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A new era for women’s hockey: PWHL’s Battle of Bay Street sets new attendance record

Courtesy of PWHL

TORONTO - The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) game between Toronto and Montreal shattered the all-time attendance record for a women’s hockey game.

Friday’s clash at Scotiabank Arena between Montreal and Toronto’s new PWHL teams marked a historic moment in ice hockey history, drawing a crowd of 19,825, surpassing the previous all-time women’s attendance record set during the 2013 world championships in Ottawa, which drew a crowd of 18,013.

The PWHL has been a league of firsts, previously setting new attendance records for women’s professional hockey games – in Ottawa (8,318) on Jan. 2, and then four days later in Minnesota (13,316); a game in Montreal on Jan. 27 broke the record for the most fans (8,646) at a pro game in Canada. However, Friday night’s matchup marked the largest crowd ever to watch women’s hockey, surpassing attendance at the Olympics, world championships, and NCAA competition.

Toronto’s head coach, Troy Ryan, shared his perspective on the game, stating, “I like to think that I’ve been in some pressure situations or some exciting situations, but even as a middle-aged man walking on the bench, I was emotional.” Ryan, who has coached Team Canada to two world championships and Olympic gold, added, “So you can imagine how some of the players who have fought so long to get these opportunities felt.”

The historic confrontation, dubbed 'The Battle on Bay Street,' was not initially scheduled to be held at Scotiabank Arena, also the home to the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and NBA’s Toronto Raptors. However, after every PWHL Toronto home game at Mattamy Athletic Centre sold out, the league sought to accommodate the city's demand for more capacity.

Toronto emerged victorious in the battle with a final score of 3-0. Toronto’s goalie, Kristen Campbell, played a pivotal role in the win with 30 blocked shots on goal, emphasizing how “...this game just shows the demand for women's hockey, women's sport, and playing in this venue.”

The game's defining moments came in the third period when Jesse Compher, Hannah Miller, and Victoria Bach found the back of the net, securing the win for Toronto. Compher and Bach scored their first PWHL goals, while Miller scored on her 28th birthday, stating, “That was probably the coolest birthday ever.”

Looking ahead, what’s next for the PWHL in terms of record-breaking attendance? For the league, the only thing better than selling over 19,000 tickets in Toronto could potentially be selling 21,000 at Bell Centre in Montreal, if the opportunity were to arise.

Montreal head coach Kori Cheverie kept her response simple, stating, “I would like to break their record. That would be nice.”

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