You can tell a new sports league is off to a good start when they break a world record for attendance in their first week of play.
The PWHL did it twice.
For the league’s second game on January 2nd, PWHL Ottawa capped off an incredible night for women’s and LGBTQ sports by setting a new attendance record of 8,318 at TD Place Arena.
Ottawa had precisely five days to bask in its glory. When PWHL Minnesota staged its home opener on January 6th, they shattered the attendance mark by drawing 13,316 fans to Xcel Energy Center to witness a 3-0 shutout victory over Montreal.
For comparison, that’s more than the 2023 average attendance of some NHL teams, including the San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets.
Minnesota officials were ecstatic about their record breaking crowd and praised their fans’ fervor for the sport.
“Living in the State of Hockey, I knew our fans would show up for us, but today they have taken it to a whole new level,” Minnesota General Manager Natalie Darwitz told the media. “I’ve enjoyed numerous amazing hockey experiences in Minnesota over my career and experiencing today and the record crowd was emotional and ranks near the top of the list.”
Now that the hype has subsided and the league is settling in to the rest of its inaugural season, it will be worth tracking to see how close it gets to reaching those heights again.
During the PWHL’s second week, attendance returned to pre-record-breaking levels, but there were still reasons for encouragement. On Wednesday, Minnesota hosted its second home game and drew 4,707 fans.
It was a comedown from the history-making home opener. But considering that the previous North American women’s hockey attendance record before the PWHL began play was 5,938, Minnesota approaching that figure for a mid-week game still bodes well.
Elsewhere, it appeared that there was still work to do to establish things in the league’s biggest market, as PWHL New York drew 2,201 fans for their first game in Long Island’s UBS Arena.
Nonetheless, the overall news was good for the league. The two nights where PWHL teams broke attendance records will be one of the biggest stories of the its inaugural season and that’s hopefully something to build on.