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Hockey, jobs, children, guitar, custom suit all in a day in the life of a PHF player

Canadians make up 44 per cent of Premier Hockey Federation players this season, with two of seven teams in the women's league based north of the border.
Toronto Six goaltender Carly Jackson shows off the custom detailing on her game day suit, before playing the Connecticut Whale during a home game at Canlan Sports at York University in Toronto, on Saturday, January 21, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

Canadians make up 44 per cent of Premier Hockey Federation players this season, with two of seven teams in the women's league based north of the border.

The PHF has upped the ante in its bid to be the professional women's hockey league of record in North America, starting with the doubling of this year's salary cap of US$750,000 per team to $1.5 million in 2023-24.

This season's average salary is $34,000 on a 22-player roster, although the range is from $13,500 up to the $80,000 contract paid to Buffalo Beauts forward Mikayla Grant-Mentis of Toronto.

The Toronto Six signed Daryl Watts last week and will pay her $150,000 in the second year of her contract in 2023-24.

The PHF gives its players the option of publicly disclosing their salaries.

Ahead of Sunday's all-star tournament in Toronto, The Canadian Press spoke with two Toronto Six and two Montreal Force players about what a typical day in their lives looks like.

Carly Jackson, Toronto Six ($29,375)

The alarm sounds at 5:40 a.m. so Jackson can lift weights at Canlan Sports before her 8 a.m. skate with the Six at the York University campus facility.

In addition to her salary, the 25-year-old goaltender from Amherst, N.S., was given C$5,000 for moving expenses to Toronto.

Jackson lives with a billet family and pays month-to-month rent. Not signing a long-term rental lease saves money because she goes home in the summer.

"It's an excellent situation for me to be able to billet," she said.

Jackson leaves the rink at 11 a.m. Today, she has a fitting for a custom suit that for $760 is a pretty good deal, she says.

"I've always wanted to get a custom suit and this year with the salary-cap increase I'm like 'OK, that's something I want to get for myself,'" Jackson said.

"It's something I can use towards my job. It's something you see NHL guys do. All these fancy suits. It's time for me to get one."

Her afternoons are free for a meal, a nap because she awakes so early, and teaching herself guitar.

Monday and Wednesday, she's back at Canlan by 6:30 p.m. coaching under-15 and under-10 goalies. That paying gig is "a little bit of money for savings."

"I opted to disclose my salary. We're a professional league and I think it helps other players negotiate their own contracts," Jackson said.

GAME DAY: Jackson sleeps in, stretches and likes a breakfast of eggs, toast and bacon to be her pre-game meal four hours before an afternoon home game.

She plays video games or her guitar to "engage her play side" and arrives at Canlan two hours before puck drop. Jackson plays two-touch soccer in a circle with her teammates "as long as possible." A post-game meal is provided.

The presence of an equipment manager, athletic therapist, social-media manager, strength coach and game-day operations people is what Jackson says "makes you really feel like a pro."

Brooke Stacey, Montreal Force (salary undisclosed)

The 26-year-old forward from the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory is the mother of two-year-old Kodah. Stacey played for the Buffalo Beauts when Kodah was born.

Although it wasn't in her contract, Stacey says she received her salary from the Beauts when she became pregnant.

"I think the PHF as a whole has changed its laws a little bit since I did become pregnant," Stacey said.

"They did include a maternity leave to include you being paid out through your contract, which I think is a huge step in the league just in general should anyone get pregnant or want to have a baby."

Stacey expects to move into an apartment soon, but currently lives with her mother about a 20-minute drive from the Force's practice facility at Verdun Auditorium.

On a typical Thursday, she drops Kodah off at daycare in the morning before heading to her job as a Mohawk Council of Kahnawake registrar.

Stacey works through her lunch to pick Kodah up early and spend time with him. Her mom puts Kodah to bed when Stacey heads to the arena for a skate and training from 6:45 p.m. to 9:30.

"I don't sleep until about midnight because practice being late, the body isn't ready for sleep yet," she said.

Stacey said the Force is flexible around motherhood.

"There's an understanding that Kodah comes first should anything come up where I can't be at practices or games," she said.

While Stacey won't disclose her salary, "I can say my full-time job definitely pays for the bills and the hockey is more of a savings to pay off my car.

"I do expect if I play next year and get an offer from the Montreal Force, my salary would definitely increase as long as I can keep performing how I am now."

GAME DAY: The Force bus to home games at various arenas in Quebec in addition to road games.

Stacey talks to Kodah via FaceTime at the hotel in the morning after breakfast, and again in the evening before his bedtime.

After a Saturday pre-game meal and meeting at the hotel, the team heads to the rink for an afternoon game.

Evenings on the road are spent getting treatments from the trainer, hanging out with teammates, watching Netflix or reading books, Stacey said.

Courtney Gardiner, Toronto Six ($19,497)

Unlike her early-bird teammate Jackson, Gardiner prefers her weightlifting sessions after Toronto's 8 a.m. practice at Canlan. She's usually out of the rink by 11 a.m.

The 24-year-old forward from Goderich, Ont., lives in the same housing where she spent her York University Lions career a short distance from the complex.

"I'm fortunate in that sense because I know a lot of girls have relocated or moved across the world in some cases to make this work," Gardiner said.

Twice a week in the afternoons, Gardiner heads to her other job as head coach of Havergal College, which is a private women's school in Toronto, for games or practices at 2:30 p.m.

"It's usually a good chunk of my afternoons into my evenings I would say," she said. "I'm definitely not saving any money by any means, but I'm living comfortably."

GAME DAY: The Six gather at Canlan on the Friday before a two-game road weekend. The team either buses to Pearson Airport or to Buffalo from there.

"As a group, we collectively agreed it's a much more professional look when we arrive as a team and we're travelling together," Gardiner said.

A bus awaits upon arrival to get to the hotel for an evening catered meal and a quick team meeting.

Breakfast between 8 a.m. and 9:30 usually accompanies a pre-scout team meeting and watching video, then an hour of downtime before catching the bus to play an afternoon game. It's back to the hotel for a post-game meal and repeat the next day.

Ann-Sophie Bettez, Montreal Force (salary undisclosed)

It's Wednesday and the 35-year-old veteran forward heads to an 11:30 a.m. physiotherapy appointment that is covered by the PHF's medical insurance.

Bettez spends the couple hours at Verdun Auditorium before the Force's 3:15 p.m. skate on her laptop doing some catchup on her other work as a financial planner.

The Force provide a post-practice meal, but Bettez opts to have it for lunch at Verdun.

"Meals after practice we've never had," Bettez said. "It's nice and less time-consuming than having to prepare your meal."

After practice ends around 5:15, there's a gym session until 6 p.m.

"Sometimes after practice, I'll have a meeting with clients," Bettez said. "Mondays usually are my busier day of financial planning because we don't have any practices."

Bettez won't disclose her hockey salary, nor answer the question whether she wants to work or needs to work a second job outside of hockey.

"Whether it's a choice or not to work, I'm passionate about my work and I want to keep doing financial planning," she said.

"The fact that I'm a self-independent worker, I'm able to make my own schedule. I work when I want. It makes sense for me and I'm able to make ends meet in my lifestyle."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2023.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press