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The Premier Hockey Federation: A Rebrand for Women’s Sports

The Women’s National Basketball Association, the National Women’s Soccer League and the Women’s Football Alliance are all professional sports organizations denoted by the word “women”. Unfortunately, the use of the word women automatically makes these sports organizations inferior to their male counterparts to the majority of sports fans. This stems from multiple reasons including lack of coverage, lack of respect and lack of funding that all come back to the core element of misogyny.

The stigma around supporting women’s sports needs to go.  This lack of respect and lack of enthusiasm towards women’s sports organizations has hindered the growth of the industry and has presented many challenges for both its fans and athletes. Even segments discussing female athletes on ESPN and other sports networks are often short and lack the enthusiasm that is naturally given to the male athletes. A win for women in sports happened on Sept. 7 when the National Women’s Hockey League officially rebranded to the Premier Hockey League.

 The NWHL was founded in 2015 to help change the game of hockey, but they are now helping to change the game of women’s sports. One of the federation’s visions is to “build a brand that is respected and admired around the world.” That is exactly what they are doing with their name change. Taking “women” out of the name of the organization allows the athletes to be athletes, not exclusively female athletes.

This name change is also a win for the non-binary and trans hockey players in the federation. Harrison Browne, a formidable athlete in the NWHL from 2015 to 2018 stated on Twitter, “I was extremely proud to play in the NWHL but when I was asked where I played hockey by strangers it would give me anxiety to state the full league name and essentially out myself. This is a very important move for non-binary and trans hockey players.”  Dropping the gender from the league’s name allows the league to become a more inclusive environment.  A proud athlete does not have to have to feel like an outsider in their own league. Representation matters, inclusion matters and support matters.

Interestingly enough, the PHF is not the first women’s sports organization to not have the gender of the teams depicted in the name. On Sept. 4, the Baylor women’s basketball team announced they would be dropping the “Lady” from Lady Bears. Several teams at the university have already dropped the word ‘lady’ from their women’s teams, and the basketball team is just following suit. Also, the National Pro Fast-pitch (softball) does not include a gender-defining term in their name after being revived in 2004. They were formerly known as the Women’s Pro Softball League.

Dropping the word “women” or “lady” from the name of sports teams is important for the advancement of these sports organizations. In a world where inclusion is becoming ever more important, it allows athletes who do not fit into the typical checkboxes to feel like they belong. These name changes also take away the stigma that unfortunately surrounds women’s sports.  The world of sports is growing, and these athletes are growing with it.

Sydney is a sophomore at Penn State University majoring in Telecommunications with a minor in Information Sciences and Technology. In her free time, she enjoys reading, trying new recipes, sports, and discovering new places to visit.
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