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Commissioner Ty Tumminia's Departure Raises More Questions About PHF

Tyler Tumminia is stepping away as Premier Hockey Federation commissioner at the end of the season. What happens next will be important for the future of the league.
Tyler Tumminia

Tyler Tumminia is stepping away as Premier Hockey Federation commissioner, effective at the end of the season. The move comes as a surprise after Tumminia, the second commissioner in PHF history, had her interim tag removed in August.

According to sources, she cited “personal reasons” to the Board of Governors.

“Supporting our phenomenal athletes and helping build a professional platform for them to showcase their incredible talent and skill is something I’ve loved from the moment my hockey journey began,” Tumminia said via press release. “I take a lot of pride in what we’ve been able to do as a team in a short amount of time, and I’m grateful to the Board of Governors for the opportunity, to my PHF staff, team leadership, and most importantly the athletes for believing in me. 

"I’m here to focus on finishing what we started in season seven and make the Isobel Cup playoffs one to remember. The foundation for growth and a sustainable business model is here, and I look forward to welcoming somebody new to come and take things to the next level.”

Tumminia, who will stay in her role through the Isobel Cup playoffs March 25-28 in Tampa, Florida, took over in Oct. 2020, when National Women’s Hockey League founder and original commissioner Dani Rylan Kearney left the league. She originally had joined the league as chair of the Toronto Six front office.

Her departure – which isn’t a straight resignation, but a request to not renew her contract – of the league comes just under a month after the PHF announced an investment of $25 million over the next three seasons, and the addition of two new expansion clubs for 2022-23 season, along with a salary cap of $750,000 per team. The expansion is expected to include Montreal and an American city on the east coast yet to be determined.

Tumminia oversaw every major event in the PHF over the last two seasons, including the Lake Placid bubble that was cut short due to COVID, completion of the 2021 Isobel Cup two months later, broadcasts on NBC, and the broadcast deal with ESPN Plus for the 2021-22 season.

Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek said on Saturday night that Tumminia had informed him she wouldn’t be seeking renewal back in January. The PHF announced her departure officially on Sunday afternoon.

The timing of the announcement came days after the completion of the Winter Olympics, where several former PHF players competed. Those players nearly all participate in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, a group of athletes who have refused to return to or play in the PHF.

Meanwhile, former PHF Players Association director Alex Sinatra was fired less than a month after accepting the job, leaving the association without a leader to navigate the investment, which terms were not bargained by the players.

The new investment has raised questions of if any of those players would go to the PHF, and after the announcement, PHF social media channels reached out to several PWHPA players to attempt to recruit them. None have committed to making the jump or commented much on it, though some former PWHPA players – notably, former Olympian Kali Flanagan – had already gone to the PHF.

Tumminia, who previously worked as an executive for several Minor League Baseball teams, hasn’t stated what she might do next, or if it will be in hockey. The PHF board of governors, which is composed of the six team owners, will undergo a search for a new commissioner.

The PHF looks drastically different than it did even two years ago when the Toronto Six were about to be announced as the sixth club in the league. Rylan Kearney was still commissioner; Pegula Sports and Entertainment sold the Buffalo Beauts back to the league; the New Jersey Devils ended their partnership with the Metropolitan Riveters; Miles Arnone purchased the Boston Pride to make them the only independently owned club; Michelle Picard was still deputy commissioner.

The entirety of the league front office was overhauled in that time, particularly after Lake Placid.

Following the Olympics, the PWHPA members have been told to expect a new league to play in by the end of 2022, according to sources. Since few have shown interest in moving to the PHF, which has its own established player pool without Olympians and PWHPA players, it might do little to change the PHF’s plans.

They will have to pick the next person to lead them through another challenging era, though, something the PHF always seems to be in the midst of. 

Whether it was the salary cuts two years ago, departure of stars to the CWHL, the CWHL’s demise and PWHPA’s birth, a canceled Isobel Cup, and a mishandled Lake Placid bubble season, there is always something.

The next leader in the league will have their work cut out for them again. But there's still plenty of time between now and the end of the season to find someone willing to take that on.

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