The PWHL - Professional Woman's Hockey League - has begun play, and the criticisms of women's hockey are being thrown aside. From "it's not physical enough" to "no one will show up" have already been debunked. As of January 22, general merchandise for the league has already sold out. Furthermore, three weeks into the inaugural season, there have been far more hits and tussles than anyone likely expected.
Thus far, the PWHL has had over 72,500 attendees across 15 games, based on data collected from current gamesheets. If grouped, this is almost the equivalent of selling out American Airlines Center four times, which has a capacity of roughly 18,500. With an estimated 1,500 more attendees, hitting 74,000 would solidify that statistic. Minnesota's PWHL team currently has the highest attendance among the league's teams. The team with the lowest attendance thus far has been New York, though the state has been experiencing severe inclement weather and travel bans, causing game cancellations for even the NHL.
At the start of Week 4, things are already promising for the PWHL. I, for one, would love to see the league succeed and continue long into the future. Already, it has recognizable star talent, including Kendall Coyne Schofield, who currently serves as Minnesota's captain. Also in the league are Hilary Knight and other Olympic hockey fans have already heard of in recent years. The players are some of the best who have already been seen at NHL events, such as 2019 and 2020's NHL All-Star Weekends, or in guest analyst roles for select games.
There is no reason female hockey players can't become sports household names, considering many Olympians are already well-known in Canada, such as Amanda Kessel, who is presently in a hockey ops role with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The PWHL also provides a global opportunity for players, considering it isn't just Canadians and Americans on the team. There are players from Sweden, Hungary, and Japan. The league also has its first Indigenous player, Abby Roque, who is part of the Wahnapitae First Nation. With the NHL pushing to get more people into the sport as a whole, the PWHL makes a lot of sense, providing more players the chance to play hockey professionally.
With growing star power, a possible global market, physicality, and decent attendance for its start, the PWHL is a bright light in the current hockey scene. It has plenty of room to grow and hasn't seen an entire month of play yet. Naysayers have said women's speed isn't enough to be entertaining, but physicality hasn't been lacking. The only thing better than having the PWHL would be having an expansion team based in Dallas within the league. The city already has multiple levels of hockey that it supports, as well as a WNBA team. While I enjoy basketball, hockey is my top sport, and having more hockey is not a bad thing. That alone discounts many assumptions about the sport. In my opinion, the PWHL has all the base ingredients it needs to succeed; it just needs to continue providing a great product to maintain its momentum, grow its fanbase, and expand into Texas.