History has been made within women’s hockey. The Professional Women’s Hockey League is officially here. Consisting of six founding teams, three in Canada and three in the United States, each with a roster of 23 players, New York, Ottawa, Boston, Minnesota, Toronto and Montreal are aiming to create a sustainable future for the sport by bringing together the best players in the world.
The North American League becomes the first of its kind to give the opportunity to female players of pursuing the game full time professionally, making it their career. In the past, even when described as ‘professionals’, female players have had to have jobs outside of the sport to be able to support themselves financially, but the PWHL are said to be paying salaries ranging between $35,000 and $80,000 with this set to rise by 3% annually during the eight-year agreement.
This is a massive step forward for the future of professional women’s hockey. Not only are young girls able to dream of making playing the sport they love a career through seeing individuals doing it before them, allowing them to have role models, but there is actually a chance of their dreams becoming a reality now.
PWHL Toronto forward, Sarah Nurse said: “I’m proud of everybody who has worked so hard to get this off the ground. We’re literally kicking off a new professional startup. It really is quite amazing. From the top down, everyone has come together to make this happen and make it something all the players are excited about. That’s pretty incredible to me.”
Whilst the CWHL and NWHL have tried, but failed, to create a league of this kind before, the difference with the PWHL is the funding and financial stability already behind it through the league’s aims to maximise corporate sponsorships and through all six franchises being owned by the Mark Walter Group, billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and part owner of Chelsea FC.
The inaugural season started on New Year’s Day as Toronto hosted New York with former tennis superstar, Billie Jean King, dropping the puck in the ceremonial face off. New York achieved the first win in the league’s history with Ella Shelton scoring the first ever goal in the PWHL and Corinne Schroeder recording the first PWHL shutout.
The second game saw Montreal secure the first OT win in PWHL history as they beat Ottawa 3-2 in front of 8,318 fans, with the rest of the week following suit as history continued to be made.
Saturday, January 6th, saw the attendance record for professional women’s ice hockey broken with a crowd of 13,316 witnessing Minnesota beat Montreal 3-0 at Xcel Energy Centre as Grace Zumwinkle scored the first hat-trick in the PWHL.
Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, Jayna Hefford, has been quotes saying: “We look ahead to a phenomenal future for the PWHL. We have never seen more excitement
and demand for women’s sports, and through the launch of this league, the top women’s players in the world will have the opportunity to reach even greater heights.”
The schedule is following a 24-game regular season, with playoffs followed by a final format to determine the champions.
The games are free to stream on YouTube in the UK making the league so accessible for as UK hockey lovers, with the hopes of spreading the word of this historic occasion, helping it to grow rapidly and create a sustainable future for all young girls who dream of playing hockey.