What PHF’s meteoric salary increase means for women’s hockey and women’s sports in general

The news on Wednesday — that the Premier Hockey Federation, the women’s hockey league formerly known as the NWHL — had raised its salary cap for the 2023-24 season to $1.5 million per team reverberated well beyond the women’s hockey world itself.

Coming on the same day that the WNBA announced that it was delaying expansion beyond its previously established preferred schedule, it was hard for many to avoid noting that the new salary caps for the younger league, still less than a decade old, will exceed the of the WNBA cap for 2024, which registers at $1,463,200, under the current CBA.

This does not mean that the two leagues are in competition. Instead, it’s part of the same story of the growth of women’s sport that the Women’s National Soccer League has also lifted, even amid the NWSL’s reckoning on abuses. In fact, in the first collective bargaining agreement between the NWSL and the NWSLPA, signed earlier this year, the salary cap increased from $682,500 in 2021 to $1.1 million in 2022. The WNBA’s salary cap of $996,000 in 2019 it increased to just $1.3 million in 2020. The WNBA’s lead on this front has now disappeared.

It is notable that while the WNBA’s $75 million capital increase in early 2022 did not change any of the salaries in the league, though experts would argue that the increase itself helps pay for the increase agreed to in the CBA. 2020, the PHF explicitly linked this increase. in salaries to the $25 million cash injection agreed to by the league’s owners last January.

“This historic salary cap increase reflects the strength of our league and business model development, and supports an enhanced player experience that over the past year has introduced comprehensive healthcare benefits, facility improvements, league expansion and a record 84-game schedule,” Reagan. Carey, commissioner of the PHF, in a statement Wednesday. “We know how dedicated and selfless these players are to creating more opportunities for women in sport, and the PHF is committed to prioritizing our support of these talented and skilled players on and off the ice. Players, alumni, staff, coaches, volunteers, partners, owners, and our passionate fans have been working to ensure that full-time professional hockey is a professional career for women.”

But the PHF is fueling its growth in ways far beyond the current owners’ money. A two-year deal with ESPN+ and TSN ensures the widest possible audience for PHF, while the financial portion of those partnerships comes amid an overall high in total sponsorship dollars, according to the league.

The good news didn’t stop there either. The PHF announced Thursday that its All Star Weekend would take place in Toronto, with a three-team round-robin tournament made up of American, Canadian and global players, to be seen at 7 pm ET on ESPN2 and TSN. Teams will be announced in the coming weeks.

The big picture is of a league that is delivering on the fast-growing promises of Carey, who took over as commissioner in April 2022.

“We will not stop here and we are very proud to continue our history of setting new records for women’s professional hockey,” Carey said. “PHF was the first league to pay its players in 2015, and our commitment to building the best home for women’s professional hockey requires that we continue to lead the way forward. Increased financial opportunities for athletes is part of the new era of PHF. We are doing the work and we are seeing the results.”

And with those results, it puts pressure on other women’s leagues to raise their own salaries as well. Because in all women’s sports, people notice what happens in the PHF.

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