What we know about the new Professional Women’s Hockey League team in Boston

Sports News

“We’re excited about being in Boston. We’ve had great reactions from the people we’ve spoken to.”

Boston Pride players cheer as coach Paul Mara hoists the NWHL Isobel Cup trophy after the team's win over the Minnesota Whitecaps in the championship hockey game in Boston, Saturday, March 27, 2021. Organizers announced plans Friday, June 30, 2023, to launch a new women’s professional hockey league in January that they hope will provide a stable, economically sustainable home for the sport's top players for years to come. The agreement ends a long standoff between the seven-team Professional Hockey Federation (PHF) and the PWHPA.
The Boston Pride won three Isobel Cups during the PHF/NWHL’s tenure. AP Photo/Mary Schwalm

There will be a new professional women’s hockey team in Boston starting in 2024.

The new Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) was officially revealed Tuesday, with Boston announced as one of the six franchises to begin play in January 2024.

Along with Boston, the PWHL will field teams in Minneapolis-St. Paul, the New York City area (including New Jersey and Connecticut), Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.

“Boston is an obvious market for us,” Stan Kasten, president of the Los Angeles Dodgers and member of the PWHL Board of Directors, told reporters during a video conference Tuesday. “Boston provided several different alternatives for venues, some big and some small, and places to train. So, in terms of that, it really was a good fit for us.  

“We’re excited about being in Boston. We’ve had great reactions from the people we’ve spoken to, we’ve had great media reactions in terms of broadcasts and things like that. So we expect it to be a very successful market for us.”

Here’s what you need to know about the new PWHL, Boston’s latest hockey club and its impact across women’s hockey.

What is the PWHL? 

The PWHL is expected to hold court as the lone professional women’s hockey league in North America this winter.

The PWHL is owned by the Mark Walter Group, which includes Dodgers co-owner Mark Walter, his wife, Kimbra Walter, tennis legend Billie Jean King, and Dodgers president Stan Kasten. Longtime NHL executive Brian Burke will run the PWHL Players Association.

As of now, the league will own and operate all six teams.

For years, professional women’s hockey has been fractured between two different groups in the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) and the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), especially after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League folded back in 2019.

In an effort to unify the two groups and establish one pro women’s hockey league, Billie Jean King Enterprises and the Mark Walter Group — who partnered with the PWHPA back in May 2022 — bought out the PHF back in June 2023, paving the way for the PWHL. 

“We have an ownership group that provides the capital, the resources, the experience to do this in a professional and a first-class way,” Jayna Hefford, senior vice president of PWHL hockey operations said on Tuesday. “Completing a CBA that both supports the long-term view of the ownership group but also allows the players the certainty and the comforts and that hits their level of professionalism as it relates to a day-to-day experience as a female hockey player. This league will have the best players in the world.

“We’re witnessing a point in time where women’s sports is certainly thriving. The demand is there, the excitement is there, the willingness for people to really embrace what we’re doing. I don’t think there’s ever been a better time. So I think with the people we have involved, we’re incredibly confident for the future of this league.”

What about the Boston Pride? 

Before the PWHL’s arrival, Boston still had women’s hockey in place within the market in the form of the the PHF/NWHL’s Boston Pride, who have operated since 2015. The Pride were one of the most successful teams in the area, taking home three Isobel Cup championships in 2016, 2021 and 2022.

However, the Mark Walter Group and BJK Enterprises’ buy-out of the PHF earlier this summer essentially folded the league and all of the teams that were under its umbrella, including the Boston Pride.

According to Sportsnet, the PHF buy-out also voided the contracts of all players within the league. 

The PHF’s shutdown falls in line with the PWHPA’s hopes of cultivating a unified women’s hockey league with a sustainable financial foundation.

Rather than join the NWHL in 2019 after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League folded, many PWHPA players chose to not play in any North American league until they felt that it was on a sustainable path from a business perspective — opting instead to play in exhibition tours across North America in preparation for international tournaments.

Granted, the PHF appeared to be on the upswing this past season, with a new $25 million investment from the league’s Board of Governors opening the door for teams to dole out six-figure contracts to its top stars.

”I think that the next six months is going to be rocky, but again, that’s inevitable when you have two sides that have been bitter rivals and those two sides come together,” John Boynton, former PHF chair and former co-owner of four of the league’s seven teams, including the Boston Pride, told Michael Silverman of The Boston Globe last month. “It doesn’t happen immediately. But, I think that if everyone proceeds in good faith and puts in the effort and the time, there’s huge potential.

“There’s no reason that the new league should not be mentioned right alongside the WNBA and the NWSL — those three logos should be side by side, every time.”

Who will play for the new PWHL team? 

With the talent on both the PWHPA and PHF now unified, it’s expected that the top players in women’s hockey will now lace up their skates for the PWHL, including former players with the Boston Pride.

Starting on Friday, there will be a 10-day free agency period for the PWHL, with each of the six new franchises allowed to sign three players to a “Standard Player Agreement” during that time.

The 2023 PWHL draft will then be set for Sept. 18, with a draft lottery expected to determine the order. Players will need to declare for the draft by Sept. 3.

As noted by Silverman, players who go unsigned in free agency and declare for the draft will enter into the 15-round draft, leaving teams with 18 roster spots. Players who are not selected on Sept. 18 will become free agents and can still negotiate tryouts.

Where will they play?

As of now, a number of key details for Boston’s new hockey club remain under wraps, including the venue, schedule, tickets and, of course, the team name.

Home ice for the new team has yet to be announced, but a recent report from The Hockey News noted that Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena is being considered. The Pride played their first season at Harvard’s Bright-Landry Hockey Center before moving to Warrior Ice Arena. 

While some key information remains scarce about the PWHL’s new Boston team, Kasten noted the PWHL’s inaugural 24-game regular season could also feature games at neutral sites and in NHL cities. The PWHL expects to have a presence at other NHL events, such as the All-Star Game and Winter Classic.

As for next steps, a full schedule is expected to be released in October, while training camps will commence on Nov. 18.