The title of general manager doesn’t completely capture the many tasks on Danielle Marmer’s to-do list in the two months since taking over the Professional Women’s Hockey League franchise in Boston.
“It’s funny you should mention that,” Marmer said with a laugh. “I just came from the carpentry shop where I was looking at what our locker stalls are going to be like, and making decisions on where we want the hooks to be, how many shelves — things I’m not an expert in.”
She’s not complaining. At 29, Marmer and her fellow GMs are on the ground floor of a newly established six-team league that will feature many of the world’s top players when it begins play in January.
“Like it’s pretty cool to say that I have my fingerprints on not only building the team itself, but the building of the locker room, the offices, the players’ lounge,” Marmer said.
Though the teams have yet to be officially named and the schedule yet to be released, piece by piece the PWHL is coming together. Next up is Wednesday, when players report for the start of training camp in each market — Boston, New York, Minnesota, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa — and teams taking the ice for the first time the next day.
“That’s going to be pretty incredible. I’m sure it’ll be a pinch-me moment to see those players, those names, the caliber of players all on a sheet together,” Marmer said. “I am very excited to when I get to the place where I can just focus on hockey.”
The anticipation is also apparent among players, after having spent much of the past decade playing under a cloud of uncertainty and instability — from salary cuts to a league rebranding and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League folding in 2019.
The PWHL represents a fresh start and the long-hoped-for potential of meeting players’ visions of competing in one North American league offering the promise of long-term stability with the financial backing of Los Angeles Dodgers owner Mark Walter and his wife Kimbra.
“The excitement is through the roof,” said Hilary Knight, the U.S. national team star who will be playing for Boston.
“We’ve been flying around for years saying we’re pros, but really semi-pro if you take things into consideration,” she added. “Everyone’s excited we’ll have a consistent place to play, have a building you can call home and fans can rally around the home team.”
Aside from her national team duties, Knight spent the past four years competing in barnstorming tours around the continent as a member of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association.
The PWHL became a reality in June when Walter eliminated the competition by buying out the seven-team Premier Hockey Federation, which was established in 2015 as the National Women’s Hockey League.
Though PWHL salaries are lower — ranging from $35,000 to $80,000, not including bonuses — than what the PHF was preparing to offer with a $1.5 million salary cap for each team before it shuttered, the new league provides what players deem to be more of a professional setting.
Each team will have dedicated locker rooms and practice facilities. Walter’s influence has the potential of generating broadcast partnerships in both the U.S. and Canada. Having one league has led to the NHL stepping up its support in promotional and advisory roles. And though the league owns each franchise, teams have the budget to hire support staff.
Perhaps, most important for the players was having a collective bargaining agreement in place that runs through 2031.
“Everybody’s on the same page. You have all the best players in the same place and ownership who believe in the product and the people,” said Canadian national team player Sarah Nurse, who will play for Toronto. “The time is now.”
The GMs are in place. Coaches have been hired. The draft has been held, and there has been a constant flow of announcements of player signings in recent weeks.
New York GM Pascal Daoust was detailing the many administrative and business-related duties he’s been handling when he broke into a laugh upon being informed it was all the boring stuff.
“Exactly, if I may say. The boring. But it’s a huge necessity,” Daoust said, before noting how refreshing it was to meet with his staff on a recent Zoom call to discuss how to approach the opening of training camp. “The feeling to finally start to talk about hockey, it was like if I were finally on top of that mountain, breathing the best fresh air ever.”
“I can only imagine how great it’s going to be when we’re on the ice, watching the best there is skating around and officially representing the PWHL in New York,” Daoust added. “To me, I’m waiting for that moment, for sure.”
AP Sports Writer John Marshall in Tempe, Arizona, contributed.
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