Connecticut could lose the Whale, again
Exact impact to team, Simsbury is not yet known
By Paul Palmer
The future of the Simsbury-based CT Whale women’s professional hockey team is unclear after the league they played in was sold on June 20. The Mark Walter Group and Billie Jean King Entertainment purchased the Premier Hockey Federation with the intention of starting a brand-new league involving teams and players from the PHF and the Canadian based Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association.
The Whale had just played an entire season of home games at the International Skating Center of Connecticut in 2022/23 and had plans to move training and offices to the building. Tobin Kelly led a group of investors who purchased the Whale in 2021 and he told the Valley Press that with the new developments he and all the other individual owners of teams in the now defunct PHF are out, and the Walter Group will own all teams. “The league starts in January, so my understanding is that player selection would be completed by late summer or early fall so players know their options,” Kelly said.
In terms of what teams will play in the new league, Kelly said the review of markets and teams is coming and the exact impact on the Whale and Simsbury are not yet known. The teams in the new league will have local general managers, coaches, and staff and they will report to a Board made of representatives from the Walter Group. In addition to the PHF ceasing to exist, all contracts are ruled void-something that players and their representatives tried to fight in their last labor negotiation. The PWHPA presented a new labor deal to its union members one day before the transaction was announced. Since the members of the Premier Hockey Federation are not in the PWHPA, they do not get to vote on a labor pact that could soon govern them. The PWHPA is a union and each player has a standard player contract, and any players coming from a PHF club like the Whale will have to negotiate a new contract to play on any club in the new league.
The Athletic’s Hailey Salvian wrote that the new league-which does not have a name yet- will consist of just 6 teams with 23 players on each team. Last season the PWHPA consisted of just 4 teams, all Canadian based, while the PHF had 5 U.S.-based teams and 2 in Canada.