The PHF: What is it and who to know

Boston pride player fist bumps bench
Bostn Pride player fist bumps the bench Photo credit: JOHN TLUMACKI/BOSTON GLOBE STAFF

The League

The PHF or the Premier Hockey Federation, formerly known as the NWHL, is a professional women’s hockey league with teams in the United States and Canada. It is currently the only operational professional women’s  league although the PWHPA (Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association) is in the beginning stages of forming a league. The PHF currently has six teams, five in the US and one in Canada, though the league is planning on expanding this off season with two more teams. One of those new teams is confirmed to be in Montreal. 

The championship for the PHF is called the Isobel Cup. The Isobel Cup, affectionately known as Izzy, is named after the daughter of Lord Stanley (of Stanley Cup fame). Isobel Stanley was a huge proponent of women’s hockey. The cup was most recently won by the Boston Pride. 

Boston Pride

The Pride are three time Isobel Cup champions, most recently winning it in the 2021-2022 season. They also won the cup in the 2020-2021 bubble season and reached the finals vs the Minnesota Whitecaps in the Covid-canceled 2019-2020 season. The Boston Pride are a distinctly Boston hockey team, with a similar energy to the Boston Bruins that any New England hockey fan will know and enjoy. The Pride’s game is sometimes low scoring, but backed up by truly amazing goaltending and an attitude of “we are better than you and we will win.” 

Player to watch: The obvious choice for the Boston Pride player to know and watch is Boston Pride captain and three time Isobel Cup champion, Jillian Dempsey. Dempsey, a forward in her eighth season with the team, is the heart and soul of the Boston Pride. She started her pro career in 2013-2014 with the Boston Blades of the former CWHL following a stellar tenure withHarvard. In the 2019-2020 season,Dempsey led the NWHL in scoring  and was named an All Star. She was the first player to hit the 100 games played mark for the PHF. This past season she played in the ECHL All Star Game. Jillian Dempsey is about as decorated as a hockey player can be and it’s completely deserved. Her hockey is high-paced and high-scoring, with a little bit of roughness added for some fun. 

Buffalo Beauts

The Buffalo Beauts are the definition of fun. They won the Isobel Cup In the 2016-2017 season. The Beauts are part of a group of four PHF/NWHL teams known as the Founding Four who have been around since the league’s beginning. However, the current Beauts went through a good number of changes since then and have become an exciting, fun to watch team, as exemplified by the goaltending tandem of  last season back stopped by Lovisa Berndtsson and Carly Jackson. The Beauts floundered a bit in the 2021-2022 season, ending up losing to the Boston Pride in the first round of the playoffs. Buffalo fans’ energy is unmatched in the league. Imagine Buffalo Bills fans dropped into an ice rink and you have Beauts fans. The Beauts are a team full of fan favorites. The Beauts made a splash this off season with one of the biggest signings in women’s hockey. 

Player to watch: The Beauts player to watch is obvious as soon as she steps on the ice. The signing of the off season was Mikyla Grant-Mentis, also known as “Buckey” or MGM.. Grant-Mentis joined the Beauts for the first time in the 2019-2020 season after a record setting collegiate career with Merrimack College, where she holds the records for points and assists. She played during  the play-ins for the Beauts that season, then signed with the Toronto Six for the shortened 2020-2021 bubble season. In 2020-2021, she won Newcomer of the Year. With the Toronto Six in the 2021-2022 season, MGM had 30 points in 19 games. Grant-Mentis broke the women’s hockey world when she signed a one year contract worth $80,000 with the Buffalo Beauts. Her scoring touch is electric and her play is a joy to watch. 

Connecticut Whale

The whale are in a way a reincarnation of the Whalers of old. They wear the green, blue and white of the whalers and have brass bonanza as their goal song. The Whales are the only founding four teams that have yet to win an Isobel cup. They made it to the finals in the 2021-2022 season after being first in the league but lost to the Boston Pride. The Whale are a defense first team. Their play is a blast to watch and their twitter account is truly hilarious. The whale are a team on the brink of greatness and have a really bright future ahead of them. 

A player to watch: The player to watch for Ct Whale as they are known by the fans, is right catching goalie Abbie Ives. Abbie Ives is a standout among women’s hockey players at the height of 5’11 and that height shows in her play and command of the net. Ives played in college for Quinnipiac where she would eventually serve as assistant captain. While the spelling of her name be it Abby or Abbie might change, her play is constant and that play is fantastic. With the whale this season she posted a 10-3-0 record with an .894 save percentage that improved to an even better .906 in the playoffs. Her playstyle is unlike any other goaltender in the league and Ives is worth the watch. The best NHL comparison for Abby Ives is Juuse Saros and if that doesn’t say good goaltending I’m not sure what does. 

Metropolitan Riveters

The Metropolitan Riveters or the Rivs are the final founding four teams from the original NWHL. The Rivs won the Isobel cup in 2017-2018. The Metropolitan part of the Riveters name comes from the fact that the Rivs are a New York adjacent team playing out of Newark New Jersey. The Newark Riveters really doesn’t have the same ring to it as Metropolitan does. The Rivs have one of the most recognizable logos in the league. Their original logo was Rosie the Riveter but has now been updated to what is called ‘Robo Rosie’ What you might recognize their logo from is the Balck Rosie jersey which went viral earlier this year. The Metropolitan Riveters play a different style of hockey more similar to that of European hockey, likely coming from the longtime head coach Ivo Mocek. 

Player to watch: The player to watch for the Rivs is easily captain Madison Packer. Packer is a huge name and huge player in women’s hockey. Packer is an original for the league with seven seasons under her belt. Her play style is fast and heavy. She led the league in penalty minutes more than once. Packer is incredibly physical and also a scoring threat. She is the leader of the Rivs both on and off the ice. She was on the team with Jillan Dempsey that won gold in the U18 women’s world championships. Packer also won the NCAA championship with the University of Wisconsin Badgers. Packer was the second player in the PHF/NWHL to reach 100 games played. Her sense of style on and off the ice is truly legendary.  

Minnesota Whitecaps

The Minnesota Whitecaps are an interesting case with a team that actually predates the league. The original Whitecaps were formed in the early 2000s before joining the PHF in 2018. The Whitecaps even won the Isobel Cup in their first season in the league. In the time between forming and joining the PHF, they managed a Clarkson Cup (the Clarkson cup was the trophy for the CWHL) win. The Whitecaps are currently the sole midwest PHF team but that still doesn’t stop the league from doing exhibition games in other parts of the midwest. The only word to describe the play of the whitecaps as a team is fast. They fly down the ice and the scores can often show that. 

Player to watch: For me the most interesting player to watch is goaltender Amanda Levielle. Leveille or as known by the fans, Lev. Leveille is almost as decorated as they get. She is a three time NCAA D1 women’s hockey champion with the University of Minnesota and won the Isobel Cup twice, once with the Buffalo Beauts and once with the Whitecaps. Leveille had a .937 svg in the 2021-2022 season which is her pro career record, though only by one point. Leveille is a two time PHF goaltender of the year award winner. Lev’s calling card around the league is her pads. She has had both fish (walleye) and bird (loon) pads before. 

Toronto Six

Toronto is home of the league’s newest and for not much longer, Canada’s only PHF team. The Toronto Six gained their name from Toronto being called the Six. Being the new team in the league they were quick to cement a reputation for themselves. What is that reputation you may ask? Power playing and power skating. Toronto led the league last season in power plays. Toronto can and did get under the skin of all the other teams around the league. In the 2021-2022 season they had 13 goals on 27 power plays for a .228 power play percentage which overall is quite good. 

Player to watch: The TSix player to watch is captain Shiann Darkangelo. Darkangelo is a player who knows women’s hockey. She has played in the PHF, CWHL, PWHPA and in Russia also with the CWHL. Darkanglo won the 2016 IIHF women’s worlds gold with Team USA. Darkangelo was one of the first five players signed by the new Toronto Six. She even was team captain of team Darkangelo at the 2021-2022 PHF all star game. In the 2021-2022 season Darkangelo had 20 points in 20 games and even though +/- isn’t the most useful stat she was a plus 16.

Corwin Dickson

Hi! Im Corwin. i have a womens hockey problem. its my thing and i cant really shut up about it

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