Another Step Towards Equality in Sport: A New Professional Women’s Hockey League

In a historic day for equality in sport, the Mark Walter Group and Billie Jean King Enterprises (the “Investor Group”) announced on June 30, 2023, that a single viable professional women’s hockey league in North America, featuring the best women hockey players in the world, will launch in 2024.

The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (“PWHPA”) was formed in May 2019 in an effort to promote the need for a sustainable and viable professional women’s hockey league in North America. The PWHPA’s Secret® Dream Gap Tour, which featured showcases across North America, provided a platform for the best players in the world to showcase their talent and use their voices to further the mission of the PWHPA.

The Investor Group has spent months negotiating a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) with a formal union, the Professional Women’s Hockey League Players Association (“PWHLPA”), that was formed by the members of the PWHPA. In a groundbreaking step towards the launch of the new league, the members of the PWHLPA have ratified the CBA, marking the first time a women’s professional sports union has ratified a CBA prior to the start of competition.

“It wouldn't have happened without Billie and Mark, but this is a special group of players that have changed the future of our sport forever,” said Jayna Hefford, PWHPA lead and member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. “This new league will be unlike anything we have seen in women’s hockey. I am inspired by this generation of players who are redefining the sport. We will create dreams and opportunities for girls and women around the world for decades to come.”

Aird & Berlis has acted as Canadian counsel for both the PWHPA and the PWHLPA on corporate/commercial matters and assisted with negotiations of the CBA. The Aird & Berlis team is led by Jessie Lewis (Corporate/Commercial) and includes Jennifer Bishop (Corporate/M&A), Dasha Peregoudova (Labour/Employment), Stephen Zolf (Media/Broadcasting), Amy Grenon and Ken Clark (Intellectual Property), all of whom are members of the firm’s Sports, Media & Entertainment Group.

Our Aird & Berlis team is grateful to have played a role in this advancement of equality in sport.