Stan Kasten and Jayna Hefford on a branded PWHL background during a Zoom call.
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PWHL Press Conference Confirms Six Team Markets and Timeline Details for Players

PWHL Press Conference Confirms Six Team Markets and Timeline Details for Players by Melissa Burgess, Zoë Hayden, Victory Press Staff

On Tuesday, August 29, the Professional Women's Hockey League officially announced itself and its six inaugural team markets publicly for the first time. The media release and virtual press conference came after several months of speculation since the Mark Walter Group bought out the Premier Hockey Federation, and just in time to make Stan Kasten good on his word when he said that further details on the new league would be available in August. 

The press conference featured the opportunity for the media to ask questions directly to PWHL Board member Stan Kasten, Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Jayna Hefford, and PWHL Players' Association Executive Director Brian Burke. The entire Zoom call was streamed live online via Sportsnet.

As discovered on social media the night before the press conference: the Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL) will feature six teams in its inaugural season, based in Boston, New York, Minnesota, Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa. The Professional Women's Hockey League is in fact the final name for the new league.

The League's Board consists of Billie Jean King, Ilana Kloss, Stan Kasten, and Royce Cohen.

The PWHL will begin its inaugural, 24-game season in January 2024. Future seasons are expected to run from around November to May and be 32 games in length. A full game schedule for the first season is expected to be released in October.

"This was a sticking point in collective bargaining," said Stan Kasten. "Our players wanted more games… they wanted to play as much hockey as possible under the conditions we're going to be providing them."

The full collective bargaining agreement is now publicly available here, as linked in a FAQ on the PWHL website, which is now live at We previously broke down some highlights of the PWHL CBA with comparisons to the NWSL and WNBA CBAs here.

The league expects to collaborate with the NHL on neutral-site games in its inaugural season, which may be held in cities outside its original six markets, or possibly in NHL venues in the cities themselves. Kasten also said the league may appear at some of the NHL's special events.

In preparation for the season, a pool of roughly 300 players was identified by a nine-member committee representing entities including the PHF, PWHPA, USA Hockey, Hockey Canada, the NCAA, USports and the IIHF. These players are believed to be "interested in and eligible for" the PWHL, per Jayna Hefford. This non-exhaustive list of players received an invitation to a conference call on Monday night, where league leadership unveiled team locations.

A free agency period will open September 1, and teams will have ten days to sign three players in advance of the draft. While the league expects to have lines of communication with active NCAA players, Hefford stressed that NCAA players need to speak to their university compliance officers about how contact with the league affects their college athlete eligibility.

Players have until September 3 to declare their eligibility for and interest in the PWHL Draft. A draft will follow on September 18 in Toronto. The first round draft order will be decided via a lottery, with a snake format in the subsequent rounds (each subsequent round is in the reverse pick order of the previous round). 

The draft will consist of 15 total rounds. Each team will then have the opportunity to sign their 15 draftees, bringing their potential player total at this point in the timeline up to 18.

Following the draft, players who were not selected will become free agents. Teams are required to have a minimum of 28 players at training camp, so they will need to sign at least 10 players beyond the initial free agency period and draft and before training camps open November 13.

In-season, trades can begin upon puck drop of the first game – with a stipulation that no trades involving draft picks will be permitted until the end of the inaugural season. (Note: this refers to the actual draft picks themselves, not players selected.)

As described by Hefford, there will be a compassionate circumstance waiver available if a player wishes to enter the draft but feels they must remain in a specific market for a specific reason. If that waiver is approved, they can only be drafted into that market. Otherwise, the draft will be based on how general managers want to build their teams – not player convenience. The league obviously hopes that the provisions provided in the CBA will allow a player to spend the hockey season in any of its six markets. 

"GMs will have the ability to reach out to players to determine who they are going to draft and have discussions with them about their wants and their willingness," said Hefford. "There's gonna be a strong level of integrity to this draft... you're going to a team that wants you and thinks you can compete, not because you happen to have a home there or family in the market."

Former NHL executive Brian Burke will serve as the executive director of the PWHLPA.

"We are committed to a platform of fairness and equity and equality,"Burke said. "The core values that started this league will never change."

"We don't care where you played before you got here," he added. "We're excited to have you here. If you can play here, you can play. We're excited. Don't worry about where you played before; we've got a spot for you if you can make us better."

Joining Hefford (Senior Vice President, Hockey Operations) on the league staff so far are Annie Camins (VP, Hockey Operations); Chris Burkett (VP, League Operations & Compliance); Alexis Miller (Director of Player Experience) and Burton Lee (Director of Game Operations & Fan Experience). Miller previously worked as a marketing and events consultant with the PWHPA.

Other league staff will include Chelsea Purcell, who was a sponsorship consultant with the PWHPA, as the Senior Director of Corporate Partnerships. Purcell also previously held a similar role in the CWHL in addition to GM duties with the Markham Thunder. 

Nichole Bargo, Director of Finance for the PHF, holds the same role in the PWHL. Jim Pfeifer, who was the Chief Marketing Officer for the PHF, is the Vice President of Commercial Operations. L.J. Baia, manager of sponsorships & ticket sales with the PHF's Buffalo Beauts, holds the same role in the PWHL at a league level. 

The press release announcing Tuesday's media availability was also sent by Paul Krotz, as Director of Communications for the PWHL, and Krotz moderated the Zoom call. Krotz previously served as Senior Vice President of Communications with the PHF since March of 2021. Ashley McLellan, previously a communications consultant with the PWHPA, will join as Manager of Communications.

Hefford stated that she expects each team will have 11 to 12 employees, with "the majority" of those being full-time. She also stated that because the league operates the teams, there will be additional support expected from full-time league-level staff.

While the press conference was revealing, there were many major questions left open after nearly 90 minutes of media availability:

  • An official league logo, as well as team names, will be unveiled at a later date.
  • Specifics regarding locations, including home rinks, have not been announced, though Kasten said the league has been in conversation with multiple venues for both playing and training purposes.
  • General managers for the six teams have not yet been announced. Hefford said she expects all hiring to be finalized by Friday, September 1, the opening of the brief, initial free agency period – in other words, by the end of this week. At press time on Wednesday August 30, there had been no further announcements about GMs. 
  • Hefford stated that the league is actively working on a policy regarding inclusion of transgender athletes and expects it to be released very soon. She declined to comment when asked if any specific advocacy organizations are involved in the crafting of their policy.

The press conference was also given with less than 24 hours notice, but the opportunity to ask questions directly in conjunction with a press release was appreciated and well-executed. 

Key Dates

  • September 1 - Initial free agency period opens during which teams can sign up to 3 players ahead of the draft
  • September 3 - Deadline to declare for PWHL Draft
  • September 10 - End of initial free agency period. Teams can each have 3 players signed at this point.
  • September 18 - PWHL Draft, in Toronto (details to follow). 15 players will be drafted by each team.
  • September 18 onward - Every undrafted, unsigned player is considered a free agent. Teams are expected to add at least 10 players after the draft to meet the 28-player roster requirement for training camp.
  • November 13 - Training camps begin with 28 players signed with each team.