PHF taps ex-USA Hockey leader as commissioner

    Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

Reagan Carey has been named the new commissioner of the Premier Hockey Federation, the professional women’s hockey league announced Tuesday.

Carey previously served as USA Hockey’s director of women’s ice hockey from 2010 to ’18, overseeing the U.S. women’s national teams that won Olympic silver in Sochi and gold in PyeongChang. Carey was also general manager of the women’s national team.

She becomes the third commissioner in league history, succeeding Tyler Tumminia, who served for two seasons and oversaw the organization’s rebranding from the National Women’s Hockey League to the PHF.

After stepping down from USA Hockey in 2018, Carey worked as a consultant outside of hockey while volunteering to help the sport at the grassroots level.

“It wasn’t something I was pursuing. But when the opportunity came and people shared with me a little bit more about what they were looking to do, I got more involved,” Carey told ESPN on Monday. “I understood what they were looking to do and some of the needs they had. My career experience and my passion for growing the sport align really well with what the board has already started here.”

A search committee chaired by Tobin Kelly of the PHF board of governors interviewed a variety of candidates.

“What stands out about Reagan Carey is not only her incredible depth of experience in the world of women’s hockey but the collaborative approach she brings to the position,” Kelly said.

Carey, who officially becomes commissioner on May 10, takes over the PHF during a critical time for the league, which is entering its eighth season.

The PHF’s board of governors announced a commitment to invest more than $25 million in the league over the next three years. The salary cap for 2022-23 will be a record $750,000 per team, with a floor of $562,500.

It’s expected the PHF will grow from six to eight teams for the 2022-23 season, with speculation that one expansion team will be in Montreal and another will be based in a U.S. city.

“I don’t have an answer for you at the moment, but I know it’s something that’s a priority and hopefully we’ll be able to provide some updates in the near future here,” Carey said.

It’s also expected that the PHF will have some competition this season. The Professional Women’s Hockey Player Association plans on launching a six-team league of its own in January 2023. The PWHPA, comprised of women’s national team players from the U.S. and Canada, was in talks about a partnership with the PHF earlier this year but ultimately opted not to work with the league.

Carey called the arrival of a rival league part of a “really positive time for women’s hockey” because it gives more options to players.

“I hesitate to say we’re competitors. I hope we can partner and support each other in the same way that Hockey Canada and USA Hockey do. You battle it out on the ice, but behind the scenes, that collaborative mentality is what allowed us to make a lot of advancements in our sport,” Carey said. “If you’re working to advance the sport of women’s hockey, then you’re a teammate, regardless of what logo or entity you represent. My hope is that the dialogue is all positive.”

Carey worked with many of the PWHPA players at USA Hockey, including during a 2017 wage and benefits dispute that almost led to a boycott of the world championships. Carey said she has taken lessons from that time with her as she prepares to head up the PHF.

“Just harnessing the power of passion is an important lesson, but it’s also about communication and trust and transparency is important to me,” Carey said. “I think all of those things, as we move forward, are going to be critical to the success with the PHF.”

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