OPINION: Women’s hockey community deserves more respect

Apr 2, 2024 | OP-ED, Opinion, Sports

The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) has existed for just about four months and surpassed many expectations, including mine.

It’s the first women’s hockey league showcasing the best the sport offers.

In the past, several leagues — including the Canadian Women’s Hockey League — have failed because of a lack of viewers, players, talent and investors.

However, the PWHL has come to life in this inaugural season, and now these players are getting the spotlight.

I think it’s time they get the respect they deserve.

There is this narrative around women’s sports about how it’s not entertaining, that no one cares or watches.

This may have been the case several years ago, but certainly not now.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few PWHL Toronto games. I can comfortably say the women’s hockey community is a powerful one.

One of the biggest storylines about this league so far is the attendance record and how it’s been broken on multiple occasions this year.

Let’s begin with every single PWHL Toronto home game being sold out this season. The iconic “Battle on Bay Street” at the Scotiabank Centre game against Montreal set the record for the highest attendance in women’s hockey history with 19,285 fans.

During this game, the crowd was electric.

I’ve been to many Toronto Maple Leafs games and I’ve never heard the crowd that loud.

A decibel metre clocked the crowd at 120 dB at one point during the occasion, which Decibel Pro says is the equivalent of an aircraft taking off.

This shows how strong the PWHL fanbase is and that there are fans who indeed care about women’s hockey.

The Bay Street attendance record will be broken at a sold-out Bell Centre game in Montreal against Toronto on April 20. The Bell Centre holds more than 20,000 spectators.

The PWHL has been continuously breaking attendance records. The previous pre-PWHL record was 5,938 at the Bell Centre when Les Canadiennes de Montréal of the now defunct CWHL played the Calgary Inferno on Dec. 10, 2106.

The quality of players and teams is another aspect of women’s hockey that isn’t appreciated enough.

I’ve watched thousands of hockey games, including the NHL, AHL, OHL and youth hockey. I understand the fundamentals of the game and what makes great players and teams.

Once I gave the PWHL a chance, I could see that in terms of skill, speed, knowledge and other aspects of hockey, it isn’t much different from other hockey I’ve seen.

At the 2019 NHL all-star weekend, forward for PWHL Minnesota, Kendall Coyne Schofield participated in the fastest skater competition with superstar Connor McDavid.

She showed she could compete with NHL-level speed, finishing with a faster time than Arizona’s Clayton Keller, one of the fastest and most skilled players in the NHL today.

It’s not just hockey where we can make these comparisons. We saw it at the NBA all-star weekend in February.

WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu fired three-pointers against Steph Curry, who holds the most three-pointers in NBA history. He narrowly won, 29-26.

However, Ionescu’s score was good enough to match Damian Lillard’s tally in the traditional three-point contest earlier that evening, and he ended up winning the competition.

Another stand-out player in the PWHL I find impressive is Natalie Spooner of Toronto. She takes over the game every shift and is a dominant force on the ice, a similar style to Nathan MacKinnon.

It’s no surprise that she leads the league in points and goals.

Physically, the PWHL has had its fair share of hits, and the ladies don’t shy away from post-whistle scrums.

I encourage hockey fans to give the PWHL a fair chance to see that hockey truly is for everyone.