• Loading stock data...
Monday, July 15, 2024

PWHL Enjoys Historic Debut Season, Now Must Confront Growth Hurdles

  • Several key business areas will be points of focus for league officials this offseason.
  • The initial success of the PWHL in part ties into a larger groundswell around women’s pro sports.
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Professional Women’s Hockey League is ending a debut season filled with historic successes, but also one that sets up questions about where it takes that initial momentum next. 

The PWHL Minnesota and Boston teams will play a deciding Game 5 of the league final Wednesday at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass. The contest will cap an inaugural season in which the PWHL averaged 5,448 per game in attendance during the regular season, generated further boosts at the gate during the postseason, and tapped into a broader groundswell for women’s pro sports that also has seen historic results over the past year for the NWSL and WNBA. 

During the course of the season, the PWHL set multiple records for the most-attended women’s hockey game, capping with a draw of 21,105 on April 20 at the Bell Centre for a game between the Montreal and Toronto franchises. Primarily backed by Mark Walter, lead owner of MLB’s Dodgers, the PWHL has also enjoyed a significant boost in prominence from the presence of tennis and equal rights icon Billie Jean King, an investor in and adviser to the league. 

Critical To-Do List

But just as the inaugural season is capped as a significant success, there are now several critical areas of focus as the PWHL looks ahead to the second year. Among them:

  • Team identities: The lack of team nicknames—each of the six teams this year was named “PWHL” with its respective market—added to an initial fan focus on the league name. But team names are in development and will be incorporated into a recently completed jersey deal with Bauer that will take full effect with the 2024–25 season.
  • Media rights: The PWHL enjoyed extensive national-level broadcast coverage in Canada, both in English and French. But the U.S. presence was focused primarily on regional sports networks and the league’s YouTube channel. A key initiative for the league will be to expand the U.S. broadcast profile beyond an existing deal with the Women’s Sports Network. 
  • New York: The league’s franchise there averaged a PWHL-worst attendance of 2,496, and played home games in three different venues spanning the states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, complicating efforts to develop a local fan base. Shoring up the PWHL’s presence in the largest U.S. media market will be a key offseason priority. 
  • Expansion: There are several markets in both the U.S. and Canada interested in gaining PWHL franchises, but league officials are putting expansion on the back burner for the second season, choosing to focus instead on further testing of candidate cities with neutral-site games, a measure already done in Pittsburgh and Detroit. 

“When the season’s over, we’re going to review everything—every city, every venue that we’re in, and we’re going to try to improve,” said Stan Kasten, another PWHL advisory board member, a close ally of Walter’s, and a key figure in the development and initial operation of the league. 

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Jun 23, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Paul Skenes (right) reacts as he talks with pitcher Jared Jones (left) after the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at PNC Park.

The Pirates Are Facing Political Pressure to Play Better

Pennsylvania state representatives call on the MLB club to boost its payroll.
Apr 12, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Grayson Allen (8) and guard Devin Booker (1) and guard Bradley Beal (3) and forward Royce O'Neale (00) and forward Kevin Durant (35) huddle up before the final seconds of the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center.

The Suns Have Entered the NBA’s Uncharted, Punitive Territory

The NBA’s first $400 million team between payroll and projected luxury tax.
Apr 25, 2024; Detroit, MI, USA; NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the crowd during the 2024 NFL Draft at Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza.

NFL Will Dip Its Toes in Private Equity by Year’s End

The league is likely to cap PE involvement in teams at 10%.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Formula E is Powering Its Own Future


Featured Today

Jan 7, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at Nissan Stadium.

Without Hard-Line Bans, Pro Athletes and Personnel Will Keep Betting on Sports

Penalties often aren’t stringent or consistent enough to deter banned behavior.
Oct 2, 2021; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goddell speaks during the Don Shula Celebration of Life at Hard Rock Stadium.
July 13, 2024

The NFL Is Confident It Can Overturn the Sunday Ticket Verdict

The league may have good reason to believe it can win.
July 8, 2024

NFLPA Report Cards Have Become the ‘Talk of the Locker Room’ Across..

NFLPA report cards have become the ‘talk of the locker room.’
July 7, 2024

The New College Sports Insiders Are Graphic Designers

Joe Tipton and Hayes Fawcett have become premier news-breakers on social media.

As Another Men’s Golf Major Season Wraps, Still No PGA Tour-LIV Deal

The Open Championship begins Thursday at Royal Troon.
July 10, 2024

Las Vegas Isn’t Becoming an NBA Destination. It Already Is One

Expansion and the in-season tournament are also drawing the NBA to the city.
Jun 9, 2024; Lexington, KY, USA; Oregon State Beavers infielder Travis Bazzana (37) throws the ball during the second inning against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kentucky Proud Park.
July 14, 2024

MLB’s Continued Push to Make Young Stars, and the Draft, Matter

Several league initiatives have led to greater fan familiarity with top prospects.

TopSpin 2K25 Brings the Legends of Tennis to Your Living Room

2K sports is reviving a classic with TopSpin 2K25.
July 10, 2024

Pac-12 Media Days Evolve Into a Cocktail Party at the Bellagio

The two-team ‘zombie conference’ is still hosting a football media day.
Stadium with NFL logo at the mid-field line
July 10, 2024

‘Nonsensical’: NFL Blasts Massive Jury Award in Latest Sunday Ticket Case Filings

The league asked for a new trial and called the damages ‘indefensible.’
July 9, 2024

With Tiger Focused on PIF, U.S. Turns to Netflix Star to Lead Ryder Cup

Keegan Bradley will captain Team USA in 2025.
July 9, 2024

Big 12’s New Era Kicks Off: Expansion, Private Equity, and Global Ambitions

The new 16-team conference is holding media days in Las Vegas.