It’s been about two and a half weeks since the NWHL announced a full-scale rebrand. Gone are the days of the NHWL. In its place? The Premier Hockey Federation, or, PHF.
But I’m not here to break the news. It’s been over two weeks, this news has most definitely been “broken” already. I’m also not here to argue over whether or not the name “Premier Hockey Federation” was the appropriate choice. We have Twitter for that. And frankly, I don’t see why it’s terribly important.
I’m here to explain why I think that eliminating the National Women’s Hockey League, from a naming standpoint, might be the start of an unforeseen change we’re about to see across the sport.
For years, ever since women’s sports burst onto the scene, we’ve seen little progress in regards to equal opportunity. Yes, progress is progress, but society as a whole has shown that it isn’t quite ready to accept female athletes for what they are.
The rise in popularity within the WNBA is a perfect example of this. Two weeks into the 2021 campaign, viewership rates were up an astronomical 74% from the previous season. Professional athletes from multiple different niches have voiced their support for the league. Many media outlets have started to take notice.
Yet, from a personal perspective, the vibe amongst the younger generation, the generation that’s supposed to be shifting the narrative to be more inclusive, seems to be rather split in regards to women’s sports.
Some openly support it.
Others remain quietly undecided.
And a fair share of them continue to use stale punchlines in conversations with their friends.
(Image via Hockey Shots)
The PHF, through its rebrand, is trying to encourage a new narrative. One where male athletes aren’t compared to female athletes. One where the advocacy for equal opportunity is the primary focus. By taking the word “Women” out of their league name, it shifts the focus away from gender-based sports and instead focuses on skill and talent alone.
One thing people have to understand is that this was never about “male athletes being better” or vice versa. This is simply a call to action, one where female athletes are prioritized just as much as their male counterparts.
I’ve heard just about every joke possible in regards to women’s sports. To put it lightly, it’s exhausting to listen to a narrative that’s never been true.
And because of the comments still being made towards female athletes, I applaud the PHF for their efforts to change the conversation.
Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a bold statement to make, especially with the league just beginning to rise in popularity. However, now is as good a time as any to make a statement like that, with more eyes being drawn to the league ahead of the upcoming season.
Now, will this encourage other female leagues to do the same? Maybe. Maybe not. But again, I don’t think that should be the point.
This is about a league that’s shifting the focus away from gender and realigning it on talent.
And for that alone, they deserve your attention.
(Image via @NWHL Twitter)