2018. She is one of two openly trans players ever in pro women’s hockey leagues, along with Harrison Browne, who played in the PHF (then NWHL) with Metropolitan and Buffalo.