The PWHL era of hockey has begun

Graphic by Maggie Zeng @Maggie.Draws.Stuff

The new league continues to break barriers for women’s hockey just days into its start.

When the puck was dropped for the first time on Jan. 1 in Toronto, it was apparent that the new Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) was bound for success.

In the span of just four months, the league has been built from the ground up. In September, each team took part in the first PWHL draft where rosters began to take shape. Fans had their first glance at what each roster would look like, sparking interest and ticket sales through the fall months. By November, teams had finalized their rosters and prepared for training camp. Once the calendar flipped to 2024, the time for teams to take to the ice was finally here.

The inaugural game saw Toronto host New York at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. The game reached a historic viewership, gathering 2.9 million views through its coverage on CBC, Sportsnet, and TSN. On top of this, Minnesota hosted Montreal on Jan. 6 in front of 13,316 fans, a new record for a professional women’s hockey game.

Locally, Montreal played their franchise’s first home game on Jan. 13. The game took place at the sold-out Verdun Auditorium in front of 3,245 fans. The large crowd at the historic venue made for an electrifying home opener. With names like Ann-Renee Desbiens, Erin Ambrose, and superstar forward Marie-Philip Poulin, it should be no surprise that Montreal’s passionate fan base is ready for a second professional hockey team. The team will split the remainder of its home games this season by playing at the Verdun Auditorium and Place Bell in Laval. 

All of the milestones this new league has already accomplished is an outstanding sign of what is yet to come. It is sometimes tough to gauge how a brand new league is doing in terms of interest from the first week of its existence. In the case of the PWHL, there is no debate that fans are ecstatic to see the action and talent this league has to offer.

As the season progresses, the PWHL will undoubtedly continue to display the skills and talent of its star players. For the first time outside of non-league tournaments, we are seeing a best-on-best professional women’s hockey league. It is the beginning of a new era— an era that is truly exciting for the players, the cities, and the fans of women’s hockey.

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