PWHL training camp starts Wednesday, and though a few details have begun falling into place for the league’s Boston-based team, there’s a lot up in the air.
Even the jerseys for the new professional women’s hockey league, which were revealed Tuesday, are only temporary.
Jerseys for the six teams — Boston, Minnesota, Montreal, New York, Ottawa, and Toronto — follow the same general design principles. Each team will open the inaugural season with two sets of jerseys (one light and one dark) that include the city’s name in a block font displayed diagonally across the front.
Each city has also been assigned a distinct color scheme, but beyond that, the jerseys feature no individual branding that is unique to each team, largely because logos and team names have yet to be finalized.
Boston’s home jersey features a forest green background with gray and white accents, and its away jersey includes a light-color background with forest green accents.
Fans flooded the replies of PWHL Boston’s uniform announcement on X, criticizing the team and the league over the jersey designs. Many complained of an apparent lack of effort that went into the designs, and others noted that the jerseys don’t pay homage to the cities they’re meant to represent.
League executives affirmed Tuesday that the uniforms are not final and will change over time.
“Is this the final version of what our uniform looks like? No,” said PWHL advisory board member Stan Kasten. “But again, we think it might well become a throwback in the future.”
Kasten said that in many sports leagues, ordering new uniforms has to be done up to two years in advance. The home cities for the six PWHL teams, however, weren’t finalized until August, creating a tight turnaround and little room for creativity in the design process.
“We opted to go at the time with this vintage look, which we thought was pretty cool,” Kasten said Tuesday. “Our players’ reactions have been great. We don’t have logos to put on them yet. We will probably have patches along the way for different things both for commercial reasons and non-commercial reasons, but that’s a work in progress.”
The PWHL has yet to announce any branding plans for its teams, including logos and team nicknames, and it remains to be seen where teams will play their home games. Kasten said Tuesday it is very possible that logos and nicknames won’t be decided by the beginning of the season — though the start date for the season also has yet to be determined.
The league previously drew criticism on social media after it was leaked that the PWHL had filed for trademarks on what appeared to be team names, including “Boston Wicked.” Kasten deflected when asked whether those would be the names of the franchises once the season begins.
The PWHL enlisted a professional film crew to create content for the jersey reveal. They also filmed content for commercials, in-game content, and video features.
“That’s something these women have never experienced before,” Kasten said.
From the ground up
Creating a league from scratch in a matter of months is a tall task. There are the obvious requirements, such as hiring coaches and general managers, or hosting a draft. But there are other, smaller tasks that are just as vital but much easier to let slip through the cracks.
Purchasing pucks, for example, is an essential and seemingly obvious task for a new hockey league. But when there are thousands of other things to get done, ordering pucks might not be the No. 1 priority.
Six months ago, the PWHL had no employees. Now, it employs 120 people. That means 120 onboarding processes, 120 payroll orientations, and 120 insurance accounts to set up. And that doesn’t include the nearly 150 athletes in the league.
“When we first started going, a lot of very smart people in sports said to me ‘Stan, you can’t. You have to put it off a year,’” Kasten said.
Kasten didn’t want to wait, though. Building a foundation for the new league was more important to him than creating a flawless product.
“To speed things up, that obviously cost us having everything being perfect on day one,” Kasten said. “We did have to make some concessions.”
That’s why, when training camp starts Wednesday, the players may not know where they’ll play home games or what nickname to chant on the count of three. They don’t know what day they’ll play their first official game. They don’t know where the games will be broadcast, only that they will be broadcast somewhere. (According to Kasten, all games that aren’t broadcast will be available to stream in both Canada and the United States).
Still, creating a professional environment for the players was a top priority for the PWHL brass. Team medical staffs are locked in, all equipment has been purchased, and practice facilities have been renovated or are in the process of being renovated to fit the teams’ needs.
“I’ve learned more about some of this stuff than I ever knew playing the game and being a part of it,” said Jayna Hefford, the PWHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations. “But … we’ve worked incredibly hard to make sure that when the players walk in, they have everything they need to be professional athletes.”
Shipping up to Utica
All six PWHL teams will attend a five-day preseason evaluation camp to take part in information and training sessions, practices, and scrimmages ahead of the season’s start in 2024.
The preseason event will take place at the Utica University Nexus Center in Utica, N.Y. from Dec. 3-7.
On Dec. 5, the league will welcome fans to the facility for Fan Fest, a sneak peek at the PWHL that includes meet and greets with members of each team, followed by a scrimmage between New York and Ottawa. Fan Fest and the Ottawa-New York scrimmage are the only events open to the public.
Nexus Center, which opened in November 2022, features three ice sheets and is home to the Utica University women’s hockey team, the Utica Jr. Comets’ junior teams, and the Utica Yeti.
The 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship is scheduled for April 3-14 and will be hosted in part at the Utica University Nexus Center. Many of the players on PWHL rosters have played in IIHF world championships in the past and are expected to participate in 2024.
Boston’s first scrimmage will take place Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. against Toronto. Boston will then play Montreal on Dec. 5 and Ottawa on Dec. 7.
Practice facility announced
PWHL Boston will practice at the Boston Sports Institute throughout the inaugural season.
The facility is a multi-use recreation center off of Route 9 in Wellesley. It’s home to two NHL regulation-sized ice surfaces along with a turf field, swimming pool, weight room, and track.
“We are thrilled to announce our partnership with the Boston Sports Institute as our practice facility,” PWHL Boston general manager Danielle Marmer said in a statement. “These resources will not only promote team success but allow our players to commit to their individual growth and development.”
Marmer said in the statement that the Boston Sports Institute built a player lounge, upgraded the locker room, and designated office space to accommodate PWHL Boston.
The Boston Sports Institute has also played a crucial role in establishing a player lounge, office space, and locker room enhancements. These additions will undoubtedly contribute to making our PWHL Boston family feel right at home, and we are sincerely grateful for their support.”
Other practice facilities around the league include TRIA Rink (PWHL Minnesota), Centre 21.02 (PWHL Montreal), Chelsea Piers Connecticut (PWHL New York), TD Place (PWHL Ottawa), and Ford Performance Centre (PWHL Toronto).