One year and four months after buying the Buffalo Beauts from the NWHL, Pegula Sports and Entertainment is ending their relationship with the league, both the NWHL and PSE confirmed today. This was first reported by Ian Thomas of the Sports Business Journal.
The Beauts were the first and only privately owned team in the NWHL. The team is returning to previous operational structure of being owned and operated by the league.
“Our main goal has always been fostering the growth of women’s hockey across all ages,” said Kim Pegula, President and CEO of Pegula Sports and Entertainment, said in a tweet shared by the team. “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.”
The relationship made a lot of sense when announced on Dec. 21, 2017. PSE owns HarborCenter, the rink that the Beauts have called home for four seasons, as well as the Buffalo Sabres, the Buffalo Bills, and the Rochester Americans. The Beauts were part of the organization’s “OneBuffalo” marketing campaign and saw the most support from the NHL team.
On the ice, under PSE, the team saw a lot of regular season success, but failed to win an Isobel Cup. They also played one game in the KeyBank Center, home of the Sabres.
Following the purchase just around the midpoint of the 2017-18 season, the Beauts did not lose a single game in the second half of that season, leading to their third Isobel Cup final appearance in three years. However, they fell in the championship game to the Metropolitan Riveters.
In their first offseason owned by PSE, the Beauts signed huge names in free agency such as newcomers Shannon Szabados, Nicole Hensley, and Dani Cameranesi as well as landing veteran NWHL players such as Kelly Babstock and Blake Bolden.
Despite that star-studded roster, the team struggled on the ice early, which led to the dismissal of long-time coaches Ric Seiling and Craig Muni. That was followed by more change, but this time in the front office. General manager Nik Fattey left PSE after an internal investigation of sexual harassment of him and another PSE executive.
Today’s news comes on the heels of the #ForTheGame movement, in which more than 200 players announced their intent to not play in any North American professional league. Today’s news also comes just one week after the closing of the CWHL.
The Beauts are the only team in the NWHL to have fully committed to the #ForTheGame, based on Melissa Burgess’s lists. Goaltender Shannon Szabados is one the leaders of the movement.