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Women’s hockey talks between PHF, PWHPA break down

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MARCH 06: Kendall Coyne Schofield #26 of Team Adidas is congratulated by Sophia Shaver #11 and Savannah Harmon #14 following a goal against Team Women’s Sports Foundation during the second period of the Dream Gap Tour at United Center on March 06, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association has decided to break off talks with the rival Premier Hockey Federation, the latest blow in a widening rift between two factions that contend they want to grow the sport in North America.

The PWHPA executive board voted unanimously to end discussions with the PHF about collaborating, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity late Monday because the decision had not been announced.

Despite the NHL pushing for negotiations between the two sides, it has become clear over the past three years that the PWHPA and PHF, previously known as the National Women’s Hockey League, are not in sync in their objectives. Since the demise of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in spring 2019, the top national team players from the U.S. and Canada have refused to play in the NWHL and instead formed the PWHPA.

Representatives from the PWHPA and PHF met last month, with the NHL hoping discussions would thaw relations between the sides and help them work together to unify the sport. The latest development, which was first reported by The Athletic, is essentially the end of those longshot hopes.

In a statement sent to The AP on Tuesday, Johanna Boynton, a member of the PHF board of governors, said the six-team league “remains the only true home of professional women’s hockey in North America.”

“Our belief has always been that the potential for professional women’s hockey is stronger by working together towards a single league,” she said. “We are committed to growing the sport through collaboration and inclusion with partners of every size. We are proud of the progress we’ve made. The last 18 months have unequivocally been the most significant in our seven-year history.”

The PWHPA’s objective has been to establish a new league with what it calls a sustainable economic model, preferably backed by the NHL.

While the NHL, as an entity, has urged the sides to resolve their differences, the PWHPA has individual NHL team support in listing 11 franchises as partners. Talks between the PWHPA and its NHL partners and corporate sponsors have intensified over the past several weeks in a bid to establish a league within the next year.

The PHF, which rebranded itself from the NWHL last summer, is moving forward with plans to add two expansion teams, including one in Montreal, and committed to providing players health care and more than doubling its salary cap per team to $750,000 next season.