OT: PWHL takes the ice

PWHL Toronto celebrates after scoring a goal. Photo courtesy of cbc.ca

JULIA LORELLI | SPORTS REPORTER | jlorelli@butler.edu 

Overtime, or “OT”, is an opinion column series where the Collegian takes national sports headlines or polarizing topics and gives them a Butler-centric angle

107 years after the NHL’s inaugural season in 1917, the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) started theirs. PWHL New York beat PWHL Toronto 4-0 in the league’s first game on Jan. 1. 

The PWHL’s inaugural season mimics that of the NHL with six original teams. However, the league has three teams in the United States and three in Canada, while the NHL started with four teams in the U.S. and two in Canada. The PWHL has teams in Minnesota, New York, Boston, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa

Junior statistics major Hallie Nuccio has grown up watching hockey and thinks that six is a good number of teams to start with, but hopes the league will grow in the future. 

“It gives a broad enough spectrum where you can almost cover the entire United States, which is nice,” Nuccio said. “ I think if they would have started too high then they could have lost a lot of money. With the NHL having the original six, that’s like a call back to that.  I think six allows enough room for it to grow in the future.” 

In order to get the new league up and running, the PWHL delayed branding the teams with unique logos and names, which will be determined at a later date. For the 2024 season, each team will be identified by its location and color. 

First-year elementary education major Ellie Wells is a hockey fan and believes that taking time to create logos will eventually help the league in the future. 

“Creating a logo takes a lot of time,” Wells said. “It’s because people are very picky and you can’t really copy off someone else’s logo, but having a logo in the future will definitely help them.” 

As Wells pointed out, future branding could advance the promotion of the league. Sports logos are the visual personification of teams and leagues. A well-designed sports logo serves as a visual identity that distinguishes a team from its competitors. 

Even though it has taken a long time to get a professional league formed for women, it is apparent that they were knocking on the door for many years before it was finally opened. 

Junior healthcare & business major Rachel Meighan believes it has taken a long time for women to get their own league because hockey is a relatively newer sport compared to other sports like baseball. The first NHL game was played in 1917 in Canada while the first MLB game was played in 1871. 

Hockey also falls into the category of male-dominated sports. Even with the growth of the sport, many girls are forced to play on a boys team until they reach a certain age where there are all-girls teams. The formation of the PWHL will encourage more girls to play hockey because they’ll now have female role models to look up to instead of just men hockey players. 

“I wish I had grown up being able to watch the women,” Meighan said. “I think that would have been really cool. Instead, I just grew up watching the NHL. I didn’t know anything different, but I know it’s definitely come a long way.” 

The PWHL will also help encourage young girls to increase their leadership skills and show how sports teach more lessons than just how to play them. 

“Growing up, hockey has been my favorite sport, but I never thought that it would go anywhere, so I never played it growing up,” Nuccio said. “[The PWHL] will provide so many opportunities for girls to not only improve in hockey but also in their leadership skills. It’s important that the PWHL was created because it shows that these little girls can do something in life and there’s more hockey after college.” 

There have been several events in the NHL that have showcased women doing the same skills as well as or better than men. While the women have had to fight hard to be heard, the amount of support that they have had from each other and other believers made this dream a reality. 

“[Women hockey players] did a lot of pushing themselves,” Meighan said. “When it comes from the people who are so passionate, they should be able to play professionally. They eventually got support from people who have a big foot in the sports industry. There are a lot of men who are very respected in the sports industry, who then started supporting it, and I think that helped the movement a ton.” 

Even though there are some people who critique women’s sports and say that people do not care, the PWHL is quickly proving the naysayers wrong. As evidence of this, hockey fans were quick to get tickets to PWHL games and all of Canada’s PWHL teams sold out their home opener games. 

Since checking is not allowed in women’s hockey, their games are more about speed and skill than being aggressive. This allows the women to show that they are truly gifted players and do not rely on aggression to get where they are. 

Wells is very supportive of young girls having new opportunities since our generation is all about taking action and changing the world for the better. 

“We’ve done a lot,” Wells said. “We’ve gotten rid of all kinds of standards, which I think is great. They don’t have to stay in one lane like, ‘Oh, girls are supposed to dress pretty and have this certain kind of life that everyone’s been telling them.’ Now they can do whatever they want.” 

A constant message that the current PWHL players have put out is that they want to keep playing to give young girls the chances that they never had. Putting a spotlight on the PWHL allows girls to see strong-willed women continue to break the stereotype that hockey is only for boys. 

“Seeing all these young girls getting to go to this game and the stadium is full, that is so cool,” Meighan said. “They get to grow up being like, ‘I could actually make a career out of this.’” 


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