Reagan Carey brings her Olympic gold medalist resume to lead the Premier Hockey Federation through a critical offseason of expansion and the looming threat of competing for talent with a second North American women’s hockey professional league.
The PHF announced Tuesday that the former head of USA Hockey’s women’s programs is its new commissioner heading into her eighth season. Carey replaces Tyler Tumminia, who stepped down in March after two seasons in which the former National Women’s Hockey League rebranded itself and revamped its ownership model.
Carey is well aware of the challenges women’s hockey has faced to find its place in North America. Her eight-year stint at USA Hockey ended with the Women’s National Team winning gold at the 2018 Winter Games.
“My area of experience and developed expertise is really about building things and getting them done quickly and taking things that might require some structure and organization and focus to really get things done and achieve wins,” Carey told The Associated Press.
“So I’m delighted to know that a lot of things are happening here and a lot of opportunities to really continue the positive momentum that the PHF put forward last season,” she added. “And that’s to demonstrate what we’re here to do, which is to be the best league we can be.”
Carey’s arrival comes as the six PHF teams prepare to add two expansion franchises, one in Montreal and another in an as-yet-unannounced US location. The league’s board of governors also pledged to raise each team’s salary cap from $300,000 to $750,000 as part of a $25 million cash influx over three years.
The challenge involves the PHF’s continued rift with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, which has intensified discussions with NHL teams and corporate sponsors to launch its own league within the next year. The PWHPA, formed in 2019, is made up of members of the U.S. and Canadian national teams who have balked at playing for the PHF.
The two sides’ latest attempt to join forces came to an abrupt end two weeks ago when the PWHPA’s board of governors voted to end talks after holding just one meeting at the request of the NHL.
Carey was diplomatic about the PWHPA, saying she considers anyone looking to advance the women’s game to be “a teammate” and will have an “open door policy” of collaboration.
“Whatever entity you represent, I firmly believe that one candle does not lose its flame by lighting another,” Carey said.
“And I think that’s where we are with the situation where creating options for players is great for everyone. It just makes the sport better,” she said. all the people who do a lot of work to advance professional women’s ice hockey, including the players who work with the PW.”
Carey was selected by a six-person selection committee, including Susie Piotrkowski, head of women’s team sports at PHF partner sports agency Octagon.
“Hire the right person was imperative for the long-term growth of the league,” Piotrkowski said in a press release. “Reagan Carey stood out not only because of her hockey experience, but also because of her deep understanding of the women’s sports landscape.
During her tenure at USA Hockey, Carey oversaw a women’s program that won six world championships and four women’s under-18 championships. She was also involved in negotiations to end the U.S. national team’s threat to boycott the 2017 world championship on home soil, which resulted in players getting better pay and fairer treatment.
“I think at the end of the day it was a big pivotal moment for women’s hockey, and I’m happy to be part of that experience,” Carey said. “USA Hockey certainly had the opportunity to listen and create a better structure for women’s hockey, better resources. And ultimately, the players who led that charge and everyone else got better for it.
While at USA Hockey, Carey was acutely aware of the start-up problems the NWHL endured, including the league cutting player salaries by more than 50% in its second season.
“The PHF was imperfect, of course. He had his hiccups and his hurdles, but at the same time he really filled the need that was there,” Carey said.
“But I also like to watch where we are going and how far we are,” she added. “We are not going to do everything to move forward either. I will be the first to recognize it. But I think it’s about how we continue to evolve and how we deal with those situations and making sure the players know very well what we are capable of delivering and that we deliver. “
Carey previously worked for the Atlanta Thrashers of the NHL and the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA in athletic development, performance and marketing roles. After leaving USA Hockey, she returned to her native Maine, where she served as a member of the Maine Girls & Women in Sports Committee, while spending time as a sports and business consultant.
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