With the Premier Hockey Federation offseason in full swing, there have been an increased number of reports and rumors regarding where players are signing for the upcoming season. Several of my fellow women's hockey reporting colleagues have reported a number of signings over the last few weeks. The anonymous @PHFReport Twitter account has also reported a few signings.
As of writing, only two free agent new player signings have been officially announced by the league and its respective teams: Kacey Bellamy and Daryl Watts. The Minnesota Whitecaps also announced on Wednesday that they have re-signed forward Brittyn Fleming and defender Olivia Knowles, both to two-year deals. Watts' signing was announced back in January, and nearly two weeks went by between Bellamy's signing announcement and the Whitecaps' announcements. While Madison Packer is reported to have signed a new two-year contract with the Riveters, after voiding the second year of her previous two-year contract at the beginning of last season, this has not been officially announced by Packer or the Rivs.
While the rumor mill and reports may be fun for some to follow, it can also be misleading. Reports may or may not be accurate. They may also be incomplete; most of the reports we've seen don't include any details about salaries, or signing bonuses. There are also a lot of moving parts. Until a contract is actually signed, nothing is finalized. Even then, contracts can be altered or terminated.
Years of following the NHL have taught me a few things about reporting information like signings and trades, and how our reporting can impact the players themselves. How many times have I read about an NHL player who found out that he was traded via Twitter?
While the PHF doesn't really have many trades and the situation isn't apples for apples, wouldn't it still sting to see reports that one of your good friends is signing elsewhere, without it being official yet – or without them being able to tell you first themselves? It's easy to forget that these professional athletes are human beings, first and foremost, with emotions and thoughts. They are public figures, but let's not strip them of their humanity like so many others.
Riveters captain Madison Packer touched on this briefly on Twitter, and it's a point worth considering:
As a result of Packer's tweet and a conversation with Packer, the anonymous person (who is apparently a teenager) behind the @PHFReport account has now said they will not post any signing information without permission from players – which means it's likely that their future announcements won't differ much from official ones. It also leaves open the question whether other reported signings that have not yet been reflected in official releases were made with someone's permission.
While nothing will fully stop the reports and rumors, the PHF as a league – and its respective teams – can help stem the flow of potential misinformation by being more transparent and announcing things in a timely manner.
The league didn't announce the start of unrestricted free agency until the day it opened on April 12, with little fanfare and not following the previously-announced guidelines for when such a free agency period would open (they had originally stated it would open May 1). No restricted free agent signings were announced prior – which doesn't mean there weren't any, but how would anybody know? Three weeks later, there's been very little information announced about player signings. The PHF seems to like to drag things out, but wouldn't it make more sense to say, capitalize on the excitement of the Bellamy signing by officially announcing other players soon after, if indeed there are further signings?
The league isn't doing itself any favors in helping to dispel, or confirm, any of the reports and rumors. A little bit of transparency goes a long way, and there's seemingly no good reason to wait to announce players who have either re-signed with their respective teams, or signed elsewhere. If these signings are indeed official, as the various reports imply, why haven't they been announced yet by the PHF or its teams? Who is leaking these stories, and for what purpose?
The simplest solution is for the PHF to officially announce its signings, either as they happen or in a timely fashion after – not weeks or months later. The PHF's salary disclosure policy, adopted in July 2022 and maintained for the 2023-24 season, allows for even the term of a contract to be kept confidential, which has led to confusion and inconsistency even in official releases. Recently, I caught a line in a press release from the Connecticut Whale which indicated that Melissa Samoskevich was under contract for the upcoming season, though her signing was initially reported as a one-year deal. I clarified with the Whale that her contract was revised to become a two-year deal. There has been no official announcement.
It would also be sensible for the league to add an official transaction tracker of some kind, simplifying the process for fans and prospective players to keep track of who has signed where – rather than making them sort through pages of news articles and social media posts.
For now, reporters will have to continue to collate information as it becomes available. The Ice Garden has a 2023-24 signing tracker on their website, and CapBesties continues to track PHF salary details where available. However, the quality of data made available is going to be lacking until the PHF can standardize and improve transparency with the way their contract announcements are disclosed.
Although we as media are certainly doing our due diligence to stay on top of things, the PHF as a whole can also step up to make the process easier – and quell the rumors along the way.