Spearheaded by Olympic Gold Medalist Hilary Knight, Boston will be a force in its first PWHL season. PIC: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
When significant stake in the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) was purchased by financial tycoon & Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Mark Walter, and world-renowned tennis legend Billie Jean King, the women's professional hockey scene was all-but-guaranteed to undergo a change. In August, that change was formally announced - the PHF would fold and the Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL) would be formed in its wake.
A quick summary of changes here:
Seven franchises in the PHF will reduce to six in the PWHL. Minnesota-St. Paul, Montreal, Toronto, Boston, and New York (formerly NJ) will all retain a presence after competing in the PHF last season. The PWHL will add Ottawa as a key market, and will drop the former PHF franchises in Buffalo and Connecticut.
The PHF, formerly the NWHL, were both often victims of scrutiny by the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association, who cited "lack of faith in their business models" according to ABC. When all owners in the PHF agreed to sell back their stakes in the business to Walter, King, and others, players became more receptive to the idea and gave it unanimous praise.
The Players' Association had been working with BJK and Walter to create a competing league to the PHF, but instead BJK & Walter were able to come to terms with the PHF leadership to purchase the league and set it on the right course.
Competition begins in January 2024 and will run through late May/early June.
Let's take a look at the monster roster that Boston has put together so far.
Notable free agents
F: Hilary Knight - 3-time Olympic Medal winner. There aren't many superstars in women's hockey with the recognition that Hilary Knight has. A national championship winner at Wisconsin, Knight has been a longtime advocate of changing the women's game for the better. She recently won gold at the 2023 IIHF World Women's Championship representing the USA, and immediately contributes both superstar hype and offensive firepower.
GK: Aerin Frankel - Goalkeeper, Northeastern. One of the best goaltenders in NCAA history, Frankel stays in Boston after an accolade-laden career at Northeastern. A Patty Kazmaier Award winner in 2021 for best player in the NCAA, Frankel boasts plenty of accomplishments on Huntington Ave, including becoming the first goalie to shut out Boston University in more than 8 years. Frankel is the leading goalkeeper at Northeastern in goals-against-average, save percentage, shutouts, and wins. She'll instantly bring reliability in between the pipes for Boston.
Notable draft selections
F: Alina Mueller - Northeastern. See a pattern here? Boston is scooping up Dave Flint products, and Muller is no exception. Among many Top-10 finishes in the Patty Kazmaier race, a national championship appearance, and multiple-time All-American team nods, arguably Mueller's most coveted accomplishment is the Hockey East Tournament MVP, winning the award three of her five years at Northeastern. “We wanted someone who is young, who’s dynamic, who could play in the middle. And the career that she’s had so far is pretty incredible,” general manager Danielle Marmer said when discussing her choice to pick Mueller at third overall. One things is for sure - Boston has prioritized goal-scoring, which will serve them well.
D: Sophie Jacques - Ohio State. It's not often you follow up one of the most elite goal scorers with the most unique skill-set in hockey: an elite defender who can score. Sophie Jacques epitomizes the full package in a defender; physical, athletic, and facilitating offense. But Jacques, in her last season at Ohio State, did much more than just facilitate - she scored, routinely. 24 goals and 24 assists earned her the Patty Kazmaier trophy in 2023, and it'll certainly draw some attention of opposing defenders in 2024.
F: Jamie-Lee Rattray - Olympic Gold medalist (CAN). Rattray has been called a "Swiss Army knife" by notable publications. While Rattray hadn't appeared in North American pro hockey leagues since 2018, she's been a force for Canada on the national stage since then, winning a Olympic gold medal in 2022. She'll instantly bring fire and energy as one of the team's vets.
F: Theresa Schafzahl - Vermont. The Catamounts put together a resurgence under Jim Plumer's leadership in the past few years, and Schafzahl was a key cog in the machine. Schafzahl set a Catamounts record with 46 points in 2021-22, following it up one shy of tying her record with 45 in the last season she played in Burlington. Expect Schafzahl to immediately contribute and play meaningful minutes.