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NWHL drops ‘women’ from its name

The Premier Hockey Federation is going gender-neutral in an effort to be more respectful and inclusive.

NWHL Isobel Cup Playoffs - Championship
The Boston Pride took home the NWHL championship last year.
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The NWHL is dropping the “W.”

North America’s first professional women’s hockey league announced Tuesday it is rebranding to the Premier Hockey Federation in an effort to be more inclusive and respectful of its players and fans.

“The league has come a long way since its inception in 2015, and we believe that this is the right time and the right message as we strengthen our commitment to growing the game and inspiring youth,” said commissioner Ty Tumminia, via the Guardian.

The NWHL is also changing its logo — going with the words “Premier Hockey Foundation” in bold white lettering with three stars forming the silhouette of a crown on top of it.

There has been a movement in recent years to view professional sports in a neutral-gender fashion. The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is also starting a rebranding initiative. Some players in the league, including goalkeeper Bella Bixby, are also calling on the NWSL to get rid of the “W.”

“We felt it’s time for our players to be defined by their talent and skill,” Tumminia said. “It’s not like they’re female phenomenal. You’re just phenomenal.”

Out Metropolitan Riveters captain Madison Packer said the name change is welcome.

“Respectfully, I don’t know if men always understand, especially for me, because I encounter it a lot,” she said, via the Guardian. “We play with the same-sized puck, in the same-sized rink, the same nets. ... So to remove that label, not only remove it but in the logo erase the ‘W,’ I think is empowering.”

The six-team PHL, which was was formed in 2015, has a proud history of inclusion. The first out transgender man in professional team sports, Harrison Browne, played three seasons in the league.

On Tuesday, Browne expressed his elation at the change.

“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,” he tweeted. “This is a very important move for non-binary or trans hockey players. Love the new digs PHF!”

The PHF isn’t the only sports organization that has gone gender neutral in recent days. The Baylor women’s basketball program announced Friday it is dropping the “Lady” from its name.

Only one Big 12 team, Texas Tech, still uses “Lady” as part of its nickname.