Today the NWHL announced news that fans of women's hockey will not soon forget. Pegula Sports and Entertainment has purchased the 2017 Isobel Cup Champion Buffalo Beauts.
This is an absolute triumph for the league just months after a historic partnership between the Metropolitan Riveters and New Jersey Devils was announced. The Beauts, of course, are no strangers to the HarborCenter, which is also owned by the Pegulas.
“We’ve been working in some capacity with PSE, the Sabres and HarborCenter since our inaugural season ... in some capacity we’ve been working with them on a small scale," NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan told The Ice Garden this morning. "We’ve been on their radar since our first season, but I think our conversations have really accelerated in the last five to six months.”
No financial details about the deal have been revealed, but that is hardly surprising. This is the first time a professional women's hockey team has been purchased by an NHL owner in North America. Make no mistake; this is history made in the world of women's hockey.
“It makes a lot of sense, not only because of the HarborCenter, but also because of the Pegulas' commitment to the entire Buffalo community, what they’ve done for sport in the entire area," Rylan explained. "So I think it really speaks a lot to their leadership and them seeing the value of including the Buffalo Beauts as part of their family.”
Pegula Sports and Entertainment owns the NHL's Buffalo Sabres and the NFL's Buffalo Bills. Pegula gained full ownership of the Sabres in 2011. A few years later he purchased the Rochester Americans (AHL). In 2014 the $172 million (est.) HarborCenter opened and since the NWHL's inaugural season the Beauts have called HarborCenter’s Rink 1 home.
“This is by far the most monumental deal that we have done in our short history," Rylan shared. "Hats off to the Pegulas for seeing not only the value of empowering the women on the Beauts and the women in the league... I think across women's sports in general, to have them buy-in, we believe that the ripple effect of that will be pretty significant.”
Rylan told The Ice Garden that there are currently no similar conversations underway in the league's current markets or in potential expansion markets. The NWHL Commissioner also stated that the Beauts will have the same salary cap as the Connecticut Whale, Boston Pride and Metropolitan Riveters.
From the Pegula Sports and Entertainment’s release:
“We want to contribute to the growth of women’s hockey,” Kim Pegula said. “HarborCenter has allowed us to make a positive impact on the game at the amateur, high school and collegiate levels, and we believe this is the perfect time to expand our reach to include women’s professional hockey through the NWHL. This sport provides outstanding opportunities, and we are committed to helping extend those opportunities to females of all ages.”
What the deal means for the Beauts specifically remains to be seen, but the impact of financial and promotional sport from PSE cannot be understated. For now, the Pegulas will take over the operations of the Beauts.