Ice hockey is one of the most popular sports in North America, having first been played in Montreal 147 years ago in 1875. The National Hockey League is highly lucrative and attracts interest all over the world, and this has helped the sport go from strength to strength. That has led many women to wonder why it has taken so long for them to get a chance to play the sport professionally.
Thankfully, the sport is now beginning to see some equality, and women have been competing in the sport for a number of years. It’s still in its infancy, but interest in the female-led sport is gaining in popularity.
Premier Hockey Federation Formed in 2015
The women’s professional ice hockey league in the USA and Canada is known as the Premier Hockey Federation. It began in 2015 as the National Women’s Hockey League and changed its name in 2021. The inaugural season in 2015-16 featured Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, and New York Riveters. The latter became the Metropolitan Riveters in 2017.
The Minnesota Whitecaps joined in 2018-19, Toronto Six in 2020-21, and Montreal Force for the 2022-23 season. It’s clear that interest in the sport is rising and more teams want to get involved. With the latest additions of Canadian teams, it is reasonable to assume that more outfits from the country will crop up over the next few years.
The league had an initial estimated operating budget of $2.5 million, but this has since increased as it has proven to be financially stable. Indeed, in early 2022 the Premier Hockey Federation stated that it planned to raise the salary cap of each team from $300,000 to $750,000. This would be accompanied by the addition of two new teams next season.
Despite the fact that interest in the women’s game is clearly on the rise and it is enjoying more success than other sports such as American football, there’s still a massive disparity between the women’s and the men’s games. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, with the NHL existing for so much longer. However, some of the salaries on offer in the men’s game highlight how far the women’s sport still has to go.
The NHL can afford to pay enormous rookie contracts, with many of the top prospects coming into the league on $11 million deals off the bat. Players like Nail Yakupov, Nathan MacKinnon, and Aaron Ekblad all signed for $11 million over the last decade. Well-established players earn a lot more than this as well. For example, former player and legend of the game Wayne Gretzky now has a net worth of more than $200 million.
There is a growing interest in women’s ice hockey, and this bodes well for the game moving forward. However, it will need a great deal of investment if it has any hopes of ever catching up with the NHL. If the organizing bodies use social media and modern technology to their advantage when promoting it, there is a good chance that the Premier Hockey Federation can become a major league within a few decades.