Where should the next PWHL showcase be? — International women’s hockey headlines

The IX: Hockey Friday with The Ice Garden, July 5, 2024

Another Friday, another set of hockey happenings from The Ice Garden! Emma Sullivan here for Hockey Friday as we wrap up the first week of July. Free agency is in full swing in the PWHL, and we’re already looking forward to next season with an opinion piece on which arenas could and should host league games in 2024-25. Plus, plenty of news from around the international hockey world. Let’s jump in!

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Three arenas I’d like to see host a PWHL game: 

Over the first season of the PWHL, there were a handful of NHL arenas that played host to the league. Pittsburgh and Detroit, notably two cities that aren’t a current PWHL market, held two of the games during Takeover Weekend. A crowd of 8,850 fans attended at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, and another 13,736 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit back in March. 

Heading into Year 2, upholding this tradition (similar to how other leagues play games outside of their standard markets), would be an interesting tactic on the league’s part. Though there’s no indication it’s in the plans as of yet, here are three venues I think could work for PWHL games.  

Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

As of right now, Philadelphia is one of the biggest cities in the United States that does not have an active professional women’s sports team. The NWSL, WNBA and PWHL have not expanded there, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an interest in women’s sports. 

Philly has long been a sports hub, and considering the recent success of the majority of their teams (sorry Flyers), there’s a keen interest for more. So why not try out a PWHL game at the Wells Fargo Center sometime this next season? The arena can hold over 19,000 people for a hockey contest, and even if the league can’t fill the entire capacity, there’s no reason to believe they won’t be able to get at least the lower bowl packed with fans. Not to mention, if things go well, it could be the beginning for the first professional women’s league to be in Philadelphia, something fans could definitely get behind. If I were in the league’s head office, I’d be making some calls to see what vacancies the arena has open in the next 10 months. 

Videotron Centre — Québec City, Québec

Now hear me out. Québec City doesn’t actively have a professional team in any sport — even though the city has long been trying to get the NHL to return following the Nordiques departure 30 years ago. The Quebec Remparts, who play in the QMJHL, have averaged around 9,000 fans per game for the better part of the last decade, and there’s no reason to believe the PWHL wouldn’t be able to draw similar if not better numbers for a one-off game. 

It’s undoubtedly a hockey-hungry market, and tapping into that could result in huge success for the league. It would be a great way to continue to grow the PWHL in another Canadian market where the league has seen success to begin with. Not to mention that Québec City has also already seen the success of a professional women’s hockey team in the Quebec Avalanche, who played in the city between 1999 and 2007 in the NWHL.  

United Center — Chicago, Illinois 

Hockey in Chicago has a long history, even if the last few seasons have been mainly horrifying (for lack of a better word) off the ice for their NHL club. However, the city’s support of women’s sports as a whole has been rock solid, and there’s no reason to think a PWHL showcase game would be any different. With the aforementioned success in Detroit — plus PWHL Minnesota’s attendance numbers at the Xcel Center in St. Paul — Chicago seems to me like the next market that could be perfect for a showcase game. 

The United Center in Chicago has a seating capacity of 19,700+, but standing room increases that number by another 3,000. The other suggestion I have is perhaps trying to play an outdoor game at Wrigley Field following the NHL’s Winter Classic. NCAA teams will also potentially be playing on the ice surface following the NHL’s game — something we’ve seen work at various stadiums that have hosted outdoor NHL games — including two years ago when multiple programs played on the ice at Fenway Park in Boston. It would be an interesting way to grow the game, and provide an opportunity to play in an outdoor venue. 

+1 — Bigger arenas in the current markets 

This one is a little different than the other three locations on the list, considering it has to do with markets where teams already play. Ottawa, Boston and New York make up half of the original six teams — however, they also have three arenas in their markets that haven’t yet seen a league game.

At the top of the list is Ottawa, which consistently had the best attendance numbers all season. TD Place, where the team called home this past year, saw an average of 7,496 fans attend every game. It was the highest average of the teams, even while some of the other markets played home games in larger capacity stadiums.

Which leads me to my request — let PWHL Ottawa play a game at Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Senators. Yes, there’s already the issue of attendance in that arena considering the distance between downtown Ottawa and the building itself. However, after seeing the success of games held in Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena and Montréal’s Bell Centre, I think Ottawa can have a similar success story playing at the 18,652-seat building. For one game, at the very least. 

Then we have Boston, which played the majority of its home games in Lowell, MA — 45 minutes from downtown Boston. For Game 5 of the Walter Cup Final, many fans were hoping to move the game from the smaller Tsongas Center to a larger venue, the one I’m proposing to host a game this season — TD Garden. 

After the success of this past season for PWHL Boston — not to mention the long history of women’s hockey in the city, including the PHF’s Boston Pride — this market would be perfect to host a PWHL game. Even last year’s Beanpot on the women’s side drew a large crowd, and there’s no doubt that a professional game would be able to draw even more — especially if it’s a rivalry matchup between Montréal and Boston in the nearly 18,000-seat arena. It would be perfect, and I hope the league is able to play at least one game there over the course of next season. 

The last arena is simple but probably a bit further off than the other two — Madison Square Garden. PWHL New York has struggled with attendance, as playing games in Connecticut didn’t pan out the way they’d hoped. However, towards the end of the season, the team played at both UBS Arena on Long Island and the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Playing a game at MSG would complete the trifecta of NHL arenas in the area, and would be an interesting venue to see a PWHL game. While it’s not likely, considering how often MSG is booked out for various events, it would still be a cool place to see a PWHL game.

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Two special notes 

First off, the U.S. National Team was crowned champions of the International Street and Ball Hockey Federation Championships last week. The team took down Czechia 3-0 in the final matchup of the tournament, held in Visp-Raron, Switzerland. It’s the first ever gold medal at the women’s ball hockey championships for Team USA, and the first medal in the tournament since 2019. Congratulations to them!

Second, on Wednesday the Seattle Kraken made it official and promoted AHL assistant coach Jessica Campbell to a spot on the coaching staff of their NHL club. Campbell will become the first woman in history to serve as a full-time NHL assistant coach when the Kraken return to the ice in October. Campbell, 32, won a silver medal at the IIHF World Championships with Team Canada in 2015 as a player and was captain of the gold-medal winning U18 team in 2010. 

After graduating from Cornell (where she played 131 games across four seasons), Campbell played professionally with the Calgary Inferno of the CWHL and the Mälmo Redhawks in Sweden — where she was also a skating coach — following her retirement from professional hockey in 2020. She served as an assistant coach of the Coachella Valley Firebirds for the last two seasons, and will now continue in a similar position on Seattle’s coaching staff. 

Alison Lukan, a broadcaster in Seattle who covers the Kraken, posted a thread focusing on other women who have been hired in the NHL over the last few years. I’ve attached it below.

Congratulations to Jessica! 

Latest in the game 

The future stars of Canada — The Ice Garden

Earlier this week, Geremy at The Ice Garden profiled some of the rising talent in the Canadian pipeline, including names such as Chloe Primerano and Ève Gascon. For an in-depth look at who to look out for in the next few years in Canada, this story has you covered. 

The newest hockey movie: Inside Out 2 — The Ice Garden

TIG’s very own Maya Smith journeyed to the movie theaters last week and got to see the newest Disney film Inside Out 2, which highlights the early teenage years of Riley, a rising hockey star. For a review on the movie as a whole, read Maya’s thoughts above. 

Klára Peslarová ready for whatever role is to come — The Hockey News

Czechia national team netminder and current free agent Klára Peslarová sat down with THN’s Cee Benwell to discuss everything from her comeback from a rough knee injury in 2022 to Peslarová’s time on the national team. For the entire interview, check out the link above. 

Before Canada and USA, the original rivalry series featured England and France — The Hockey News

Looking for some longer feature content to read over the weekend? THN has an interesting in-depth piece looking at the long history between France and England that began in the 1930s. For more information, and some photographs to boot, this story has it all. 

2024 draft recap: Minnesota — The Victory Press

VP continues a series of recaps on each team’s 2024 draft and the latest is reigning Walter Cup champion Minnesota — the most controversial of the six teams. Be sure to check out the recap above from Zoë Hayden.

Looking for all the free agent signings in the PWHL? Look no further than The Ice Garden’s free agency tracker.

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