The Premier Hockey Federation is taking its playoffs to Florida this weekend, but not before making a latest attempt to mend fences with members of the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association.
The rival women's hockey groups met Wednesday in New York at the request of the NHL in hopes discussions could thaw relations in getting the two sides working together to unify the sport.
The six-team PHF, North America's only professional women's hockey league, termed the discussions as being "constructive," but would not say whether more meetings are scheduled. PWHPA executive Jayna Hefford and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly declined comment Thursday when reached by The Associated Press.
The PWHPA's membership includes members of the United States and Canadian national teams, and was established in May 2019 following the demise of the Canadian Women's Hockey League. The association's objective has been to establish a league with what it calls a sustainable economic model and preferably backed by the NHL.
While the NHL, as an entity, has urged the sides to resolve their differences, the PWHPA has individual NHL team support in listing 11 franchises as partners. Talks between the PWHPA and its NHL partners and corporate sponsors have intensified over the past month in a bid to establish a league within the next year.
The PHF, which rebranded itself from the National Women's Hockey League last summer, is moving forward with plans to add two expansion teams, including one in Montreal, and committed to providing players health care and more than doubling its salary cap per team to $750,000 next season.
In the meantime, the PHF turns its focus on closing its seventh season with the Isobel Cup playoffs held outside of Tampa, Florida.
The Connecticut Whale and Toronto Six will have a bye into the semifinals on Saturday after the Whale clinched top spot with a 5-0 season-ending win over the Six last weekend. The playoffs open on Friday with the third-seeded and defending champion Boston Pride facing the sixth-seeded Buffalo Beauts, and fourth-seeded Metropolitan Riveters playing the fifth-seeded Minnesota Whitecaps.
"We just ran out of gas," Six coach Mark Joslin said of Toronto finishing a point behind Connecticut. "We're good enough and deep enough and I believe we're driven enough to bounce back and be ready Sunday in Tampa no matter who we're playing."
Forward Mikyla Grant-Mentis, the PHF's leading scorer and MVP last season, believes the Six are capable of winning the Cup in their second season.
"It would mean the world," Grant-Mentis said. The 23-year-old led the Six in scoring again this season with 13 goals and 17 assists in 19 games.