With a long-running feud in women’s professional ice hockey now settled, a new league with many of the world’s best players is ready to push forward in January, and its inaugural home cities and other details were announced on Tuesday.
The six teams in the new Professional Women’s Hockey League will be evenly divided between the United States and Canada, with teams in Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, the New York metropolitan area, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. The team nicknames and arenas are to be determined.
“The journey to get us here has been long and twisted,” said Jayna Hefford, a five-time Olympian for Canada who is the new league’s senior vice president for hockey operations.
The top women’s hockey league from 2015 to 2023 was the Premier Hockey Federation, which was initially called the National Women’s Hockey League. It struggled to reach the level of success of other top men’s and women’s professional leagues in North America. Small salaries meant that players often had to work second jobs, and television coverage was not prominent.
Dissatisfied with the league’s progress, members of the players’ union, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association, boycotted the league beginning with the 2019-20 season. The hundreds of players who participated in the strike included almost all of the top names from the American and Canadian Olympic teams. That left the women’s league with second-tier players and few of the names fans might have recognized.
The players’ union looked into forming its own league, and teams it assembled played barnstorming games around the two countries in competition with the P.H.F.
The P.H.F. made strides, increasing its salary cap to $750,000 per team in its final season and luring a few players back. But a vast majority of them never rejoined it.
In June, the union and the P.H.F. agreed to a deal that would see them merge, with the intention of starting a new league, owned by the Mark Walter Group and Billie Jean King Enterprises. Players have ratified a collective bargaining agreement going forward, and all P.H.F. contracts have been voided.
Each team in the new league can sign three players as free agents before a 15-round draft on Sept. 18. Final rosters will have 23 active players. The league says that six players on each team will be signed to three-year contracts of at least $80,000 a year, while most other players will be on one- or two-year deals.
For the first season, each team will play 24 regular-season games starting in January 2024. The league says that subsequent seasons will begin in November and will include 32 games. Expansion is also possible going forward, it said.
In its final season, the P.H.F. had teams in Boston; Buffalo; Simsbury, Conn.; East Rutherford, N.J.; Richfield, Minn.; Montreal; and Toronto. With the start of the new league, Buffalo and Connecticut are losing their teams, while Ottawa is gaining one.
N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman has said that his league was reluctant to get involved with women’s hockey as long as the split continued. Stan Kasten, the president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who is on the new league’s board of directors, said the N.H.L. has provided advice.
“The N.H.L. has been fantastically supportive of us,” he said.
The N.H.L. will collaborate with the new league to organize neutral-site games in both N.H.L. and non-N.H.L. cities beyond the six home sites.
“No fan owes us their time or money,” Kasten said. “It’s on us to earn it.”