On the afternoon of May 8, 2019 word began to trickle out on Twitter that Pegula Sports and Entertainment (PSE) would be handing ownership of the Buffalo Beauts back to the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). A short time later, official notices from both the Beauts and the NWHL confirmed that it was true.
The PSE management company had acquired ownership of the team in December 2017 and possessed it for a season and a half. PSE also owns the Buffalo Sabres (NHL), Rochester Americans (AHL), Buffalo Bills (NFL) and Buffalo Bandits (NLL).
The news comes six days after roughly 200 professional women’s hockey players announced that they would be refraining from playing hockey in any North American professional league for the 2019-20 season. All but one (goaltender Julia DiTondo does not make use of social media accounts) of the active 2018-19 Buffalo Beauts were among the 200 players who announced their intention to take part in what is being called a “sit out”.
Additionally, the parting between PSE and the Beauts comes on the heels of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) ceasing operations on May 1 after 12 seasons due to financial instability.
Statements From Buffalo Beauts PR and NWHL
An official release from Buffalo Beauts Public Relations was sent out to the media at 2:46PM after word of the split began to circulate on Twitter. The release included statements from both President and CEO of Pegula Sports and Entertainment Kim Pegula and NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan.
“Our main goal has always been fostering the growth of women’s hockey across all ages,” said Pegula. “We thank our Beauts players, staff, and fans for their support this past season. We will continue to look for ways to successfully grow the women’s game.”
Rylan responded to PSE offering a note of thanks within the same presser:
“The NWHL thanks Pegula Sports and Entertainment for their stewardship of the Beauts during the last two seasons,” said Rylan. “We have a deep appreciation for the remarkable, ongoing commitment of the organization to advance the sport of hockey at all levels.”
Exactly 10 minutes after the first release came through, a second one coming directly from the NWHL was also sent out to the media. The second release was relatively short and to the point:
The NWHL is pleased to regain operating control of the 2017 Isobel Cup champions and four-time Cup Finalist Buffalo Beauts. The fans of Western New York are among the most dedicated in the world, and we have had four exceptional seasons of winning hockey and large crowds in Buffalo. We will look to continue our relationship with the Harborcenter and its incredible staff, and in the Beauts’ fifth season and beyond, we will build on their tradition of success.”
Reasoning for the Split?
The separation is suggestive of a conflict of interest that PSE may have felt over owning a team in the NWHL – a league that is being avoided by some of women’s hockey’s preeminent players. The situation is made muddier by the fact that some entities are calling for the NHL to step in and establish a entirely new women’s professional league.
Given PSE’s ownership of the Buffalo Sabres – the first of the major sports franchises that they have purchased – it would not make sense to back a league like the NWHL should a new, NHL-built women’s league step into the forefront.
Furthermore, with almost all of the 2018-19 Beauts intending to sit out from playing, the headache of scouting, signing and acquiring all new players for the 2019-20 season is an undertaking that PSE would not necessarily want to contend with. Rather, it seems to be avoiding the notion entirely.
This writer with keep THW readers posted on further developments as they come to light.