First PWHL trade stuns and reminds women’s hockey players about reality of professional ranks


Jet-lagged following a trans-Atlantic flight after spending a weeklong stretch with Finland’s national women’s hockey team, Susanna Tapani was in the back of a cab headed to her adopted new home in the Twin Cities upon learning she had been traded to Boston.

“I’m pretty sure I was kind of like laughing, and I was like in a shock,” Tapani said this week, recalling her surprise in being part of the newly launched Professional Women’s Hockey League’s first trade on Sunday.

“I didn’t even make it home, and you’re telling me that I got traded,” Tapani added, remembering what she told Minnesota GM Natalie Darwitz. “It was like, ‘Oh, my God. OK.’ It was hard to believe.”

It was a reminder about the reality of the professional ranks for Tapani and Minnesota teammate, defenseman Abby Cook, who were shipped to Boston, as well as for defenseman Sophie Jaques — the 2023 women’s college player of the year — heading the other way in the three-player swap.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Jaques said. “I honestly don’t think it set in until I stepped on the ice here in Minnesota.”

While the prospect of being traded was always a possibility for those competing in the six-team PWHL, the reality of a deal being struck some six weeks into the first year was still considered stunning in a sport where in-season player movement was a rarity for various reasons.

Historically, most women players spent much of their careers tied to one or two places, be it their respective colleges or national teams. And those who pursued careers in previous pro leagues generally stayed put because they had secondary jobs, and their playing salaries were too low to cover the cost of packing up and moving at a moment’s notice.

What’s changed with the PWHL is a salary structure ranging from $35,000 to $80,000 (not including bonuses), coupled with a collective bargaining agreement that features monthly $1,500 housing stipends and compensation for relocation costs.

The trade became the first to put CBA relocation clauses to the test, while creating some initial confusion among the players involved.

Jaques and Cook left their cars behind, unsure of how to get them to their new cities. According to a Google search, the cost of shipping a car from Boston to Minnesota ranges between $771 to $1,205.

The PWHL caps relocation expenses at $2,500, and has no additional provision for car shipment. The WNBA, by comparison, specifically allows players to be compensated up to $1,000 to have their vehicles shipped if they’re traded before the midpoint of the season.

In the NHL, teams are required to pay the entire cost of having a player’s car shipped.

Another issue players are awaiting feedback on is how the process works with having to break their leases, which the PWHL provides up to $1,500 in compensation.

Jaques has the benefit of being reunited with former Ohio State teammates Liz Schepers and Clair DeGeorge in Minnesota. Schepers already has Jaques living in a spare bedroom of her home.

“If I didn’t have them two, I think I would be a lot more lost,” Jaques said.

Cook said PWHL officials have been in contact to help with the challenges of relocation.

“They’ve been asking and trying to learn about what we’re going through, so yeah, I think it’ll be different for the next lucky girl that gets traded,” Cook said.

And there is an anticipation more trades will happen before the deadline next month.

“When that first one happens then it snowballs,” Darwitz said. “I was reached out to about another potential trade, but it’s like, hey, just because I made one isn’t like I’m going to be shooting from the hip here and doing a bunch.”

Darwitz specifically targeted Jacques to add an offensive play-making dimension to an already deep blue line. After failing to register a point in her first seven games with Boston, Jaques had an assist in her Minnesota debut while playing alongside veteran Lee Stecklein.

Boston GM Danielle Marmer was keen on acquiring Tapani to upgrade her depth at center and add more offense to a team that has yet to top three goals in regulation.

With rosters capped at 23 players, plus three reserves, the lack of a minor league and Boston already a third into its 24-game schedule, Marmer felt it best to improve her roster via trade than waiting on another player to develop.

“There was a part of me that was like, `Am I making a hasty decision?’” said Marmer, who previously worked for the NHL’s Bruins and sat in on trade talks with GM Don Sweeney. “But I also felt like I didn’t want to get to the end of the year and feel like I could have done something to help this team win a championship and didn’t take that opportunity.”

At 30, Tapani is accustomed to change, having previously played in pro leagues in Finland, Sweden and Russia. It helped, too, that she was traded with Cook, who was her roommate this season.

“If this would have happened to me like 10 years ago, I think I would have felt different,” she said.

“I just try to be myself and play to my strengths,” Tapani added. “I knew that it’s a possibility to get traded. But it’s definitely a professional league, and it’s a business. You just have to prepare for anything.”


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