The National Women’s Hockey League officially changed its name to the Premier Hockey Federation Tue. September 8, to promote inclusivity to its athletes. This rebrand included the official name change, a new logo, new social media handles, and even the slogan, “No labels, no limits”. The goal of this rebrand is said to shift the focus from the gender of the athletes to the skill and talent they possess, send a message, grow the sport and inspire young athletes.
Studies have shown men’s sports have dominated over women’s for decades. In the study “Gender in Televised Sports”, Michael A. Messner, Ph.D. of University of Southern California and Cheryl Cooky, Ph.D. of Purdue University examined the coverage of women’s sports from 1989-2009. They found, “Men’s sports received 96.3% of the airtime, women’s sports 1.6%, and gender-neutral topics 2.1%.” More recent studies, however, still find a large gap in watch time, monetization and sponsorship opportunities between men’s and women’s sports. Hockey and the PFL has been no exception and have faced their own challenges. This change in structure for the PFL moves to level out the playing field.
Metropolitan Riveters captain Madison Packer spoke to the Associated Press saying, “We play with the same-sized puck, in the same-sized rink, the same nets. To remove that label, not only remove it but in the logo erase the ‘W,’ I think is empowering.”
Also with the Associated Press, Commissioner Ty Tumminia said, “The Premier Hockey Federation is home to some of the best professional athletes in the world who deserve to be recognized for their abilities and to be empowered as equals in sport.” She added,” “It’s not like they’re female phenomenal. You’re just phenomenal.”
“Respectfully, I don’t know if men always understand,” said Packer.
However, this movement by the PFL is not only for women’s empowerment, but respectful and inclusive of those with differences in gender identity within athletes and fans. Harrison Brown, 2017 Isobel Cup Champion with the Beauts as well as the first openly transgender professional athlete took to twitter and said, “This is a very important move for non-binary or trans hockey players. Love the new digs PHF!”
Many support PFL along with Brown, however there are many out there online, particularly men, who criticize the change.
“We believe, in time, they’ll come to support it as well,” Tumminia said. “But facilitating this conversation is really the key here.”
PFL will go on to start their seventh season playing a total 60 games from November through March.