“We want to contribute to the growth of women’s hockey. 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.” – Kim Pegula, Pegula Sports and Entertainment
As the 2017 NWHL season glides toward the halfway point, the league and Pegula Sports and Entertainment have announced a blockbuster deal that changes the game of women’s sports to the core. Terry and Kim Pegula have purchased the 2017 Isobel Cup Champion Buffalo Beauts. The NWHL franchise is now officially a PSE property, rounding out the One Buffalo trifecta.
Over the past two seasons, our readers have seen our pleas to the Pegula family regarding the Beauts. The news comes only a few months after the New Jersey Devils partnered with the Metropolitan Riveters to begin the 2017-18 season. The Riveters’ home opener was part one of a double header with the Devils, and was an incredibly successful endeavor. One can expect that similar events will take place between the Sabres and the Beauts, though nothing has been announced at this time.
The idea that a partnership might be forming was massaged last spring, when the Pegulas worked a promotions video with the team. Players were seen wearing One Buffalo gear in Beauts colors, causing some to speculate that this move was in the works. “We’ve been in communication with the Pegulas since our inaugural season,” NWHL commissioner Rylan stated in a phone interview. “Things have ramped up over the last five or six months.
The Beauts will have the backing of a local sports and media power house. Not only does this reflect financial stability for the team, but with the news that the Pegulas will take over all team operations, the Beauts will have access to superior marketing and experienced management. A million doors that were previously closed to the team have now been opened with one pen stroke.
Rylan is familiar with the strength of the One Buffalo brand that the Beauts are now a part of. “One of the biggest benefits is that the team will be plugged into the marketing machine that One Buffalo has become.
“It also allows aspiring hockey families to show all of their children that their dreams can become a reality,” Rylan continued. “Their sons and daughters will know that a professional career is equally available to them.”
Beauts defender and Buffalo native Jacquie Greco agrees. “Knowing that the Pegula family and the city of Buffalo believes in my team and the future of women’s hockey is an extraordinary feeling. I couldn’t be more happy to join the One Buffalo family and I look forward to the future and growth in my home city.
Only one coach in the league has been behind the bench since the league's inception, and this deal further expands Ric Seiling's relationship with Buffalo hockey. The former Buffalo Sabre told 716 Sports Podcast, "It’s a great thrill and we are so honored to be part of the Pegula sports and entertainment and the Sabres organization. We have always trusted that Buffalo was the place for Hockey and this is just another piece of proof."
Though the players’ salaries will not change, the resources available to them will be equal to that of the Buffalo Sabres, Rylan says. “We expect that One Buffalo will provide the same marketing opportunities, and of course, access to shared resources will be key for the Beauts players.”
Gone are the days when players are forced to beg for new sticks as the season comes to a close. Proper training and the resources required to do so are now a given instead of a hope or a dream.
“I want to give a lot of credit to Kim Pegula,” Rylan said. “Her role in the world of women’s sports cannot be understated, and we look forward to having her as a mentor for the league.”
The Pegula family, and especially Kim Pegula, have been longtime supporters of women in sports, and this is certainly a strong statement to substantiate the claim. They are the first private owners of a North American women’s hockey franchise, which demonstrates the type of commitment and leadership that can be expected as the NWHL and the Beauts continue to develop. “The goal is to expand into one or two more markets,” Rylan stated.
It stands to reason, then, that a partnership similar to this would be sought in expansion. There is little question that private ownership would make expansion infinitely easier.
This is incredibly exciting news for women’s hockey as a whole. 2017 has been an incredible year for growth of the sport. It began with the battle for equality between USA Hockey and the women’s national team in advance of the World Championships, and has been bookended perfectly with the announcement of this deal.
More details regarding the deal will certainly emerge over the coming weeks, and we will work to bring you any news that comes. This is an incredible step toward equal footing in the Buffalo sports marketplace, and an unparalleled opportunity for women’s sports as a whole.
Action will resume on January 6 at HarborCenter, when the Buffalo Beauts will take the ice for the first time under ownership. 716 Sports Podcast will bring you all of the action live on NWHL.zone.