Toronto hosts the first game of the first PWHL season on New Year's Day.
You can watch this game on the CBC in Canada and they will be streaming other games throughout the season:
For a somewhat brief history of the formation of the league, yesterday's post has you covered.
Today is about the current shape of the league.
The PWHL has six teams, three in Canada and three in the USA. They are based in Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal (Montréal and Laval), Boston (Lowell), Minnesota (St. Paul) and New York (Bridgeport and Long Island).
The theme of this first PWHL season is: Things will change. The league is new, and as they grow in experience and popularity, changes will come. Some change will come just from time. I think those six teams will be pretty static for a while, though.
Each team needed a dedicated practice facility and an arena to play home games in, which has driven the choices for the first six locations. Some of the teams will split home games between more than one place for this season, and some suburban locations have been chosen in place of the bigger (and expensive) urban centres.
The teams don't have names yet, and we don't know when that will be changed, but the generic jerseys for the first season are going to change dramatically when the branding is complete. These first-season jerseys are selling well, according to the league, and they may well become collectors' items, particularly if they bear the name of the biggest stars who are headlining teams.
Money and Structure
If you are used to professional sports on a franchise model, be aware that the PWHL owns all six teams outright. This is a thing that may change, but not soon. The centralized ownership provides financial stability; no team is going to go bankrupt or change ownership to a problematic person. No team is going to do something that will come as a surprise to league management.
The league is funded by private investment, with no money coming from the NHL, but the PWHL has reportedly consulted with the NHL over some issues.
The players are represented by the PWHLPA, headed by Brian Burke. They negotiated a CBA earlier in the summer, and are governed by its rules. Each player has signed a Standard Player Agreement with the league.
Toronto will play this season in the Mattamy Athletic Centre, part of the old Maple Leaf Gardens. This is the smallest arena of any PWHL team, but at just under 3,000 in capacity, it's bigger than where the Toronto Furies (CWHL) and Toronto Six (PHF) played by a considerable margin. Ticket sales have been brisk, with rapid sellouts of season ticket packages and the first run of individual seats. Some tickets will be available for sale and for promotions closer to game dates.
The opening night game for all three Canadian teams are listed as sellouts, and the Ottawa game – in the larger TD Place arena – will set a record for attendance at women's professional hockey on January 2.
One certain change is that Toronto will have to tackle the thorny problem of finding a bigger venue, and I think we can all hope they do that without venturing into the 905. The Coca-Cola Coliseum where the Marlies play is bigger and might be the answer, depending on the locker room facilities.
Some other teams are using venues that are too big, and you will see seats curtained off for some games particularly Minnesota and New York who play all or some games in NHL rinks.
The easiest way to follow the league, the rosters, and the standings is on the PWHL website:
And the Toronto website:
Teams were seeded via an initial free agency that allowed them to sign three players. The draft followed and training camp in November/December solidified the rosters.
The PWHL and the union, the PWHLPA, have chosen not to make salary amounts public, but the terms are. Contracts run from one-three years. There is a minimum salary of $35,000, and each team was required to hit an average salary of $55,000 on the day rosters were due in mid-December. The salary cap or floor doesn't exist in the PWHL CBA, but it is implied by the average requirement, which is set to rise by 3% per year in every season of the current CBA.
The six teams play 24 games, with Toronto playing all 12 home games in one place. Other teams have some locations yet to be announced for home games, leaving open the opportunity to bring the league to other cities or to the urban centres for New York and Boston.
The future seasons will be longer with more games played.
The last game of the season will also be in Toronto as they host Ottawa on May 5. Playoffs will feature the top four teams and will begin in early May.
The schedule has two breaks, one for National team formation in February, and then in March/April for the IIHF World Championships.
CBC, as noted above, will stream some games. There has been unconfirmed reports that the PWHL will produce broadcasts themselves and they will be shown on CBC, TSN, Sportsnet and US regional broadcasters. This is unofficial information, and we'll update your viewing options as they become more clear.
These two posts this week have been a broad strokes look at this new league, but please ask any questions you might have. Next up, though, is a more focused look at just the Toronto team.