Ice Hockey Wiki
Premier Hockey Federation
Premier Hockey Federation logo.png
PHF logo September 2021
Countries Flag of the United States United States
Flag of Canada Canada
Founded March 2015
No. of teams 6
Championship Isobel Cup

The Premier Hockey Federation, known before the 2021–22 season as the National Women's Hockey League, is a North American women's professional ice hockey league. Established in 2015, the league comprises six teams: the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters, Minnesota Whitecaps, and Toronto Six.[1] The league's championship trophy is the Isobel Cup, named after Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy, the daughter of Frederick Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, donor of the Stanley Cup.[2]

Dani Rylan is the league's founder and served as commissioner until stepping down in 2020,[3] being replaced in that role by Tyler Tumminia.


The formation of the NWHL was announced in March 2015. The league is the first U.S women's hockey league to pay its players. Prior to the league's formation, the only current choice for top level women's hockey in North America was the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL), which pays bonuses but not salaries. The league's first season ran on a salary cap of US $270,000 maximum per team and a $10,000 minimum per player.[4] The players can also make additional revenue by way of a right to 15% of profits off any NWHL jersey sold with their name on it. The league placed its four original teams in what it considered to be the strongest traditional hockey markets: in the New York City area, Buffalo, and New England.

Commissioner Dani Rylan never identified the league's investors, stating they preferred to remain anonymous. Canadian Joel Leonoff, CEO of Paysafe Group and father of Connecticut Whale goaltender Jaimie Leonoff, has spoken about his investment in the league, although he declined to reveal the size of his investment.[5]

The inaugural NWHL Entry Draft took place in Boston on June 20. The league held tryout camps in various locales in Canada, along with an international player camp in Boston.[6] In addition, due to the paid nature of the league and its placement in the Northeastern United States, the league attracted many top level United States women's national ice hockey team stars from the CWHL such as Hilary Knight and former Team USA captain Meghan Duggan, top graduating players from the NCAA, and international players. The league is recognized by USA Hockey as the top women's professional league.[7]

In December 2015, the league signed their first league wide sponsorship deal, a multi-year deal with Dunkin Donuts.[8]

On December 31, 2015, the Boston Pride played Montreal's Les Canadiennes of the CWHL to a 1–1 tie in the first Women's Winter Classic (officially the "Outdoor Women's Classic presented by Scotiabank") the day before the 2016 NHL Winter Classic and at the same site, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. It was the first outdoor professional women's hockey game and the first game between the NWHL and the CWHL.[9]

The 1st NWHL All-Star Game took place on January 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. The game featured a 4-on-4 format with Hilary Knight of the Boston Pride and Emily Pfalzer of the Buffalo Beauts serving as team captains. On Saturday March 12, 2016. The Boston Pride became the first ever Isobel Cup champions with a 3–1 win vs the Buffalo Beauts and a 2–0 series win.

Heading into the second season, the league undertook a new direction. On August 4, 2016, the league announced that all four inaugural season jersey designs would be retired.[10] All four teams enter the upcoming season with new jersey designs, that shall be voted upon by fans online.

Two days prior to this announcement, the league announced a partnership with You Can Play,[11] an organization dedicated to eradicating homophobia in sport. Not only did each team in the league have a You Can Play athlete-ambassador, it would eventually begin to develop a policy with regards to transgender players. This initiative took place in reaction to the October 7, 2016, announcement that Buffalo Beauts player Harrison Browne was transgender, which made him the first openly transgender athlete in professional American team sports.[12]

Part way into the league's second season, the NWHL informed its players on November 17, 2016, that they would all be getting up to a 50% pay cut. This dropped the league player minimums to $5,000 per player.[13] Five weeks later, in an attempt to partially compensate for the salary rollback, the league introduced an incentive program where players from the home team split the revenue generated by tickets sold in excess of 500 after each game.[14] On February 3, 2017, the league announced that the season and playoffs would be shortened to accommodate for the players' participation in the 2017 IIHF World Championships and preparations for the 2018 Olympic teams.[15]

Prior to the 2017-18 season the New York Riveters were renamed the Metropolitan Riveters.  The team had moved its' games from Brooklyn to Newark for the 2016-17 season.

On May 15, 2018 the league announced its first expansion team. The league had acquired the Minnesota Whitecaps would were founded in 2004. The league will operate the team for the time being.

2019 Offseason

On March 31, 2019, it was announced that the Canadian Women's Hockey League board of directors had decided that league would discontinue operations effective May 1, 2019. The Toronto Furies and Les Canadiennes de Montreal announced that their teams would continue while the Calgary Inferno announced an intention to do everything in it's power to continue women's hockey in Alberta.[16][17][18] During the season, NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan had been in talks with the CWHL about the possibility of a single league.[19] In response to the abrupt folding of the CWHL, The Athletic reported that the NWHL was exploring adding teams in Canada to fill the markets left by the CWHL, likely adding the former Toronto and Montreal CWHL teams with the possibility of adding Calgary if a major donor could help with the costs. NWHL commissioner Rylan stated that the league would continue to pursue all opportunities to ensure the best players in Canada have a place to play.[20]

On April 2, 2019, the NWHL announced two expansion franchises in Montreal and Toronto and support from the National Hockey League that makes it one of the NWHL's biggest financial sponsors. Is is unknown if the NWHL will assume control of the Les Canadiennes and Furies teams or if the league will start new teams in Montreal and Toronto.[21] The league is in conversations with all of the current stakeholders and partners within Toronto and Montreal including the Montreal Les Canadiennes and the Toronto Furies.[22]

In early May, approximately 200 players announced they would boycott "women's professional hockey in North America" for the 2019-20 season, and formed a players union in the hopes of creating a sustainable league where players could earn a living wage under a league model that would work for both owners and players.  The NWHL has a salary cap of $100,000 per team (with some players earning as little as $2,000 for the season) and there is no health insurance. The boycott is no specifically aimed at the NWHL but since it is the only professional women's hockey league in North America it is just a matter of semantics.[23][24]

During May of 2019 the Buffalo Sabres (May 8)[25] and New Jersey Devils (May 17)[26] both announced they would not be continuing with its partnership with the Buffalo Beauts and Metropolitan Riveters respectively. While the league is taking over the Buffalo team, and intending to keep the team in Buffalo, no indication was made as to where they will play for 2019-20 but the league was hoping to work out a lease to stay at HarborCenter. The Riveters are searching for a new home as the Devils practice facility was their home arena.

In addition to these teams previously using NHL team practice rinks, Boston and Minnesota play at NHL team practice rinks as well. When the Montreal and Toronto teams were in the CWHL they also played in NHL team practice rinks.

The league announced on May 30, 2019 that due to no additional investors, the league would not be able to increase to full-time salaries or provide players with health insurance outside of the typical worker's compensation for injuries, but had come to an agreement to a 50 percent revenue split on all league-wide sponsorship and media deals. In addition, the league also stated they would not be able to add Montreal and Toronto for the 2019–20 season.[27]

After the Buffalo Beauts were returned to the league by Pegulia Sports and Entertainment (PSE), a legal notice was sent to the league requesting them to refrain from using the Beauts name and logos.

On July 8, 2019, the Connecticut Whale issued a release stating that the team would be relocating to the Danbury Ice Arena in Danbury, Connecticut for the 2019-20 season.[28]

Until the start of the 2018-19 season the league consisted of four teams concentrated in the Northeast USA and then expanded to Minnesota.

For the 2020-21 season the Toronto Six were added as the first Canada-based team in the league.

logo as NWHL

An expansion team was planned for Montreal for 2019-20, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21, and again for 2021-22. The team is now planned to start with the 2022-23 season.

The league was renamed the Premier Hockey Federation in September 2021.[29]


Due to labor issues and NHL team separating themselves from several teams a few teams had to relocate to new arenas for 2019-20. The Buffalo Beauts and Metropolitan Riveters relocated to new venues from NHL team practice facilities. The Connecticut Whale relocated about 30 miles (50 km) to Danbury from Stamford.

Team City Primary Arena
Boston Pride Boston, Massachusetts Warrior Ice Arena
Buffalo Beauts Amherst, New York Northtown Center
Connecticut Whale Danbury, Connecticut Danbury Ice Arena
Metropolitan Riveters Monmoth Junction, New Jersey Pro Skate
Minnesota Whitecaps Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota TRIA Rink at Treasure Island Center
Toronto Six Toronto, Ontario Canlan Ice Sports York

Teams added for 2019-20 but later dropped

Team City Primary Arena
Canadiennes de Montreal Brossard, Quebec Aréna Michel Normandin
Toronto Furies Toronto, Ontario Ford Performance Centre

Note: The Montreal team has not been confirmed as to if they will be a continuation of the existing team or a new team.

In addition, prior to joining the league, the then independent Minnesota Whitecaps played games against Connecticut, Boston and New York over the course of the inaugural season.[30]



Main article: 2015–16 NWHL season
The inaugural NWHL Entry Draft took place in Boston on June 20. The draft order was decided on June 8 by lottery: the New York Riveters to pick first, followed by the Connecticut Whale, the Boston Pride, and the Buffalo Beauts.[31] The first overall pick by the Riveters was Boston College graduate Alex Carpenter, the 2015 winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award for the most outstanding player in NCAA women's hockey, and the daughter of National Hockey League All-Star Bobby Carpenter. The other first round picks were University of Minnesota forward Hannah Brandt by Connecticut, Northeastern University forward Kendall Coyne by Boston, and University of Wisconsin defenseman Courtney Burke by Buffalo.

The first game in league history, between the New York Riveters and Connecticut Whale on October 11, 2015, sold out.[32] Manon Rheaume dropped the puck in the ceremonial opening faceoff before that game.[33] The first goal in league history, in a 4–1 win by the host Whale, was scored by Jessica Koizumi of Connecticut.[34]


Main article: 2016–17 NWHL season
The same four teams that contested the inaugural season returned for the second season. The Buffalo Beauts, who finished in third place in the shortened season, upset the league-leading Boston Pride in the Isobel Cup, which was played as a single-elimination tournament.


Main article: 2017–18 NWHL season
The same four teams returned for the third season, all in the same primary home arenas for the first time. Buffalo played their home opener at Bill Gray's Regional Iceplex in the suburbs of Rochester and there was also one neutral-site game in Pittsburgh.[35] The Metropolitan Riveters won the Isobel Cup defeating the Buffalo Beauts.[36]

Isobel Cup Champions

The Isobel Cup, the league's championship trophy, is awarded annually to the league playoff champion at the end of each season. It is named after Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy, the daughter of Frederick Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, the namesake of the Stanley Cup.[37] The front of the trophy is engraved with "The Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy Cup 1875–1963. This Cup, shall be awarded annually to the greatest professional women's hockey team in North America. All who pursue this Cup, pursue a dream; a dream born with Isobel, that shall never die. EST. 2016."[37] The Boston Pride won the inaugural championship in 2016.[38] The Buffalo Beauts have earned the most appearances in an Isobel Cup Final with three straight appearances from 2016 to 2018,[39] winning in 2017.[40]

Year Winning Team Coach Losing Team Coach Series City
2016 Boston Pride Bobby Jay Buffalo Beauts Ric Seiling 2–0 (series) Newark, NJ
2017 Buffalo Beauts Ric Seiling Boston Pride Bobby Jay 3–2 (single game) Lowell, MA
2018 Metropolitan Riveters Chad Wiseman Buffalo Beauts Ric Seiling 1–0 (single game) Newark, NJ
2019 Minnesota Whitecaps Jack Brodt & Rhonda Engelhardt Buffalo Beauts Ric Seiling 2-1 (ot) (single game) St. Paul, MN
2020 playoffs cancelled prior to championship game between Boston Pride and Minnesota Whitecaps scheduled for Warrior Ice Arena in Boston, Massachusetts.
2021 Boston Pride Paul Mara Minnesota Whitecaps Jack Brodt & Rhonda Engelhardt 4-3 (single game) Boston, MA

Media coverage

The NWHL does not currently have a national television partner. During the inaugural season, some games were shown on ESPN3, a sister streaming service to cable channel ESPN.[41]
In 2016, third-party broadcasts moved from ESPN3 to the new Cheddar, an internet television channel available via Sling TV.[42]

The NWHL also streams non-Cheddar games on its own YouTube channel for free. The service is dubbed The Cross-Ice Pass.[43]

The league's flagship franchise, the Boston Pride, became the first women's hockey team to enter a regular broadcasting agreement with a regional sports network, with 8 of its 18 games presented on either NESN or NESNplus during the league's inaugural season.[44]

It was announced in March 2017 that ABC News' website would provide live streaming coverage of the 2017 Isobel Cup Playoffs.


  1. "NWHL, new women's hockey league, promises to pay players", Yahoo! Sports, March 26, 2015. Retrieved on 26 March 2015. 
  2. Fink, James. "Buffalo Beauts to play at HarborCenter", April 16, 2015. 
  3. Clinton, Jared. "National Women's Hockey League set to begin in 2015–16, will pay players", March 26, 2015. 
  4. NWHL Release of Player Finances Raises Questions (September 30, 2015).
  5. Borzi, Pat (February 9, 2016). Father Of Connecticut Whale Goalie Among NWHL's Mystery Investors. ESPN Inc..
  6. Clinton, Jared. "NWHL to hold first Canadian-based free agent camps", July 2, 2015. 
  7. U.S. Women's Players Highlight NWHL Rosters. Retrieved on 2015-10-14.
  8. Cimini, Kaitlin (December 7, 2015). The NWHL Runs on Dunkin' (Donuts).
  9. NHL to host first-ever Outdoor Women's Classic presented by Scotiabank (December 28, 2015). Retrieved on December 28, 2015.
  10. NWHL retires inaugural season jersey designs. (2016-08-04). Retrieved on 2016-08-08.
  11. NWHL partners with You Can Play. You Can Play Project (2016-08-01). Retrieved on 2016-10-07.
  12. NWHL player Harrison Browne comes out as a transgender man. ESPN (2016-10-07). Retrieved on 2016-10-07.
  13. NWHL hit with bad news. The Fourth Period (November 18, 2016).
  14. NWHL players to receive attendance bonuses. Excelle Sports (2016-12-23). Retrieved on 2016-12-27.
  15. NWHL to complete playoffs before world championships. ESPN (February 3, 2017).
  16. @TorontoCWHL (March 31, 2019). The Toronto Furies are proud of our ongoing contributions to advancing women's hockey on every level here in Toronto. Thank you to everyone who contributed to our successes and the growth we experienced over the years. Let's all #StickTogether as we look to move forward together.
  17. @LesCanadiennes (March 31, 2019). #FabsForever #OurCityOurClub #TheWomensMovementNeverStops.
  18. SN Q&A: Inferno GM Kristen Hagg on CWHL ceasing operations, 'I'm not just folding up my chair and packing it in'.
  19. @NWHL (March 31, 2019). A statement from NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan:.
  20. Salvian, Hailey (March 31, 2019). NWHL to investigate adding Canadian teams after CWHL abruptly folds.
  21. U.S.-based women's hockey league OKs plan to expand to Canada after CWHL folds | The Star (en).
  22. Murphy, Mike (April 2, 2019). NWHL to add two Canadian teams, receives significant investment from NHL.
  27. "We'll Always Do What's Best for the Game" - A Message from the NWHL (May 30, 2019).
  30. Whitecaps Split Games Against NWHL Teams (2011-07-13). Retrieved on 2016-09-28.
  31. Women's Hockey News Roundup, 6/9 (June 9, 2015). Retrieved on 9 June 2015.
  32. Clinton, Jared. "NWHL sells out inaugural game, Manon Rheaume to drop ceremonial puck in Buffalo", October 7, 2015. 
  33. Marrazza, Dan (October 11, 2015). As puck drops on opening day, NWHL focused on sport's long-term growth. Retrieved on March 15, 2016.
  34. Clinton, Jared. "Watch Jessica Koizumi enter the record books with first goal in NWHL history", October 11, 2015. 
  35. 2017–18 NWHL Schedule Announced (August 8, 2017).
  36. "Metropolitan Riveters hold off defending champion Buffalo Beauts for first NWHL title", ESPN. 
  37. 37.0 37.1 Isobel Cup (en-us).
  38. "The Boston Pride Are the NWHL's First-Ever Isobel Cup Champions", Boston Magazine, March 13, 2016. (en-US) 
  39. "Buffalo Beauts score in overtime to earn third straight Isobel Cup appearance", The Buffalo News, March 17, 2018. (en-US) 
  40. "Buffalo Beauts upset Boston Pride for Isobel Cup", ESPN. 
  41. Neale, Jen (November 25, 2015). NWHL, ESPN announce partnership to stream on ESPN3. Yahoo Inc..
  42. Laung, Diamond (November 15, 2016). National Women’s Hockey League To Broadcast Games on Cheddar’s Sling TV Channel. SportTechie, LLC.
  43. Murphy, Mike (October 10, 2015). NWHL Games will be Streamed for Free with Cross-Ice Pass. Vox Media.
  44. SI Staff (November 17, 2015). NWHL, NESN reach deal to televise eight Boston Pride games in 2015–16. Time Inc..

External links

This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at National Women's Hockey League (2015–). The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Ice Hockey Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0 (Unported) (CC-BY-SA).