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Women’s Hockey League thrives in opening games

The PWHL launched their first ever matches in 2024. The league broke attendance records for professional women’s hockey and their own records within the month since their debut.
Anchoring The Defense: Toronto defender Renata Fast clears the goal and pushes the puck forward in Toronto’s away game against Minnesota at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by John McClellan)

On Jan. 1, the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) showcased their first-ever game in which New York took the victory 4-0 over Toronto. In a subsequent matchup on Jan. 6, between Minnesota and Montreal, the league hosted 13,316 people at Xcel Energy Center and set the record for the most viewers in a professional women’s hockey game, overall showing hope for the longevity of the league.

The PWHL launched in August last year but is not the first professional women’s hockey league. The league’s predecessors, which were the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) and Premier Hockey Federation (PHF), collapsed due to financial instability and other factors. 

The CWHL disbanded in 2019 after facing challenges in securing sufficient funding and sponsorships to support its operations. After CWHL’s dissolution, players formed a union called the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) and refused to play for the PHF because they were skeptical of the league’s business model and ability to pay its players.

After months of negotiation, in May 2023, the Mark Walter Group and BJK Enterprises bought out the PHF, effectively dissolving it and creating the PWHL. Mark Walter is also the part-owner and chairman of the LA Dodgers and co-owner of Premier League club Chelsea F.C. With the financial backing of Walter and long awaited unification of one pro-hockey league, the PWHL will hope to be a more long-term resolution. 

“Fans are upset. Media people are ripping into the league for missing things here and there,” New York forward Madison Packer said via the Washington Post. “But this is the only alternative we have if we want to continue living our dream and playing professional hockey, and we’re all doing it because we believe in what we’re doing.”

There are currently six official teams in the PWHL, based in New York, Toronto, Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, and Saint Paul. Many of which are still deciding on branding and team designs. The regular season will run from January to May, totaling up to 24 games. Four of the six teams will advance to the postseason, and teams will play in a typical single-elimination bracket, advancing through best-of-five series.

Hosted in September of last year, the PWHL held its inaugural draft to welcome its first ever players to pool the top talent in women’s hockey. The draft featured members of U.S. and Canada’s international teams, many of which also unionized with the PWHPA. 

“For the athletes it’s gonna be an incredible moment,” Jayna Hefford, PWHL executive and former player, said prior to draft night via CBC Sports. “We’re gonna try to put on the best possible show for them because many of us dreamt of one day being drafted and walking across a draft stage to a professional team and playing for a team that wanted you there.” 

The league has lived up to all its expectations, jam-packed with action as well as excited crowds in the stands. Although the league is young, not having named teams or the championship trophy, the PWHL will most likely be here to stay.

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About the Contributor
Theoden Melgar
Theoden Melgar, Digital Content Editor
Although his initial reason for joining the Gamut was because his friends were applying, veteran writer Theo Melgar is now serving his fourth and final year in the Gamut as Digital Content Editor for the 2023-2024 school year. Formerly the Gamut’s illustrious Sports Editor for two years, you won’t necessarily catch Theo on his way to varsity basketball practice afterschool — instead, you might find him constructing robots in the engineering building as FTC Head of Technical for OA Robotics. When he’s not villainously editing his fellow staffers’ drafts, Theo can be found devouring fried chicken from Jollibee (don’t forget the gravy) and watching his favorite episodes of The Amazing World of Gumball. With newfound responsibility as Digital Content Editor, Theo is committed to incorporating fresh, interactive digital content such as in-website games and hopes to make improvements to the Gamut website. Yet as his time at Oxford Academy nears close to an end, Theo plans to pursue greater ventures that tie to his passions of computer science and cybersecurity, but most of all, is looking forward to graduating. 
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