Pro women’s hockey league racks up early wins

Less than two months after hitting the ice, North America’s new pro women’s hockey league is already breaking records.

What happened: A Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) match between Toronto and Montreal last week drew 19,285 fans to a sold-out Scotiabank Arena, breaking the attendance record for any women’s hockey game. 

  • Prior to that, the league had already broken the attendance record for a pro women’s hockey game — one not played at the Olympics or world championships — twice this year, with 8,318 fans at a game in Ottawa and another a few weeks later in Minnesota drawing 13,316.

Why it matters: The PWHL is only two months old, but so far is already showing signs of being a major success from both an entertainment and business perspective. 

  • The league’s New Year’s Day debut game between Toronto and New York drew 2.9 million viewers in Canada, making it the most-watched program in the country that day.

  • Attendance through the first 30 games has been solid as well, averaging 5,372 across the league.

Catch up: The PWHL emerged from the 2019 collapse of the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL), which operated as a non-profit and did not pay player salaries. 

  • Many players from the CWHL then formed the Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association with the goal of building a professional, financially profitable league — and one that actually paid its players.

  • They came to an agreement to secure financial backing from billionaire Los Angeles Dodgers Chairman Mark Walter in 2022 and, last summer, signed a formal agreement to launch the league.

What’s next: The league’s early success has caught the attention of at least one sports entertainment juggernaut. Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Pittsburgh Penguins, Liverpool F.C., and the Boston Red Sox, told The Athletic it wants to bring a PWHL team to Pittsburgh next.—TS