The Boston Pride have been purchased from the NWHL by a group of investors led by Cannon Capital managing partner Miles Arnone. Arnone, a Long Island native who has called Boston home for three decades, has over 20 years of investing experience in a variety of fields.
The Pride are now the second team in league history to have private ownership and are the only team with private ownership heading into the 2019-20 season. The sale of the team was facilitated by The Sports Advisory Group, which the NWHL will continue to work with in its pursuit of private ownership for the league’s other four franchises in addition to any potential expansion teams.
In a conversation with The Ice Garden last night, Arnone described his unique introduction to the world of women’s hockey. While playing club hockey at MIT, his team was on the receiving end of a beatdown from a women’s national team that was in training during the late 1980s or early 1990s — the years have robbed him of some of the details, but the game definitely left a lasting impression. “They absolutely thumped us,” Arnone recalled.
Since that time, Arnone has kept an eye on the women’s game. He was a regular in the stands for the Pride’s home games through the NWHL’s first four years of operation and is a father of two young hockey-playing daughters, who both proudly wear Jillian Dempsey jerseys. He’s still waiting to tell them the big news. Right now, Arnone’s money is on his older daughter figuring it out on her own through social media.
“I’m not sure how I am going to break the news to her that she won’t be able to play for her favorite team one day,” Arnone shared with a laugh. “We can’t have people accusing us of nepotism.”
Although Arnone had no specific plans to become an owner of a professional sports team, he recognized a unique opportunity with the NWHL that he couldn’t pass up. He believes that women’s hockey and women’s sports in general have a great deal of potential. He also believes in the NWHL.
Cannon Capital works with Crave Better Foods, the makers of the Chipwich. On Aug. 12, 2019, Chipwich became the Official Ice cream Sandwich of the NWHL, joining its small but steadily growing flock of sponsors.
“I was involved in the discussions between Chipwich and the league over the summer and at some point I inquired about team ownership,” Arnone told The Ice Garden. “I spoke with Dani [Rylan] and the league about my interest in the Pride. It really came about organically.”
Arnone’s interest in the Pride also came about organically. He and his family have established deep roots in New England and Boston, which he pointed out has won quite a few professional championships in recent years. To no surprise, one of his goals is to build the Pride into a world-class team and to get them back to the Isobel Cup Final.
The Pride’s new owner believes that local ownership is important for sports teams. Before our conversation he had already spoken to general manager Karilyn Pilch and head coach Paul Mara. He plans to appoint a new team president, to increase marketing and promotion, and to create more youth hockey initiatives. He also wants to offer more resources to his players, but wants to hear what ideas his new team has first.
“We’re having our first team meeting tonight before practice,” Arnone shared. “Before I develop too many ideas of what I can do to help players develop and perform to the best of their abilities — or how to manage their full-time jobs with their commitments to the team — I want their insight on what we can do to help them perform and win hockey games.”
Of course, what Boston’s players and all elite women’s hockey players desire most is a living wage. The PWHPA has boycotted the 2019-20 NWHL season. The uncertain climate of North American women’s hockey is something that was very much on Arnone’s mind when he decided to step in as the Pride’s new owner.
“We wanted to know as much as we could about the situation, so we did our research,” Arnone explained. “We all want players to be paid a living wage and to be treated like professionals, but we have different ideas of how we get there. I respect them. If and when the opportunity arises, I would be happy to speak with [the PWHPA], and I know the same is true of the NWHL. We want to have those conversations.”
Until that day comes, Arnone’s focus will be on the Pride.
He aims to build on the momentum that the team and the league created last year. All of the Pride’s home games following its partnership with the NHL’s Boston Bruins were sell-outs. He wants to keep that momentum rolling because he believes that moving tickets and getting fans engaged with the league’s streams on Twitch are both key steps towards players earning more significant salaries.
That is just one of the many long-term goals that Arnone has for Boston and for the NWHL itself. One day, he hopes that fans look back at the Pride and their winning culture in a way that’s similar to how football fans are already reflecting about the New England Patriots dynasty. But, first things first, the Pride need to build themselves into a contender this year.