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The Rise of the PWHL

There’s a new professional sports league in North America: The Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), and there is history being made in almost every game.

With all the hype and excitement around the league, one might think it’s the first league of its kind. But it’s not the first professional women’s hockey league, and the story of how the PWHL came to be is a rather beautiful one. In 2019 when the CWHL (professional women’s league in Canada) folded, the American players left their league, the NWHL, in solidarity. Together, the players from these two nations formed the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA). This union was pretty major, considering the intense rivalry Canadians and Americans have over hockey. Since then, the PWHPA has worked to create a new league: the PWHL. Creating a professional sports league involves planning, time, and investment, but after a few years things began to settle and the teams began drafting their rosters during the summer of 2023. Finally, to start off 2024, the inaugural match was played on January 1st of the new year.

The PWHL includes six teams: three in Canada and three in the United States. But it isn’t just Canadians and Americans who are playing: there are players from eight countries represented through the league. The PWHL strives to provide representation for younger girls looking for someone to look up to in professional hockey. The league has developed a loving community with each team having its devoted fans. For the inaugural season, each team wears a jersey with the same design, but with their unique team colors and respective locations. In the following years as the league expands, team branding will too. However, despite the similar uniforms or the young age of the league, each of the six teams has its own unique identity. 

  • Montreal: Currently sitting in first place in the league, PWHL Montreal is known for their captains Marie-Philip Poulin and Laura Stacey, two of the most respected players in the world.
  • Minnesota: Just two points behind Montreal, second-place team PWHL Minnesota has made the news by setting the attendance record for the most watched professional women’s ice hockey event (at 13,316 people) in their stadium, Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota player Grace Zumwinkle also achieved the first hat trick of the league in front of this record crowd, earning a 3-0 victory against Montreal.
  • Boston: PWHL Boston is led by coach Courtney Kessel, who has held positions as assistant coach at Princeton University as well as head coach of Team Canada’s U18 team. Boston’s up-and-down season has brought them to third place in the league. 
  • Toronto: PWHL Toronto has already sold out Scotiabank Arena, the same arena that the Toronto Maple Leafs (of the NHL) play at. PWHL Toronto’s most popular player is Sarah Nurse, who has been on the frontlines of progress in women’s hockey since she was put on the cover of EA alongside Trevor Zegras in 2022.
  • New York: PWHL New York made history when they won the first-ever PWHL match: 4-0 against Toronto on the first day of the year. New York’s most impactful player is Alex Carpenter, who currently leads the league with 11 points for her team: 5 goals and 6 assists. Matching with the other professional women’s sports teams in New York City, PWHL New York’s color is turquoise, just like Gotham FC (soccer) and the NY Liberty (basketball).
  • Ottawa: PWHL Ottawa is currently last in the league. Ottawa’s most exciting player Savannah Harmon made history when she scored a hat trick in the first PWHL 3 vs 3 All-Stars match, helping her team win the game.

With only one month under its belt, the PWHL is still brand new and still growing. If you’re looking to grow into a hockey fan, you may as well do so alongside this exciting growing league.