The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) kicked off the new year with a riveting debut game, where New York triumphed over Toronto with a resounding 4-0 victory on Monday.
Tennis legend and gender equality advocate Billie Jean King, a key investor in PWHL, set the stage by dropping the ceremonial first puck in front of a sold-out crowd of 2,537 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, a transformed arena within the historic Maple Leaf Gardens.
The newly formed six-team league, featuring clubs in Boston, Minnesota, Ottawa, and Montreal, unites elite female hockey players from the United States and Canada, many of whom boast impressive records at the Winter Olympics. The inaugural goal in PWHL history was netted by New York’s Ella Shelton just 10:43 into the opening period, marking a momentous milestone for the league.
Reflecting on the achievement, Shelton expressed her surprise at being the historic goal-scorer, stating, “It sounds pretty surreal to hear that. When I think of it, I just think of the group we have and how special it has been.” Additional third-period goals by Alex Carpenter, Jill Saulnier, and Kayla Vespa secured New York’s victory, with Corinne Schroeder delivering a stellar performance in goal with 29 saves for a shutout.
As the PWHL regular season gains momentum, the league is set to captivate fans until early May, culminating in playoffs that promise to intensify the competition. Shelton shared her excitement, saying, “What I’ll remember is just the atmosphere that came around this first game for women’s hockey. Pretty exciting to see a sold-out crowd and to see little girls that are fans… and hopefully inspire them to want to be a professional player in their future.”