Don’t sleep on women’s ice hockey: column

Women’s ice hockey is one of the most underrated sports out there

Women’s ice hockey is one of the most underrated sports out there.


It often gains a little traction during Winter Olympic years but then dies down until the next one. There is only one key difference between women’s hockey and men’s and that is checking.


Women are not allowed to lower their shoulder into another player as they make contact making it a “check.” They are able to make body on body contact as long as the shoulder does not drop. However, that does not mean there’s lack of contact on the play or the intensity of the game isn’t there.


I can promise you there is. The game is about finesse and strategy. One cannot just put their opponent through the boards to steal the puck. They must time their interaction and strike at the right moment to steal the puck.


The women’s game is a beautiful game to watch. It has high speed, interesting defensive plays, and great scoring opportunities.


However, the women’s game does not get the respect it deserves. I can promise you, that going to a game will change your mind. Yes, there is a professional women’s ice hockey league and yes, it is picking up steam.per


Are you late to the party? Let me catch you up!


In 2015, the National Women’s Hockey League (now known as the Premier Hockey Federation) was founded with just five teams. These teams were the Boston Pride, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters, Minnesota White Caps, and Buffalo Beauts.


The league has now added two more team; the Montreal Force and the Toronto Six. Originally the NWHL was built as a single ownership group, which owned all five teams. In 2019, the league began to sell teams to new owners as a way to build a more sustainable program long term.


The goal of the league is to provide a livable wage to their players while also expanding the women’s game. Sasha Lanser; the Skating Director at Warrior Ice Arena, which is home to the Boston Pride team was asked about if she has seen an increase in female participants in her younger programs.


“I would say it’s around 65-70 percent female for Learn to Skate and around 20-25 percent for Learn to Play Hockey,” Lanser said. “There has definitely been an increase.”


Games at Warrior Arena are generally sold out unless you want to find a place to stand. USA Hockey participant numbers would support this claim as it reported that in 2015 there were 73,076 female players and in 2022 there was an increase to 91,254 total female players registered. Visibility matters and having a higher goal such as a professional program, can bring more participation which results in a more competitive game.


Prior to 2015, careers would end as players graduated from college. For a select few, the National Team was a destination however it was not until 2018 and a long 15-month battle that the women’s team was paid a livable wage.


The lack of financial compensation led many players to retire before their time was up. Interestingly, during the first three years while the US team was not being paid well, most played in the league and have since left. This may change as the league will be under new ownership in 2024 with a goal to bring the most competitive players to the league and give the ultimate fan experience.


In a press release, new 2024 owner Mark Walter said, “I have always believed that professional sports should bring the highest levels of performance and organization, and this new league will have the backing and resources it needs to represent the very best of women’s hockey.”


As all competitive and professional leagues must have, the Premier Hockey Foundation has its own league championship called the Isobel Cup. Isobel was said to be Lord Stanley’s daughter and first female hockey player giving a direct connection and nod to the NHL’s Stanley Cup. The playoff format is the top four teams at the end of the 24-game season will play in the play-off.


The semi-finals are best of three games and winner moves onto the Isobel Cup, which is a one-game showdown. Last season, the Toronto Six beat the Minnesota Whitecaps 4-3 in an overtime win giving Toronto Six and Canada their first Isobel Cup Championship win. The game was played at the NHL Arizona Coyotes’ home ice and there were over 1,500 fans in attendance.


The Coyotes’ have struggled to fill their own arena so the question begs, would attendance numbers increase if played in a venue closer to the league’s home rinks? The game was broadcasted on ESPN2 and ESPN+ where most local games can be found.


The 2023 season schedule has not yet posted but normally begins in November and spans through March. There was a 900 percent increase in salary cap for this upcoming season. This will make the field that much more competitive.


If you’ve been waiting for an invitation to see one of the best games out there, consider this your invitation that won’t get lost in the mail. Supporting women’s professional leagues only makes the sport stronger and little girls dreams bigger.


Megan Sayre-Scibona is a FAN freelance writer who lives in Woburn, Massachusetts. 

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