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PWHL arenas, inaugural markets announced

PWHL logoPro women’s hockey is back in the form of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), which launches New Year’s Day with six teams playing in a variety of venues.

Most of the markets formerly hosted Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) teams, as there are some echoes from that league in the new PWHL. The PHF folded and was sold to investor Mark Walter, chief executive officer of Guggenheim Partners (owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, among other sports holdings) and Billie Jean King Enterprises, who launched the new PWHL in six markets: Boston, Minnesota, Montreal, New York City, Ottawa and Toronto.

We’re not going to get into a long history of why the National Women’s Hockey League and successor Premier Hockey Federation didn’t make it, but suffice it to say some bad timing and undercapitalization were the two biggest factors. In 2023, we saw professional women’s sports emerge as a serious economic player in the sports marketing world with both the NWSL and WNBA making great strides in creating investible offerings, attracting some big bucks to drive up franchise values. Along the way fan interest and sponsorship dollars exploded.

So the PWHL is positioned to operate in a better economic environment. We knew the six markets on the PWHL radar this summer, but since then we received the announcement today of the six arenas hosting PWHL games. (We’re still awaiting team names and branding.) It’s an interesting mix of big-buck NHL arenas and smaller college and community arenas. Here a short look at each:

Boston: Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. Seating 6,000 for hockey, the arena is home to the UMass-Lowell hockey teams and formerly hosted PHF play.

Minnesota: Xcel Energy Center. The home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, the downtown St. Paul arena seats over 18,000 for hockey. It opened in 2000 as a state-of-the-art facility and has held up remarkably well over the years.

Montreal: Verdun Arena and Place Bell in Laval, Quebec. Verdun Arena opened in 1938 and features only 4,114 seats, but it’s one of the most historic venues in Montreal when it comes to junior hockey.

New York: Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut and UBS Arena, home of the New York Islanders. Total Mortgage Arena is home to the Bridgeport Islanders, the top AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders. It seats 10,000 for hockey.

Ottawa: TD Place Arena (the former Ottawa Civic Centre). Opening in December 1967, the current home of the Ottawa 67s was the original home of the Ottawa Senators and the WHA’s Ottawa Nationals and Civics. It seats 6,500 fans.

Toronto: Mattamy Athletic Centre, best known as the former Maple Leaf Gardens. Opening in 1931, this arena and the Montreal Forum were the meccas of Canadian hockey. When the Maple Leafs departed for Scotiabank Arena, Maple Leaf Gardens underwent a renovation: the old seating bowl was converted to a Loblaws grocery store, with a new arena constructed above.

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