Here’s what the Premier Hockey Federation’s salary cap increase means for women’s hockey

PHF doubles the salary cap to US $1.5 million per team for next season

Toronto Six forward Breanne Wilson-Bennett fighting off Metropolitan Riveters players in front of the Six net. (Cole Hayes/Toronto Observer) 

The Premier Hockey Federation (PHF),  women’s professional ice hockey league with teams in the United States and Canada, recently announced it will be doubling its salary cap to US $1.5 million per team going into the 2023-24 season.

The move has been well received by female players. The increase is another step toward professional women’s hockey becoming a full-time career. Here’s what it means for the sport and the players.

What is the PHF? 

The PHF is a professional women’s hockey league in North America featuring seven teams: the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters, Montreal Force, Minnesota Whitecaps and Toronto Six.

The league was founded in 2015 with four teams and was known as the National Women’s Hockey League before being renamed the PHF in 2021. The rebranding was a way to re-define the league “based on the skill and talent of its athletes as opposed to their gender,” according to the PHF.

The league’s salary cap history 

Player salaries in women’s hockey have always been significantly lower than their male counterparts. “Money’s been a social inequality with respect to women in general, so hockey is no different,” said Courtney Szto, an assistant professor at Queens University and the managing editor of

“If we understand that sport is kind of the last cultural bastion where gender really matters in some sort of cultural way, the capital that is invested in women or lack of the lack of capital that is invested in women is perhaps the most obvious example of gender inequality that we can see.”

The PHF began in 2015. Back then, the league’s salary cap was $270,000 per team, with each player earning an average salary of roughly $15,000 a year. It remained at that for the PHF’s first two seasons before cuts pushed it down to $100,000 ahead of the 2017-18 season. Between that season and 2020-21, the cap jumped to $150,000. 2022 brought an increase to $300,000.

The current salary cap of $750,000, which also includes a salary cap floor. That means teams must spend a minimum of 75 per cent of it on their players. This amount will double going into next season due to the league’s increased revenue and financial backings.

Daryl Watts recently came out of retirement when professional hockey became a way to make a living wage — signing a record-breaking contract with the Six that will pay her $150,000 per season. However, that’s still well below the NHL’s minimum player salary of $750,000 per year.

How will players benefit from this?

We’ve seen record-breaking contracts with the PHF’s salary cap increases. Mikayla Grant-Mantis is currently the highest paid player in the PHF, making $80,000 a year. Watts will surpass that when her contract with Toronto kicks in. 

“I hope that this increase will allow for a number of players to have considerable [salary] increases,” said Reagan Carey, the PHF’s commissioner, said in an interview.

“It also is important to allow those players who are not making those bigger numbers to get a considerable chunk as well so they can have a more sound income as a professional player.”

Carey told The Toronto Observer that the salary cap reinforces the league’s commitment to providing the resources that align with being a professional league. 

For many years, many female professional hockey players have had to pick up second jobs in order to get by due to their salaries as professional athletes. For example, Hilary Knight had to pick up extra jobs coaching and running hockey camps to make a living as a pro hockey player.

Will there be future salary cap increases?

According to Carey, there won’t be any significant increases in the PHF’s salary cap in the near future. 

“I think we’ll continue to evaluate that this is a pretty big jump and closer to where we want to be in making sure that every player can be a full-time player at the pro level,” she said.

“I think we’ll continue to add resources and make incremental gains but I don’t know that we’ll be continuing to double our salary cap next year but I think we’re in a really good spot to make sure we get to that end goal sooner or later.”

The PWHPA’s role

The PWHPA is a players union that’s fighting for sustainability in women’s hockey in North America and is currently running its own league. The PWHPA is separate from the PHF.

Carey said that one of her first contacts after she became commissioner in the spring of 2022 was the PWHPA to keep the door open with them. Carey said that these talks are important for the PHF and women’s hockey, but the two organizations remain separate.

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Posted: Mar 11 2023 6:21 pm
Filed under: Hockey Sports