MYHockey News

Happy New Era to Women's Hockey!

By Scott Lowe –

For more than a decade, hockey fans around the world have awoken on New Year’s Day with a sense of excitement and anticipation.

While those feelings aren’t unusual for anyone on the first day of a new year, for hockey fans New Year’s Day 2008 marked the birth of an annual event that has turned out to be a giant leap forward for a league that had long struggled for attention and acceptance as one of the world’s major professional sports.

No one could have predicted what would come from that snowy day in Buffalo, a day in which more than 70,000 fans jammed into a frigid football stadium and saw the sport’s next generational superstar end the game with a game-winning shootout goal in near-blizzard conditions.

Today, its 16 years later, and sports fans – not just hockey fans – around the world are excited to see what this year’s edition of the annual National Hockey League Winter Classic will hold as it unfolds in a new, non-traditional market. Seattle is an incredible city and will be an amazing host for what has become one of the world’s preeminent professional sporting events.

But wait, there’s more.

There is more excitement than usual pulsing through the hockey community on this first day of 2024. On this historic date – a day that for so long was set aside as a holy day for college football fans – hockey fans get to join in on the fun and double their pleasure.

And hopefully in 15 years we will look back on Jan. 1, 2024, with as much fondness and appreciation as we do Jan. 1, 2008. Perhaps on that New Year’s Day we’ll even be treated to an outdoor doubleheader featuring players from both the NHL and the Professional Women’s Hockey League.

That would mean all the hard work and sacrifices that had been made by players and leaders in the hockey community for so long to build a sustainable and successful women’s professional league – all the small successes and large failures – had been worth it. It would mean that the pioneers who brought the concept of the PWHL to light a little more than six months ago and have worked tirelessly to get the league off the ground and provide us with the first opportunity to watch the greatest women’s hockey players in the world compete at the professional level on this historic day had changed the international hockey landscape forever.

That’s right; today is the day.

At 12:30 p.m. EST the puck will drop on the inaugural season of the PWHL, the most-organized and well-funded attempt at creating a women’s professional hockey league that will allow the world’s best players to earn a livable wage doing what they love – and what we love seeing them do.

The first game of the first PWHL season features Toronto hosting New York at a sold-out Mattamy Athletic Centre.

It will be televised nationally in Canada on CBC, TSN and Sportsnet. Livestreams will be available on CBC Gem, ca, the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices,, the TSN app and Sportsnet+. French-language coverage will be provided via ICI TOU.TV. United States viewers can watch the games on MSG Networks and NESEN. 

Earlier this week it was announced that the league had partnered with CBC, Radio Canada, TSN/RDS and Sportsnet in Canada as well as the MSG Networks, NESN and BallySports North in the United States to provide coverage of all 72 Year 1 regular-season games.

After today, all regular-season games will be available to Canadian viewers via coverage divided across TSN, CBC and Sportsnet. That will include streaming on TSN+, CBC Gem, ca, the CBC Sports app and Sportsnet+. French coverage of all Montreal games will be split between RDS and Radio Canada and ICI TOU.TV.

In the U.S., MSG Networks will televise all 24 New York games, while NESN will show all 24 Boston contests to fans in New England. Those fans also can view the games via webstream on the NESON 360 app.

The broadcast agreement allows for games on regional sports networks to be distributed outside of their markets, so hockey fans who utilize platforms such as DirecTV and other services that provide access to regional sports network programming from around the United States will be able to see PWHL games available the regional networks.

In addition, all PWHL games will be streamed via the league’s YouTube channel and available outside of Canada. 

CLICK HERE for the full PWHL broadcast schedule.

“The visibility offered across our broadcast and streaming schedule is unprecedented in women’s hockey and reinforces the growing interest in our sport,” said Stan Kasten, PWHL Advisory Board member, in a league press release. “Accessibility of PWHL games throughout our inaugural season is a giant win for fans everywhere. We felt it was a priority to engage a magnitude of committed partners on a variety of consistent platforms.”

The inaugural PWHL campaign hits the ice sprinting, as all six teams - New York, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Minnesota and Ottawa – will be in action during the first three days of 2024, and games will be played Jan. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 10. Never has so much high-level women’s hockey featuring the world’s top players been available to so many people in such a short period of time.

This is an amazing accomplishment and such a giant leap forward for the sport, especially considering that this time last year the PWHL didn’t even exist, and the future of professional women’s hockey in North America seemed dubious at best. Fortunately, members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, which had created an entity that allowed top professional-level players to compete in weekend barnstorming events around North America, and the ownership groups involved in the Premier Hockey Foundation (PHF) were able to put their differences aside and do what was best for the sport. 

The formation of the PWHL was announced in late June with very few details available, but the picture became clearer seemingly every day between then and the end of 2023. In that short period of time, thanks to the efforts of the Mark Walter Group and Billie Jean King Enterprises, who assumed control of the PHF’s assets and rolled them into the PWHL concept, along with Kasten and Jenna Hefford, PWHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, every detail of the league has been ironed out and presented to the public at breakneck speed.

After a calendar of events leading up to opening day was unveiled, the original-six host cities were announced, coaches and hockey operations staff members were hired and announced, marquee veteran free-agent players were signed, a 15-round draft was held, the league’s logo was crated and unveiled, uniforms were designed, more free agents were signed, training camps opened, a preseason evaluation camp took place, a waiver period opened and closed, the rulebook was developed and broadcast agreements were signed.

While that provides a sense of what was accomplished during the six months preceding opening day, it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the details that need to be accounted for and buttoned up to get a professional sports league up and running in such a short period of time. 

Keep in mind that when professional sports league expansion is announced, those new organizations often have up to two years to get themselves organized, assemble a staff, create a marketing plan and field a team. The folks running the PWHL got an entire six-team league off the ground and ready to roll in half a year.

Kudos to each and every one of them.

And a heartfelt thank you to each of them from all of us in the North American hockey community.

Although women’s hockey has received a definite visibility boost since COVID thanks to much better coverage of the various International Ice Hockey Federation championship events that are held annually, in general women’s hockey has been an afterthought for most casual sports fans except during Olympic years. 

What was so disappointing about was that the Olympic women’s hockey competition was greeted with great excitement and covered extensively in by North American television networks. The games received widespread viewership, and many casual fans were amazed by the speed, skill and overall level of play they witnessed. 

Some of the best and most-exciting hockey games ever played took place during those Olympics, and for at least a few short weeks, the sports and athletes received the coverage and recognition they deserved. Then, it seemed, the sport would disappear for four years until the next Olympic cycle. 

Despite the momentum created during those Olympic years, it wasn’t even easy for young girls who may have developed an interest in hockey to follow the sport closely or watch their newly discovered heroes play. Attempts to capitalize and build on the interest generated weren’t particularly successful and professional women’s hockey simply couldn’t gain traction in North America

The creation of the PWPHA in 2019, with the intent of pushing for a financially viable professional league that provided the financial and other infrastructure resources required for players to compete and earn a livable wage, got the ball rolling. Many of the top North American players boycotted the existing pro league, the National Women’s Hockey League, which did not provide adequate wages and other resources the players needed to fully commit to professional hockey, and created the Dream Gap Tour. The Dream Gap Tour featured successful weekend showcase-style events held in many locations around North America. 

Meanwhile, the NWHL continued to struggle, ultimately becoming the PHF, while the PWPHA became stronger and more visible. Finally, last June all the pieces came together with the assumption of PHF assets by the current PWHL ownership group. 

And here we are.
It’s Jan. 1, 2024, and we are just a few minutes away from women’s hockey history being made. 

Fortunately, thanks to the tireless efforts of the league’s ownership and administration, the PWHL has come together quickly enough for us to enjoy those memorable names and faces from Olympics past still competing in the prime of their careers.

Those of you who don’t follow the sport closely are sure to recognize the names of superstars such as Hilary Knight, Marie-Phillip Poulin and Kendall Coye Schofield, players who have managed to transcend the sport and receive the credit, visibility and opportunities inside and outside of hockey they have earned and deserve.

But there are a lot more amazing players you may not have heard of and who, starting today, will begin to get the exposure and recognition they deserve. 

Top overall PWHL draft pick Taylor Heise from the University of Minnesota, a young player who has burst onto the international scene in recent years, will lead the Minnesota team’s offensive charge. Swiss superstar Alina Müller, probably the best player in the world most of you never have heard of, was the third overall selection and will suit up for Boston after a standout NCAA career at Northeastern University.

Other top PWHL draft picks include Team USA regulars Jesse Compher, Grace Zumwinkle and Savannah Harmon. Canada’s Sophie Jacques and Emma Maltais also are names you’ll come to recognize along with Sweden’s Emma Söderberg. 

Then there are the veteran cornerstone players who agreed to long-term contracts such Canadian goaltending superstar Ann-Marie Desbiens and Canadian Olympic heroes Sarah Nurse, Blayre Turnbull, Natalie Spooner, Brianne Jenner and Renata Fast. U.S. veteran stars Alex Carpenter, Abby Roque and Aerin Frankel also are names you might have heard before.

And of course, there will be a entirely different group of emerging stars who we may not be as familiar with. All they need is the opportunity, and starting today they are finally getting it.

I can’t wait to check back on New Year’s Day in 16 years to see how it’s all going.

Happy New Year to everyone and Happy New Era to women’s hockey!


More articles like this...
Other articles of this type...