The future of the Boston Pride is uncertain following the sale of the Premier Hockey Federation, which paved the way for a new women’s pro hockey league.
“From what I’m hearing, it’s not great, which is a terrible, sad thing for the Boston Pride fans,” said Paul Mara, a former NHL defenseman and the team’s head coach the last six seasons. “We think we’ve developed — over the past five, six years — probably the No. 1 fan base in women’s hockey throughout the country. And from what I’m hearing, we might not be in existence next year, so it’s really disheartening.”
Both Mara and former Pride defender Olivia Zafuto said it’s rumored the new league will feature six teams with original branding. Neither had any indication what cities would house those teams, but Mara suspects the Pride will be dissolved.
The Pride often sold out Warrior Ice Arena and were one of the league’s most successful teams, winning three Isobel Cups, including back-to-back championships from 2021-22, before falling short in the semifinals of this year’s playoffs as the No. 1 seed.
PHF commissioner Reagan Carey said she couldn’t speak to the details of the new league and its markets, including the future of the Pride.
“However, I know that there’ll be an opportunity for a number of people from that market to be influential in what this next week develops,” said Carey, who confirmed she will have a leadership role in the new league.
Pride chairman Miles Arnone is precluded from commenting on any aspect or his views about it, he told the Globe in a text message.
Mara and Zafuto learned the PHF had been acquired by Billie Jean King Enterprises and the Mark Walter Group — both of whom have financial interests in the competing Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association — during a league-wide conference call Thursday night.
Zafuto and Mara confirmed the contracts of all PHF players have been voided. With the number of available roster spots in the league uncertain, players are left wondering whether they will get salary and healthcare.
After one season in Boston, Zafuto was one of three former Pride players to sign a contract this spring with New Jersey’s Metropolitan Riveters.
Despite her uncertain future, Zafuto is excited about the deal.
“This is what we’ve been fighting for [and] what everybody wants in the long run of women’s hockey,” Zafuto said. “We all want one league.
“We want all the best players in the world playing against each other. When you take a step back, you think, ‘Wow, this is a pretty monumental and significant moment in our sport.’ ”
Mara said the mood among PHF players was varied.
“It comes at the expense of a lot of fantastic people that have given up a lot, and their dreams,” he said. “There are some happy people today, but I think there’s more disappointed people today.”
Mara questioned why the PHF allowed teams to continue signing players while negotiations took place. He estimated the player salaries for Pride players voided on Thursday night totaled around $1.4 million.
Carey said the PHF had to prepare for the possibility of continuing its operations if the sale did not go through.
“I personally don’t believe it’s the right thing to do. But I’m just the coach,” Mara said, before correcting himself. “Or was the coach.”
Mara is unaware of the status of his contract, which would have run through next season. He was told he and other coaches and staff members will likely have opportunities in the new league.
It’s expected that some PHF players will lose out on playing pro hockey in the United States. The PHF had seven teams, one more than what’s rumored for the new league, which will also include players from the PWHPA, which had 100 players under contract last season.
Some players, Carey said, will have to make a sacrifice “necessary to advance the sport.”
“That certainly is the weight that’s on some of the players, but certainly we were not misleading or not doing anything that wasn’t in good faith for our players,” she said. “We just had to prepare for two different scenarios.”
As some look to the future, Mara is wondering what might have been. He said the team the Pride had built this offseason would have rivaled “any team that’s going to be built in the new league.”
“The team that we built in Boston this year was going to be one of the best ever assembled,” he said. “For that to be stripped away last night, it’s pretty sad.”