PWHL showcase draws a record 16.4K crowd at NHL All-Star Weekend
The GIST: The stars were out last Thursday during NHL All-Star Weekend, but Justin Bieber wasn’t the only one to steal the show. PWHL players shone in a 3-on-3 showcase in front of 16.4K fans at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, marking the first complete official event for women’s hockey at All-Star Weekend. Took our sticks up to the North, yeah.
The context: Women’s hockey is relatively new to the NHL event. In 2019, Team USA’s Kendall Coyne Schofield became the first woman to compete in an NHL All-Star Skills Competition. Her participation in the Fastest Skater competition was a pivotal moment for the hockey world — as Coyne Schofield put it, everyone watching recognized women belong on the ice.
- Since then, Coyne Schofield has continued to build a platform for women’s hockey — first with the PWHPA, and now with the PWHL as Minnesota’s captain. The NHL has passed her the puck plenty of times, too.
- Months after her All-Star appearance in 2019, the San Jose Sharks tapped her for the broadcasting booth. And in 2020, her hometown Chicago Blackhawks employed her as a player development coach and helped her create an all-girls developmental program.
The demand: The 3-on-3 crowd was massive, but even more fans are slated to attend a full PWHL match between Toronto and Montreal at Scotiabank Arena on February 16th. Billed as “the Battle on Bay Street,” the rivalry match sold out 18.8K seats in minutes, matching the Toronto Maple Leafs’ average of 18.7K fans at Scotiabank home games.
- PWHL Toronto may have won the attendance record battle, but Montréal could win the war. There are still two PWHL games with TBD venues, including a Toronto at Montréal rematch that could be hosted by the 21.1K-seater Bell Centre.
Key learnings: The PWHL can sell out arenas on its own, but NHL assists over the past few years have given women a bigger presence on the ice. The cross-league collab makes too much sense, and it's something other leagues like MLS and the NWSL or the NBA and WNBA could learn from. It’s the way you lift them up.