More than 40 players now signed to play in the PWHL | CBC Sports

More than 40 players now signed to play in the PWHL | CBC Sports

More than 40 players have now signed contracts to play in the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), as the league prepares to open its first training camps later this month.

As of late Friday morning, Ottawa and Boston led the way with 11 signings each. The contracts range in length from one to three years, but financial terms haven’t been released.

The collective bargaining agreement requires an average base salary of $55,000 US for players in the new league this upcoming season, while the minimum salary is set at $35,000. No more than nine players per team can make the minimum salary, teams are required to have at least six players on three-year contracts that will pay them at least $80,000 per season.

Ottawa’s signings this week are headlined by a Canadian Olympic gold medallist and two world champions with Team USA.

Defender Ashton Bell from Deloraine, Man., who Ottawa selected in the second round of last month’s draft, signed with the team for three years. This season will be Bell’s first in professional hockey, but she already has a big resume: she won an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada in 2022, and back-to-back world championships in 2021 and 2022.

Bell spent five seasons at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where she began her career as a forward before moving to the blue-line. She scored 33 points in 39 games last season.

“Her skating and offensive potential are incredibly exciting,” Ottawa general manager Mike Hirshfeld said in a statement.

Ottawa also signed forwards Gabbie Hughes and Hayley Scamurra, who were both members of the American team that reclaimed gold at this year’s world championship.

Like Bell, her co-captain at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, this season will be Hughes’ first in professional hockey. Hughes finished her college career fifth all-time in scoring for the Bulldogs.

Hughes was a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award for the best female player in NCAA Division 1 hockey in 2022, losing to PWHL No. 1 overall pick, Taylor Heise. Ottawa drafted her in the fourth round (20th overall) last month, and has signed her for three seasons.

Scamurra is a strong defensive forward who won a championship last season on the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA) circuit with Team Harvey’s. She also earned world championship gold with Team USA in 2019, an Olympic silver medal in Beijing in 2022, and a league championship with the Buffalo Beauts of the now-shuttered Premier Hockey Federation in 2017.

Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during a 2020 Women’s Rivalry Series hockey game. Scamurra has signed a three-year contract with PWHL Ottawa. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press )

Hirshfeld described Scamurra as “one of the most tenacious, hardest working players in the league.”

“She will set an example for our team on how we want to compete every night,” Hirshfeld said in a statement. “Opponents do not like playing against her and that is a compliment.”

Scamurra is signed for two seasons after Ottawa selected her in the fifth round (29th overall) in last month’s draft.

Toronto, Montreal sign second-round picks

Toronto had six players signed early Friday, while Montreal had announced four signings.

The list includes Toronto’s second-round pick, Emma Maltais, who signed with the team for three years. Maltais will make her pro debut after setting the Ohio State Buckeyes’ all-time scoring record (206 points in 169 games).

Maltais, who is from Burlington, Ont., won gold with Team Canada at the Olympics in 2022 and at world championships in 2021 and 2022.

“I’ve dreamed for an opportunity like this since I was a little girl, and I cannot wait to get the training camp going,” Maltais said in a statement.

WATCH | Follow Canadian Olympic player Maltais through draft day at inaugural PWHL draft:

Draft Day with Emma Maltais

Featured VideoFollow Team Canada Olympic hockey player Emma Maltais through her draft day at the inaugural PWHL draft.

Montreal also signed its second-round pick, Kristin O’Neill, to a three-year contract. The Oakville, Ont. native finished with 21 points in the PWHPA last year, tied with Laura Stacey and a few points behind Marie-Philip Poulin, who will be her teammates in Montreal.

“Kristin is a player who can play in many different situations,” Montreal head coach Kori Cheverie said in a statement. “She is hard to play against defensively and she can chip in with offence.”

O’Neill won back-to-back gold medals at the world championship with Team Canada in 2021 and 2022.

A female hockey player encroaches on the crease with the puck in an attempt to score on the goalie, who is in the butterfly position.
Kristin O’Neill handles the puck in front of the net during a PWHPA Dream Gap Tour game in 2021. O’Neill has signed with PWHL Montreal for three years. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Other big names around the league to sign this week include Canadian Olympians Ella Shelton, who was New York’s first round pick, and Jamie Lee Rattray, who was drafted by Boston. Both signed for three years.

The flurry of signings comes after the PWHL resolved some issues with its standard player agreements, with more signings to come over the next few weeks.

Final rosters due by Dec. 11

Members of the Canadian and American national teams will begin a new season of the Rivalry Series next week. They’ll play a game in Tempe, Arizona on Nov. 8, followed by Los Angeles on Nov. 11.

Training camps will open on Nov. 15. The first cuts must happen by Nov. 29, when the rosters must be trimmed down to a maximum of 27 players.

The final 23-player rosters, plus two reserve players, must be selected by Dec. 11.

In between, the league will have two waiver windows, but with one quirk: undrafted players who are invited to training camp with a team and turn down a contract from that same team aren’t eligible to be placed on waivers.

The 24-game season is set to begin in January, though the league hasn’t yet released a schedule.

Last month, PWHL advisory board member Stan Kasten told CBC Sports that the schedule was complete, except for finalizing a number of special games that will be played outside of PWHL home arenas. These will include games in NHL arenas and in cities that don’t have PWHL or NHL teams.

Equipment on PWHL’s to-do list

As teams prepare to go to camp, Jayna Hefford’s to-do list includes securing equipment and writing policies and protocols for the league’s first season, including a hockey operations manual.

“We’re in this unique situation where we’re pretty much starting from point zero,” Hefford, who is the league’s senior vice president of hockey operations, told CBC Sports in an interview last week.

Four women stand on a stage holding a commemorative wooden hockey stick. A blue screen is behind them, and white, blue and purple balloons are on the stage.
Jayna Hefford poses with Billie Jean King, PWHL 1st overall pick Taylor Heise, and Minnesota GM Natalie Darwitz during the PWHL’s first draft. (PWHL)

“We don’t have a single roll of tape or a pair of laces. From an equipment point of view, obviously the on-ice equipment: skate sharpeners, tape, laces, pucks, pylons, medical supplies for our therapists. The list goes on and on.”

The league has also been finalizing lease agreements with “multiple venues,” Hefford said, which includes both practice facilities and game venues.

“We’re well on our way there and I expect in a couple weeks, we’ll have those to share,” Hefford said last week.

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