As the 2022 Olympic Winter Games inch closer, excitement is building for
the opportunity to see the best talent in women’s hockey compete on the
Not only does the opportunity to see Canada’s National Women’s Team perform
on an international stage mean thrilling entertainment, but it also marks a
starting point for young players to dream of wearing the Maple Leaf.
“Registration usually soars after the Olympic Games, because they actually
have a chance to see these women and see how amazing they are,” says
four-time Olympic gold medallist Jayna Hefford. “It's another opportunity
to showcase amazing women all over the world that play the game at the
But what if we didn’t have to wait every four years to see the best of the
best in women’s hockey? Or even wait once a year for the IIHF Women’s World
Championships? What if there was an opportunity for fans to see all the
best players in women’s hockey in one unified league?
That’s the mission of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association
(PWHPA): to promote, advance and support a single, viable professional
women’s hockey league in North America that showcases the best of the game.
With a united voice advocating for the creation of a sustainable league,
the PWHPA hopes to make hockey more inclusive for women today and for the
next generation of girls playing hockey.
“Visibility is everything when it comes to sports, especially when it comes
to women's sports,” says Jill Saulnier, a forward with Canada’s National
Women’s Team. “Let's call a spade a spade: women deserve more visibility.
Women deserve to be in the front of the camera more. For us to be able to
be on screen, showing the world what we do [and] the work that we put in
behind the screen, it just gives us the opportunity and the window for
people to really understand why we do what we do.”
When the PWHPA was founded in 2019, the goal was to bring in the top
players of women’s hockey together to have one unified voice. Brianne
Jenner has been a PWHPA board member since its inception, and the Team
Canada veteran says the support garnered during these few years with the
association has been a huge success.
“Our ultimate goal, of course is to not have the PWHPA, our ultimate goal
is to have a sustainable professional league where players are going to
have health insurance, so they're going to have a wage, where they [don’t]
have to have side hustles, as we call them,” Jenner says. “We think we have
a product that that deserves to be out there. And we think we have a
product that hockey fans will really enjoy.”
The PWHPA uses showcases like the Dream Gap Tour for its teams to play
against each other, for fans to have additional opportunities to see
women’s hockey in person and for increased visibility across North America
to promote its cause. The group also has a team of PWHPA all-stars that has
been playing exhibition games this season, including a pair in Calgary
against Canada’s National Women’s Team on Dec. 9 and 11.
“We’re just trying to create a platform so that little kids can dream,”
Saulnier says. “To be able to have the PWHPA put a team together and play
them is huge because it’s just another opportunity for us to show the world
how strong women’s hockey is.”
“The PWHPA and Hockey Canada have a lot of similar goals,” Jenner says. “A
lot of things that we're striving for in the women's game are analogous,
and Hockey Canada has been a great supporter of the PWHPA, especially
within our Dream Gap Tour.”
One unique aspect about the PWHPA is that it brings together the best
players in the sport no matter which country they play for. Especially in a
year where national teams are preparing to battle for gold at the Olympics,
those feelings are put aside to rally around a cause all players are
“Of course, we're enemies on the ice with a lot of our fellow members,”
Jenner says. “But when it comes to pro hockey, we all have the same vision
and the same goal, and we want to see the next generation have a better
opportunity than the pro players have had.
“I think that's the strength of the [PWHPA] is that unity across the
European players, American players and Canadian players. We all have one
vision, and we're really committed to it.”
The notion of collaboration is one of the group’s biggest strengths.
“[Canada and the United States is] the biggest rivalry in sports, and we
all know how intense it gets on the ice, but when we get together in a
boardroom, or on a Zoom call, we're one united group of players and former
players and really trying to lead the sport better,” says Hefford, who
lends her expertise to the PWHPA as an operations consultant. “It's been a
really inspiring last couple years to work with all of them. I'm pretty
sure that their determination and their strength is going to pay off in the
The fight may not be over yet, but the PWHPA hopes that each day of its
advocacy will pay off to make the future of the sport that much brighter
for the stars of tomorrow.
“We deserve a place to play, kids deserve a place to dream to play, and
it's just not there yet,” Saulnier says. “We’ve rallied arguably the best
players in the world to be together and to work as one to make sure that
it's done right.”