It’s been a busy few months for the Professional Women’s Hockey League. In August, the new league officially announced its first six teams, which includes the currently unnamed Boston franchise. On Monday, that team will hold its first official practice of training camp.
In between then, there’s been players to draft, staff to hire, practice facilities to find and all of the other minutiae that goes into running a pro league. It would be a lot of work for a new franchise entering an existing league. But for a whole league to do from scratch? It’s something that even PWHL advisory board member Stan Kasten admits had a fair share of doubters.
“Doing what we’ve already done so far, a whole league hierarchy, six franchises in only four months so far, I would tell you that’s impossible,” he told members of the press earlier this week. “And yet, as I said, here we are. We’re seven weeks away from actually playing.”
For PWHL Boston, there are still plenty of questions to be officially answered before the team hits the ice for games in January. The team will be practicing out of the Boston Sports Institute in Wellesley, but it hasn't yet been announced where they'll play games. But for now, spirits are high as the team gets ready for a new journey in the league’s maiden voyage.
Speaking at that Wellesley facility on the team’s first day of camp on Thursday, PWHL Boston general manager Danielle Marmer described a work in progress.
“We were building this league in a span of three months. So, the graphics that you see behind me ... were just put up yesterday,” she said, motioning to a wall with a PWHL logo and an outline of what appears to be the Boston skyline. “I said it before: housekeeping. Getting everybody here, getting them their apparel, getting their headshots. It’s organized chaos right now, but such a good energy, such a good vibe and we’re just so excited that everyone’s here.”
The walls at the team’s space at the Boston Sports Institute are painted with the team colors: forest green, gray and white. And if the big image of the skyline is any indication, it's clear that even without an official name, PWHL Boston wants to forge a close bond with its namesake — something Marmer indicated is important as the league decides on proper titles for its franchises.
“Being born here and spending a lot of time in Boston, I have a lot of family in Boston, it was sharing with them I think what the people of Boston are about,” she said. “Who [are] the people who are living here, the things that we care about? It’s a blue-collar city, it’s a passionate sports city. And so, making sure that we were relaying that kind of stuff to the branding team so that they pick a name that really encompasses what Boston’s all about.”
As important as getting everything off the ice ready is, that’s all secondary when it comes to figuring out how this group will gel. The team is starting with 28 players on its roster heading into training camp and will have to whittle that down to 23 active players and two reserves.
In a situation where everyone is essentially a rookie, at least in the PWHL, forward Shiann Darkangelo thinks the team’s leadership structure will naturally sort itself out.
“It’s sort of an untold thing that you figure out amongst the group,” she said. “People are natural leaders, some people fill different roles, that kind of thing. Some girls are coming out of NCAA, so we’ll look to girls that were on national teams or who have played professionally and things like that.”
But she did point out that quite a few of the players have played together in some fashion, including in the Premier Hockey Federation, the women's professional league that shut down in June 2023 to make way for the PWHL.
"There's girls that have played in college together, in the PHF together," she said. "So, there's a lot of connections. I mean, I feel like everybody kind of knows everybody 'cause it is a small group, right, in women's hockey."
Head coach Courtney Kessel has had to wear many hats alongside Marmer as they tackle challenges like helping figure out what the locker room and lounge space for the team will be like.
On Monday, though, it will finally be time to coach. And she’s already building expectations for what kind of team she’ll have.
“I think really creating a culture where we’re a family and we trust each other and we feel safe to be whoever we are and show up,” she said. “But also, perform, battle, compete, hold each other accountable. If you can come to the rink and compete with each other, you’re gonna make each other better, and I think that’s why we’re all here.”