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PWHL makes waves in inaugural season

By Nick Fioravanti, Staff Writer

Here in the United States, the landscape of women’s sports has been steadily on the rise over the last couple of decades. Now more than ever, there has been a strong push to create new leagues to level the playing field for men’s and women’s sports. 

Just in the past 30 years, the National Basketball Association (NBA) helped found and support the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in 1996. The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) was founded in 2012 to co-exist alongside Major League Soccer, and now a new women’s league is throwing its hat in the ring in its inaugural season.

Courtesy of Frank Gunn

The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) is experiencing a surge in popularity during its first season of existence on the national stage. In 2022, the Professional Women’s Hockey Player’s Association teamed up with the Mark Walter group, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and shareholder in the Los Angeles Lakers, and BJK Enterprises, a sports enterprising company created by famous tennis player Billie Jean King, to formulate plans for a new professional women’s hockey league. 

Currently, there are only six teams in the PWHL; Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, Minnesota and New York. League officials have hinted at plans of expansion by scheduling games for these teams at neutral sites like Detroit and Pittsburgh to gauge interest in these markets. 

Many people have expressed interest in the PWHL and hope that it can become a staple in the American sports realm. 

One such person is junior sports management major Tindra Holm, a goalie for the LIU women’s hockey team. She co-hosts “The Box,” a podcast about all things PWHL and Division-1 college hockey.

“I’ve seen so many young girls with a passion for the game,” Holm said. “Now girls will know where they could end up, but also I think the league has done a pretty good job with showing off their players, who then become superstars and role models to young girls.”

That passion for the game of hockey is a passion that can turn into real opportunities for young female athletes who may not have considered a career in professional sports before. 

Naturally, comparisons have been drawn between the National Hockey League (NHL) and the PWHL. Just like the NBA and WNBA, the professional hockey leagues do a decent job of supporting each other and creating a supportive environment for everyone who has dreams of playing at the pro level.

During the NHL All-Star Break at the beginning of February, which featured multiple celebrity cameos and a multitude of press coverage, a PWHL 3-on-3 game was held to conclude the weekend with some of the sport’s biggest players participating. The two rosters of 12 players competed against each other in front of a sellout crowd at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, with the rosters of both teams having won a combined 146 Olympic medals and 17 NCAA Division-1 Championships. 

The game was highly contested throughout, with Ottawa’s Savannah Harmon scoring a hat-trick for the winning team. Holm is one of many who believes that the women’s games are just as entertaining and competitive as the men’s games and encourages others to start watching the PWHL.

“It’s not a completely different sport, women’s sports are getting more physical as people with authority understand that’s what everyone wants,” Holm said. “Since tickets are at a reasonable price, and literally every game is free to watch on YouTube, I would just tell people to try and watch a game. I think many would be surprised how good it is.”  

The regular season of the PWHL concludes Sunday, May 5 with a contest between the league-best Toronto squad and Ottawa. 

To stay up to date with the rest of the PWHL season and other hockey-related news, be sure to listen to “The Box” on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, and give them a follow on Instagram @theboxduo.

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