Ice Time. Earned. – PWHL Boston and the Impact of Women’s Hockey in Boston

By Megan Reynolds

           Part of the Original Six of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), women’s hockey has returned to Boston. Aptly named PWHL Boston, the team is currently playing their inaugural season out of Tsongas Arena in Lowell, MA. Fans of women’s hockey in Boston will recognize Hilary Knight from the Boston Pride—Boston’s team from the folded Premier Hockey Federation (PHF)—who was named captain of PWHL Boston and honored by Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. Other players include Boston Pride’s Alina Müller (alumni of the Northeastern Huskies, two-time Olympian and bronze medal winner with the Swiss National Team, and 3rd pick overall in the September PWHL Draft), forward Hannah Brandt (two-time Olympian – gold and silver – with Team USA, participant in six International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) tournaments, and winner of the Isobel Cup with the 2018-19 Minnesota Whitecaps), and goaltender Aerin Frankel (alumni of the Northeastern Huskies, multi-time competitor with the US Women’s National Team for IIHF tournaments, and Hockey East Player of the Year and Goaltender of the Year in the collegiate 2020-2021 season).

           The PWHL is just one of many professional women’s hockey leagues that have popped up in recent years. The league was founded in June of 2023 when the PHF folded and was bought out by the Mark Walker Group and Billie Jean King Enterprises. It is the hope of the league and all women and girl hockey players that the PWHL will finally be the professional women’s hockey league that is permanent. 

           PWHL Boston is joined by teams in New York, Minnesota, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto. Fans will recognize that these six women’s teams nearly mirror the Original Six teams of the NHL with Boston, New York, Montreal, and Toronto as the common team locations. The importance of these locations not only shows the relationship between the original NHL teams and the original PWHL teams, but it also shows the effort that the league put in to create that connection. For Boston, being home to one of the original six PWHL teams as well as the first United States-based NHL team places the city into the hockey spotlight yet again and for many years to come.

           Moving past the simple connections between the PWHL teams and the NHL, there is an even bigger significance of the foundation of this professional women’s hockey league. Prior to the PWHL, there were multiple professional women’s hockey leagues operating at one time. Now, the PWHL is the only professional league operating for women’s hockey. It is the first time young girls get to watch women play hockey in a unified league. Backed by an eight-year collective bargaining agreement, the PWHL stands for hope and the promise to young girls playing hockey that there will be a professional league for them to play in just like young boys playing hockey have. This collective bargaining agreement also guarantees living wages, training resources, and ice time. This wasn’t always the case in the previous leagues. The PWHL stands as a sign that equality in sports is moving in the right direction.

           The PWHL Boston team gives Massachusetts’ and New England’s female youth hockey players a team to grow up watching and dreaming of playing for their favorite hockey team. I played hockey for nearly ten years when I was growing up and hockey is still a huge part of my life. The Boston Bruins are my favorite sports team and will continue to be. However, as a participant of Try Hockey for Free for Girls nearly twenty years ago and who fell in love with the sport, seeing the impact that PWHL Boston has on New England’s girl hockey players makes the young girl who grew up playing hockey in me beam with joy. I was able to attend a PWHL Boston game earlier in March (we beat New York 3-2 in OT) and being able to witness multiple female youth hockey teams holding signs, trading friendship bracelets with players, and crowding the boards during warmups shows the impact these women have on their fans. And there weren’t just young girls excited to be there. There were plenty of young boys with signs cheering on their favorite player. Both girls and boys need strong female role models to look up to and PWHL Boston provides this community with a whole team of role models.

           The other important aspect of PWHL Boston, and the league in general, is the impact the formation of the league has on the women participating. Boston’s players also dreamed of playing in a professional league when they grew up. Whether it was for their favorite NHL team, the professional teams in their home countries or, more importantly, a professional hockey league created just for them. The majority of the current players across the entire PWHL participated on teams in the PHF and when that league folded in 2023, there was an air of uncertainty of what was next for these women. However, thanks to those with the best interest in women’s hockey, such as Billie Jean King, the PWHL Boston and the other Original Six teams provide a sense of security for these talented players.

           As the Professional Women’s Hockey League aptly puts it, ice time has definitely been earned.

About the Curator’s Corner

Richard Johnson’s “Curator’s Corner” is  where you will find videos featuring Richard and Sports Museum Executive Director, Rusty Sullivan, discussing Boston sports history, as well as blog posts written by Richard himself.

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