PHF Playoff Preview: Isobel Cup Final
Previewing the 2023 Isobel Cup Final between the Premier Hockey Federation's Minnesota Whitecaps & Toronto Six.
The Premier Hockey Federation was slated to return to action this weekend; however, both series have been postponed due to COVID protocols affecting the Minnesota Whitecaps and Boston Pride.
Despite the delay in the PHF's return to the ice, there's been a handful of news and other tidbits that have occurred in the last few weeks.
The Players' Association of the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) has named Alex Sinatra as its Executive Director, filling a position that had been vacant since April 2021. Sinatra succeeds Anya Packer, who left the role to become general manager of the Metropolitan Riveters on April 8, 2021.
Sinatra is a relatively new name on the women's hockey scene; with no previous connections to the PHF, she can come into the role with a fresh perspective.
She is the CEO and founder of Your Potential for Everything, which her website calls "a strategic sports consulting business specializing in helping women & minorities in the sports & entertainment industry gain clarity, confidence & grow their businesses," and is a producer for USA Today's The NFL Wire.
Sinatra was introduced to the media via conference call on Wednesday. She spoke about her expectations and her communications with the players, and what she hopes to help the PA accomplish.
"Last night, I spoke with one of the teams – all their players – and we had a conversation about needs versus wants," she said. "Three needs you would like to see, three wants you would like to see. I'm going to be doing that with every single team, so each team can bring forth their theories of what they would like to see done in the short, medium, and long term."
Back in April when she departed the role, Packer told Erica Ayala that she hoped someone with more legal expertise would step into the role. Now, that's exactly what's happened.
Sinatra holds a law degree from Texas A&M University School of Law, an important factor for someone leading a players' association. Although she isn't the official counsel for the PA, a legal background will undoubtedly come in handy when negotiating salary caps, players' rights, and, potentially, a collective bargaining agreement down the line.
According to Sinatra, the Players' Association will be more of its own entity going forward, separate from the PHF itself – an important distinction.
"In the past, there was the outward appearance that the PA was an extension of the league, and that is no longer the case," she said. "There are some things that can be communicated, and there are some things from the PA that can't be communicated, because there has to be the checks & balances, and conversely, from the league as well."
"There are certain checks and balances that have to be in place when you have a Players' Association and a league to make sure that the balance is there," she added. "In terms of the union and an association... we are an association right now, we are not a formal union as per the National Labor Relations Act. We're not recognized by the National Labor Relations Board as a union. However, we are operating as though we are at this point. We're using the same sort of rules, procedures, [and] protocols as much as we can to make sure that there are no conflicts of interest, to make sure that we are running as professionally as we can."
"We have to work collaboratively," she added. "But at the same time, there are certain things that the PA needs to do for the best interests of the players, and that might not always align with everything that the league is wanting to do and vice versa."
In addition to helping the PA become its own entity, Sinatra said she hopes to assist players in having a bigger say in how the league is run, what sponsors come on board, and what standard player contracts look like.
"The players would love to see a contract that more clearly lays out the value they bring to the table and more marketing opportunities from them," she said, noting also the hope that the league will work with the PA when introducing new policies or procedures.
Other topics of conversation include monetizing players' NIL (names, images & likenesses) and what that kind of licensing can look like, the revenue split and bringing in additional sponsors.
Finally, Sinatra was asked if her role is paid and if so, where the funding is coming from: "At this point, I can't answer that question. That's confidential information of the Players' Association."
She did confirm she isn't being paid by the PHF, and said the PA is looking for sponsors, who will hopefully provide financial support to create a website, merchandise, and hire accountants.
The Players' Association also finished introducing its player representatives. Each team is represented by two players.
Here's the list:
The PHF named 30 players, selected by coaches, who will participate in the 2022 PHF All-Star Showcase. The roster is a mix of veterans and newcomers, popular picks and quieter ones who may have fallen under the radar, who will join the three captains: Shiann Darkangelo, Jillian Dempsey, and Allie Thunstrom.
Note: With the recent new Ontario restrictions, the Toronto Six have announced that their games will be played without fans for the time being. These restrictions are expected to be in place for at least four weeks – which would extend through the scheduled All-Star Showcase. It's unclear at this point what that means or whether they will try to reschedule or relocate the showcase. For now, here's the comment from the PHF:
"The PHF is aware of the restrictions announced by the Province of Ontario as they pertain to COVID-19 and are reviewing how they may impact the 2022 PHF All-Star Showcase that remains scheduled to be played in Toronto on Saturday, January 29."
Goaltenders: Katie Burt, Elaine Chuli, Abbie Ives
Defense: Amanda Boulier, Taylor Davison, Lindsay Eastwood, Kali Flanagan, Kaleigh Fratkin, Tori Howran, Dominique Kremer, Patti Marshall, Allie Munroe, Marie-Jo Pelletier, Shannon Turner, Taylor Woods
Forwards: Taylor Accursi, McKenna Brand, Michela Cava, Jonna Curtis, Sammy Davis, Anjelica Diffendal, Taylor Girard, Mikyla Grant-Mentis, Kennedy Marchment, Meghara McManus, Madison Packer, Christina Putigna, Rebecca Russo, Alyssa Wohlfeiler, Emma Woods
Three more skaters and one goaltender will be added to the roster via fan vote, which is open now through Sunday, January 9 at 11:00 PM Eastern time.
Last week, the PHF also announced three leaders in the Canadian hockey community who will serve as coaches for the All-Star Showcase: Sami Jo Small, Melody Davidson, and Meghan Chayka.
Small is a three-time Olympian who twice won gold (2002, 2006). She won numerous championships with the Toronto Aeros, Mississauga Chiefs, and Toronto Furies, and was one of the co-founders of the CWHL.
Davidson has served in numerous roles for Canada's national team, including as head coach, assistant coach, general manager, and head scout. She has helped lead the Team Canada to gold medal finishes at the Olympics, Four Nations Cup, and IIHF World Championships.
Chayka is co-founder and CEO of Stathletes, which provides hockey data and analytics in over 22 leagues across the world. She's also a Data Scientist in Resident at the University of Toronto.
The PHF has reached a two-year equipment agreement with Warrior, with a third-year option. With the partnership, Warrior becomes the first-ever Federation-wide partner and will supply products for all six teams.
The new deal also offers pass-through rights to New Balance for footwear.
Kali Flanagan, who recently joined the Pride, will be a featured athlete in Warrior marketing beginning in 2022.
The Beauts also made a surprise signing, announcing that they've added winger Claudia Kelper to their roster for the remainder of the season.
Kepler, 26, is currently an assistant coach at Syracuse University. She last played in the 2019-20 season with KRS Vanke Rays Shenzhen, where she put up 17 points in 24 games. The year prior, she scored 27 points in 35 games with HV71 in the SDHL.
Kepler played collegiate hockey at the Ohio State University and the University of Wisconsin, where she served as captain for her senior year (2017-18).
The PHF is now scheduled to return to action next weekend with four games: