BUFFALO, NY (AP) — With a day and a half between hockey practices, Buffalo Beauts forward Mikyla Grant-Mentis was bored on the couch in her downtown apartment when a strange thought struck her. hit.
“Maybe I need a job?” I’m not doing anything right now, so maybe I should do something else,” Grant-Mentis said with a wry laugh.
After all, the main reason Grant-Mentis landed in Buffalo in the first place was to sign a one-year, $80,0000 contract – one of the most lucrative in North American women’s professional hockey – so that she does not need to support himself. elsewhere such as his first two seasons with the Premier Hockey Federation in Toronto.
“I was like, ‘Holy shit.’ Last year I was so exhausted right now, I was trying to sleep in my car just to have the energy to work out and go work out,” she said, referring to juggling a full-time shift at FedEx and playing for the Toronto Six. “And that here is so much better. It’s so much more refreshing because I don’t have any extra stress.
Grant-Mentis is one of the budding stars of the PHF, which begins its eighth season on Saturday. It grew to seven teams with the addition of the Montreal Force expansion. Saturday’s games include Buffalo hosting Montreal at the Northtown Center in suburban Amherst.
At 24, the former Merrimack College player is one of the early beneficiaries of the league’s ongoing bid to establish a foothold in North America’s congested sports landscape.
His contract is a direct result of the ambitious vision that the PHF Board of Governors unveiled in January when announcing a commitment to invest more than $25 million in the league over the next three years. which included more than doubling his team salary cap from $300,000 to $750,000 this season.
It’s unclear if Grant-Mentis is the highest-paid player in the PHF, as the league doesn’t release those numbers. Among players who have made their contracts public, Beauts defenseman Dominique Kremer tops the list with $65,000, followed by Boston Pride defenseman Kaliegh Fratkin with $57,500.
The minimum salary for NHL players is around $750,000 for the current season.
Grant-Mentis won MVP and Newcomer of the Year after the 2021 season was shortened by the PHF’s COVID-19 pandemic. Last season, she finished second in the league with 13 goals and 30 points while playing on a $5,000 contract.
“I was just playing because I love the game and it was a little extra money in my pocket,” said Grant-Mentis, who is from Brampton, Ont. “But honestly, it hasn’t changed me. I always do the exact same thing. Like if I want to have a coffee, I’m going to have a coffee. If I want a pair of shoes, I’ll take a pair of shoes.
And yet, Grant-Mentis appreciates what her contract represents in the larger framework of women’s hockey, becoming the face of a Beauts team that finished last a year ago and won just seven of 26 games in the game. over the past two seasons.
“My goal is to make sure we don’t come last,” she said. “If I need to score 40 goals, or if I need to get 40 assists. All I gotta do. If I gotta play goalkeeper, sure. Dress me up and I’ll be there .
As for the bigger picture, Grant-Mentis knows the struggles several of his predecessors have endured to have their contracts cut mid-season, not being reimbursed for travel expenses and having to pay for their own clubs and bands in the former National Women’s Hockey League.
“They definitely did all the hard work, all the heavy lifting, and I got the benefit of it,” she said. “I would definitely take them all to dinner now if I had the chance.”
Despite the financial commitment and a recently signed two-year deal to broadcast games on ESPN+, questions remain about the state of women’s hockey. Most revolve around the rift between the PHF and the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, whose membership is comprised primarily of players from the U.S. and Canadian national teams.
The PWHPA was formed in 2019 and remains committed to forming its own professional league rather than partnering with the PHF. The delay in launching a PWHPA league, with plans pushed back to next year, has led to defections.
Among them are US national team player Brianna Decker who is joining the PHF in a part-time advisory role, and former Canadian national team player Ann-Sophie Bettez who has signed to play for the team. from his native province, Montreal.
“It was a selfish decision to figure out where I am in my life and what was right for me,” Bettez said, noting that at age 35 she had missed out on competing to play for a championship. “We talked a lot about the next generation wanting to be able to make a professional league. Well, the PHF league is there and it was a good opportunity for me to go in that direction.
Grant-Mentis need only recall how exhausting his life was a year ago. She drives a new yellow Jeep Wrangler, which she bought before signing with the Beauts. She has time off to practice on and off the ice, not to mention cooking her own meals.
“It was tough, but I’m glad it’s over,” Grant-Mentis said, referring to days that would start at 4 a.m. and end at 11 p.m. “And now I hope no one else has to go through all of this just to play hockey.