Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), TD Place

The evolution of Ottawa’s Professional Women’s Hockey League

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The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) chose Ottawa as one of its six original franchises in summer 2023, after more than a decade without a professional women’s hockey team in the city.

Women’s hockey in Ottawa has faced some serious setbacks. In the late 1800s, women often struggled to find free ice to play on — but they managed to gather for epic games on the Rideau Canal and at Rideau Hall.

During World War I, a mix of local teams including the Ottawa Alerts, began to build the foundation of Ottawa women’s hockey. The Alerts even won the inaugural league championship in 1923. In the 1930s, the team disintegrated, and the Ladies Ontario Hockey Association also disappeared by the end of 1940.

But Ottawa’s hockey legacy continued, with the city hosting the very first IIHF Women’s World Championship in 1990 at TD Place (then known as the Ottawa Civic Centre). The Canadians won gold. The Raiders became Ottawa’s first professional women’s hockey team in 1998, but the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) folded in 2007.

When the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) was established, the Ottawa team was renamed the Capital Canucks. The 2008-09 season saw the team rebranded as the Ottawa Senators, but due to poor game results and a less-than-ideal playing schedule scattered across Ottawa's community rinks, the team left the city just one season later.

The Ottawa franchise of the PWHL has kept these roadblocks in mind. Not only do they have a star roster made up of multiple gold medal-winning Olympians, but access to suitable facilities, financial compensation and travel arrangements have been top-of-mind since the team’s inception.

Most notably, the Ottawa team has claimed TD Place as their home, allowing them to train and play in the same arena. And while all 5 PWHL teams (including Boston, Minnesota, Montreal, New York and Toronto) received the same budget, it was up to each team to allocate where that money went. For example, Ottawa’s General Manager, Mike Hirshfield sees providing mental health resources as critical to the team’s success, so they hired an on-staff mental performance coach, Brenley Shapiro.

Despite a local professional women’s hockey league always being faced with challenges in the city, there’s been a continued fight to support women on ice in Ottawa. In many ways, this iteration of a team has built a solid foundation for continued success. 

In January 2024, hockey history was made in Ottawa when a crowd of 8,318 people attended the Ottawa-Montreal PWHL game, the Ottawa team’s inaugural game. It was the largest audience to watch a professional women’s hockey game — ever. And despite the PWHL Ottawa’s overtime loss, the game reigns as an undeniable win for women in sports.

Fans have continued to generate electric energy throughout the season, reflecting the resilience of Ottawa’s hockey community and the passion for women in sports despite adversity.

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