The Professional Hockey Players’ Association recently launched a “”social media platform”” which allows players to compare themselves and their contracts. This is the very first move in what will be an effort for player associations and leagues across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia to take control of how they’re marketed by using social media platforms.
In addition to being the president of the PHF players’ association, Alex Sinatra is also a member of the executive committee. He has been with the organization since its inception and helped in creating it.
The Premier Hockey Federation’s players’ association has high hopes for its new executive director.
Fortunately for attorney Alex Sinatra, who has been chosen to fill that vacancy, the PHF’s standards did not involve any real hockey experience.
“They assured me that my lack of hockey experience and my inability to skate would not prevent me from doing a fantastic job in this role,” Sinatra told ESPN last week, ahead of her official appointment as executive director. “I’m not from the hockey community. I like hockey and enjoy watching it, but I’ve never played it. As a result, I’m coming in with a background that these guys don’t. They’re the experts on the ice, and I’m the expert when it comes to business development, marketing, and the law.”
Sinatra may be new to hockey, but she isn’t a novice when it comes to sports.
Sinatra was a competitive gymnast as a child, with Olympic ambitions until a catastrophic accident wrecked her plans. Her encounter led her to contemplate a career in pediatric orthopedic surgery, but she eventually chose business over science.
Sinatra then resolved to go to law school in order to become the next superagent, a la Jerry Maguire. But Sinatra soon realized that the agency side of things wasn’t for her, prompting an existential crisis over what to do with the degree she was pursuing.
The solution was to change the subject to sports law. Sinatra graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a JD from Texas A&M University School of Law. She passed the bar on her first attempt and started constructing an amazing résumé.
Sinatra has served as in-house counsel for multinational corporations and a family that owns several sports franchises, as well as writing for USA Today’s NFL Wire, working for a professional indoor soccer team, and founding her own consulting firm that assists women and minorities in the sports industry in growing their businesses.
Sinatra met Mallory Souliotis, a defender for the PHF’s Boston Pride, on that final project. When Souliotis contacted Sinatra about the PA’s executive director position late in 2021, they had known one other for almost a year. Anya Packer had been the general manager of the PHF’s Metropolitan Riveters since 2017, however she left to become the general manager of the PHF’s Metropolitan Riveters. Sinatra was instantly fascinated by Souliotis’ suggestion that he might be a good candidate to replace Packer. Sinatra rapidly discovered a very devoted group committed to long-term improvements after meeting with several PHF members.
“I’ve spent my whole life around professional athletes, and the level of organization that these girls demonstrated was unrivaled, unprecedented,” Sinatra added. “They were able to have a representative from each club on the phone with me for a two-hour discussion on where the players’ association is headed and how I might contribute. They grilled me with sharp questions. They wanted to know how I saw the league this season, as well as how I saw the league and the players’ association in a year. That demonstrated to me that they were really committed, and that they had a great desire to create something truly unique and long-term for the sport of women’s hockey. That piqued my interest.”
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Sinatra’s main emphasis will be on determining what the PHF players desire and assisting them in achieving their objectives.
“To begin, I’d say there are three primary [wants],” Sinatra stated. “The first is a greater capacity to make decisions on behalf of the league. They do not believe they have been given a genuine chance to influence how the league is constituted, the sponsors that are coming in, the regulations that are being written, policies, and processes. They want to be more involved in the process. Second, they want conventional player contracts to be updated. It’s fantastic that they have a job and a paycheck, but they want the contract to be a bit more player-friendly, and they truly want a living income, just like any professional athlete. The third point is to increase the game’s exposure and resources. 96 percent of [media] coverage goes to sports in which males compete, whereas just 4% of coverage goes to sports in which women compete. So they’re working hard to see that transition and get people to recognize that resources must be distributed fairly.”
There’s always the chance that the PHF may organize its members and obtain greater negotiating power in this manner. Sinatra has already addressed it with the players, but he stressed that “there is a very particular period when you should unionize,” and that it is not something that should be done hastily.
If Sinatra’s to-do list already seems to be overflowing, it is. And those who know Sinatra well say she’s the kind of lady you’d want to take on such a task.
Sinatra and Casey Drillette, a project manager who operates her own education firm, met in eighth school. She’s seen Sinatra in her element and believes no one should question her capacity to get the PHF some meaningful change.
“I’d advise you to sit down and take notes,” Drillette said. “Give Alex a few minutes to go to work, and everything will fall into place. Alex’s ability to take things seriously and really make progress and take action astounds me. Many individuals speak a good game and say things like, “I have all these ideas,” or “These are some wonderful notions we have.” And Alex is usually like, “No, that’s OK; we’re putting that into practice right now.” Let’s get started.’ That is exactly who she is. When Alex informed me about this [PHF] chance, it struck me like a ton of bricks that all she’d worked for up to that point had finally paid off. Seeing all the many aspects of her life come together to make her the ideal candidate for this role was incredibly amazing to me.”
To begin, Sinatra’s plan will include distinguishing between players’ requirements and desires, as well as identifying their short-, medium-, and long-term objectives. After then, it’s all systems go.
“Do I think that for next season, an enhanced standard player contract can be negotiated? Yes, I do “According to Sinatra. “Good workers ought to be recognized as such and to have their employment contracts upgraded. We don’t currently have a website, so I can see that [happening]. On the player side, I can see us perhaps giving merchandise for fans to buy. I can also see the player’s side possibly [negotiating to] bring in some sponsors. I see us beginning to put money aside for certain guys.”
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The impression that women’s hockey is somehow inferior to the NHL product on show is also something Sinatra wants to address. Sinatra has spent most of her career working for women’s sports, and she wants the PHF to be recognized for what it is, not for what it isn’t.
“People say stuff like, ‘Oh, women’s hockey isn’t as exciting, and they don’t make any money,’” Sinatra said. “My reaction is that there will be a difference in economics if you’ve been distributing resources inequitably for so long. ‘OK, we want you to be the same product as the NHL,’ the women were told, and they had to come back and say, ‘We’re a different product.’ Some individuals in the business have such an engrained prejudice towards sports in which women participate that they aren’t even aware that some of their judgments are based on gender imbalance. When we start having dialogues about it, the individuals who are inequitably distributing resources will realize that the selections are based on gender, not product quality. Anyone who has seen women’s hockey understands that it is a high-quality sport.”
To say the least, Sinatra is ecstatic to get started. Those who stand in her way had better be ready to fight.
“Alex is unquestionably fearless. That is the term I would use “Drillette remarked. “I’d never want to bargain with her. I make an effort not to quarrel with her. She just has a very strong moral compass. She is a really ethical person who is extremely excellent at keeping to her values. If anything doesn’t set right with her morally or ethically, she will speak out, and that is something she will not overlook.”