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Welcoming the PHF: The 'NWHL' No More

The brass at the NWHL had to choose whether to refresh or completely rebrand the league. They decided to go big. Get to know the Premier Hockey Federation ahead of a huge season for the group.
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Before the proverbial ink had even dried on the sixth season in NWHL history, and in the same building in which the campaign had concluded with the Boston Pride hoisting the Isobel Cup, discussions about opening a new chapter in league history – with a new name, a new logo and a new mission – had already begun. 

The impetus for change was what had happened around Tyler Tumminia since her arrival as the circuit’s interim – and now fully fledged – commissioner. She guided the league through an entire pandemic campaign, a transition to independent franchise ownership, the acquisition of new sponsorship partners, nationally broadcast games and, most recently, a doubling of the league salary cap, which is set at $300,000 for this season. 

“Our insides look a lot different, and we really wanted to have the exterior of our brand (change) as much as we have internally, as well,” Tumminia said. “We started talking right at Warrior (Ice Arena) about what we would like to do, whether it should just be a refresh of the brand identity or really take it to the next step and renaming it altogether.” 

With the support of the board of governors, Tumminia took the full-scale approach. And after meeting with focus groups inside and outside the sport, players, personnel and stakeholders, as well as an outside marketing firm, gone was the National Women’s Hockey League. In its place stood the Premier Hockey Federation, complete with a new logo featuring the silhouette of a crown and a trio of stars, marks the league said “are symbolic of ambition and achievement.” 

Among the guiding principles behind the rebrand was the removal of any reference to gender from the league’s name, not only in an effort to support gender equity and inclusivity but also to reshape the way the athletes within the league are seen. The intention is to pivot the spotlight away from gender and place it instead on the attributes that truly matter: the speed, the skill and the passion of the athletes who call the PHF home. 

“We did hope that what comes from this is a conversation and facilitating this important conversation about doing professional sports in a gender-neutral way,” Tumminia said. “Not male-female but just the athlete and their skill set alone.” 

In addition to embracing the spirit of inclusivity, the league’s goal was to look to the future. Noting that her post requires her to think about the economics of the league while keeping the fan in mind, Tumminia said a league name that is more open has potential to be a boon for the PHF when it comes to landing title sponsors. 

As for the use of “Federation” rather than the more traditional “League,” that was a choice made with intent given it can have broader appeal to potential business partners who operate outside of North America. 

“In order for me to grow the market share and really take the league to the next step, which is more of a global approach to what we’re trying to do in the next couple years, the rebrand was important,” Tumminia said. There were, of course, those who bristled at the change. Tumminia and those within the league office expected it. But her message to those upset by the change is that it was done for the greater good. 

“At the end of the day, it is a league name,” she said. “Your Minnesota Whitecaps are still going to be your Minnesota Whitecaps…I think the casual fan, if they’re upset about it, I understand, but our mission is still the same, our objective is still the same, which is to grow the game.”

This article originally appeared in The Hockey News' "Meet the New Guy" issue.

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