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Sunday, May 19, 2024

PWHL Playoffs Experience Surge in Attendance. Is Expansion Up Next?

  • The women’s hockey league drew nearly 400,000 fans during its regular season.
  • Minnesota captain Kendall Coyne Schofield chats with Front Office Sports.
Kendall Coyne Schofield
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Professional Women’s Hockey League is seeing more success at its ticket gates during the playoffs after a landmark debut regular season, which drew more than 392,000 fans across 72 games. The first five games of the postseason drew nearly 40,000—almost a 32% increase on the regular season per game average.

“The crowd support has been tremendous,” Minnesota captain Kendall Coyne Schofield (above) tells Front Office Sports. “And obviously, that’s not a given. That has to be earned.” Schofield is the president of the PWHL Players Association and a former captain of the U.S. women’s national hockey team. The three-time Olympian was also a key leader of the PWHPA, which merged with the Premier Hockey Federation last summer after significant financial backing from Dodgers controlling owner Mark Walter. 

Schofield led Minnesota in the PWHL’s inaugural campaign shortly after giving birth to her first child—the subject of a new documentary she stars in, Hockey Mom. Her team will look to avoid elimination against Toronto on Wednesday night. 

On Expansion, NHL, and Media Rights …

The 31-year-old hockey standout caught up with FOS to weigh in on the league’s growth off the ice and what could be coming up. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

If the PWHL expands, which city should it go to first?

Detroit. We gotta go. Fire up the engines. Let’s go to Detroit, because I have full confidence that that market is wanting, willing, able, and will do an incredible job.

How impactful has support from men’s professional hockey been?

There hasn’t been a financial contribution from the NHL, but at the same time, I don’t think we need it. I think we’ve proven we don’t need it, but I will say the support from the teams in-market, specifically for the teams in-market that we have teams in-market, has been tremendous. The PWHPA would get a donation from the NHLPA every year. And so, I think we’re hopeful that we’ll get another donation from the NHLPA to our new union, the PWHLPA, but we haven’t gotten there yet.

Season 1 of the PWHL was broadcast on a variety of regional sports channels and streaming options. What do you hope to see next?

I see them being able to do a pretty lucrative media-rights deal in years to come. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. The league has done an incredible job of spending where they know they have to spend today to get a return on their investment for tomorrow, which so often we didn’t have that investment to then look at it as a return, just more so to get by, to fight another day kind of mindset.

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