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Beauts could get new name in impasse with NWHL

If the National Women’s Hockey League is to have a Buffalo franchise, the team is not expected to be called the Buffalo Beauts unless an impasse is resolved between the league and Pegula Sports and Entertainment.

PSE had a verbal agreement to return control of the Beauts to the league, but the NWHL has not signed the separation paperwork and the deadline has passed, a source told The News on Sunday.

The source said the league has made additional financial demands since the verbal agreement and won’t sign the documents unless those demands are met. Absent a signed agreement, PSE remains in control of the franchise and its name and logo.

The Beauts disabled their social media accounts Friday, causing fans to ponder the franchise’s future.

The NWHL declined to comment Sunday, but a league source said the team is not moving or being rebranded and the league expects the situation to be resolved within a few weeks.

PSE acquired the team in December 2017 and assumed the payroll and operational expenses, but there was no franchise fee. PSE announced in May that it was relinquishing control of the team.

In a statement Sunday, Buffalo Beauts Hockey said it is attempting to “GIVE” the team back, using all capital letters.

“BBH has been unable to reach an agreement to GIVE the Beauts name and intellectual property rights back to the NWHL,” the Beauts said in a statement. “Accordingly, if the NWHL wishes to have a Buffalo-based franchise, it will need to be under a new name as the NWHL will be unable to use the existing Beauts name and related trademarks.

“We remain interested in reaching a reasonable agreement with the NWHL. In the meantime, PSE will continue to support the growth of the game of hockey across all genders and age groups.”

On the day that PSE said it was relinquishing control, the league said it intended to operate the team in Buffalo and would negotiate a rental agreement to continue to play at Harborcenter as it had before PSE took control.

The league has since hired Mandy Cronin as general manager and Pete Perram as coach and signed Corinne Buie, Brooke Stacey and Mariah Fujimagari for the Buffalo franchise.

The team – potentially using a new name – could still reach an agreement to play at Harborcenter.

The impasse comes in the midst of questions about the future of women’s hockey in North America as more than 200 players have said they intend to boycott in hopes of forming a viable, financially stable league.

The five-team NWHL became the only professional league after the demise of the CWHL, which ceased operations following this past season.

Buffalo reached the Isobel Cup finals in all four NWHL seasons, winning the title in 2017. The team possessed arguably one of the best professional rosters ever assembled this past season, including goalie Shannon Szabados and Emily Pfalzer on defense.

Players lauded the ownership by PSE as the gold standard in the league and players had access to training facilities used by the Sabres, skills coaches from the Academy of Hockey, and the Sabres handled marketing efforts, including advertisements during Sabres telecasts.

The Beauts averaged 1,101 fans for its home games, more than the league average of 954. The NWHL said apparel sales set a league record and were up 36 percent for the 2018-19 season; three Beauts players were among the top six in jersey sales.

Last week, Sabres co-owner and PSE president Kim Pegula, along with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, were named co-chairs of the NHL's first-ever Diversity and Inclusion Senior Leadership Council.

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