Historic season opener at Mattamy Athletic Centre
TORONTO, ON (January 1, 2024) – The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) rings in the New Year with the very first regular season game in league history between Toronto and visiting New York at 12:30 p.m. ET at Mattamy Athletic Centre.
WHERE TO WATCH
The PWHL season opener is available to Canadian viewers live on CBC, TSN, and Sportsnet national television feeds, streamed on CBC Gem, cbcsports.ca, the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices, TSN.ca, the TSN app, and Sportsnet+. French-language coverage will appear on ICI TOU.TV. Fans in the United States can watch on MSG Networks, NESN, and streamed on the league’s YouTube channel. Coverage begins at 12:00 p.m. ET with an on-site studio pre-game show.
BILLIE JEAN KING
Performing the ceremonial faceoff is legendary sports icon and equality champion, Billie Jean King, who serves as a PWHL Advisory Board member. She also helped launch the inaugural PWHL Draft in Toronto back on September 18 with a powerful introduction that included the following: “This is an incredible moment, but this was never about a single moment. It was about a movement. Finally giving women professional hockey players the structure, the support and the sport they deserve. That hockey deserves. I proudly stand here celebrating these trailblazers. And the best part? We are just getting started. The PWHL is just getting started.”
TALE OF TWO TIMELINES
Game One of Season One for the PWHL will take place 125 days after the league was announced on August 29, 2023. Game One at Mattamy Athletic Centre, the former Maple Leaf Gardens, knows a little something about aggressive timelines: Construction began there on June 1, 1931, and MLG opened a mere 164 days later, on November 12, with the Maple Leafs losing 2-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks before going on to win the Stanley Cup.
BACK AT THE MAC
Professional women’s hockey is no stranger to Mattamy Athletic Centre. On January 12, 2020 it was home to the PWHPA’s Dream Gap Tour where Team Daoust skated to an 8-0 victory over a Team Spooner roster that featured Toronto’s Natalie Spooner, Renata Fast, Brittany Howard, and Sarah Nurse. New York’s Jill Saulnier and Toronto’s Lauriane Rougeau suited up for the winning side. Last season, the PHF All-Star Showcase was played at MAC on January 29, 2023. New York netminder Corinne Schroeder backstopped PHF Team Canada to victory, forward Jade Downie-Landry scored the winning goal, and Howard tied for the event’s scoring lead. New York’s Taylor Baker, Élizabeth Giguère, Madison Packer, Emma Woods, Olivia Zafuto, and Toronto’s Kali Flanagan also participated. The PHF returned to MAC for a three-game playoff semifinal series between the Connecticut Whale and Toronto Six that ended with a 3-0 shutout victory on March 20 for the hosts. Woods was game two’s overtime hero and went on to hoist the Isobel Cup a week later alongside Howard and Toronto goaltender Carly Jackson.
THIS TIME IT COUNTS
New York defeated Toronto 7-4 on December 7 in one of nine scrimmages played during the league’s pre-season evaluation camp in Utica, New York. The victory secured a perfect 3-0 record for New York, powered by an Emma Woods hat-trick that included the game-tying goal with under three minutes to play in regulation. Jessie Eldridge scored her third goal in as many games to seal the victory six seconds before the buzzer. Savannah Norcross scored the team’s first goal, and Jaime Bourbonnais found the net in the overtime period. Renata Fast tallied twice for Toronto, Rebecca Leslie scored a goal and an assist, and Maggie Connors had one goal. The shootout went eight rounds and was ended by New York’s Jill Saulnier. Lindsey Post emerged victorious with 37 saves.
OH CAPTAINS, MY CAPTAINS
New York’s Micah Zandee-Hart became the first player appointed captain of a PWHL team, announced during a special event held on December 21 at the famous Rink at Rockefeller Center. Forward Alex Carpenter and defender Ella Shelton were named the team’s alternates. Wearing the ‘C’ for Toronto is forward Blayre Turnbull, with defenders Renata Fast and Jocelyne Larocque named alternates. The team also used a famous sheet of ice to unveil its leaders Saturday on social media, surrounded by fans on the rink in front of the illuminated Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square.
HOME SWEET HOME ONTARIO
Of the 52 players listed on both rosters, 19 are from Ontario and will make today’s opening game extra special in front of friends and family. Toronto has 11 players from the province including hometown hero Natalie Spooner (Scarborough). Victoria Bach (Milton), Renata Fast (Burlington), Emma Maltais (Burlington), Sarah Nurse (Hamilton), and Alex Vasko (St. Catharines) are all from just outside the GTA, plus Samantha Cogan (Ottawa), Brittany Howard (St. Thomas), Erica Howe (Orleans), Jess Jones (Picton), and Rebecca Leslie (Ottawa). There are eight players on New York who hail from Ontario including Taylor Baker and Claire Thompson who call Toronto home, plus Jaime Bourbonnais from Mississauga. There’s also Jessie Eldridge (Barrie), Carley Olivier (Sudbury), Ella Shelton (Ingersoll), Kayla Vespa (Hamilton), and Emma Woods (Burford). One of the referees is Lacey Senuk, who was born in Alberta but whose parents moved to Toronto when she was a youngster. Linesperson Erin Zach, also assigned to Monday’s game, is from nearby Cambridge.
WELCOME TO THE PROS
The league has a total of 33 players beginning their pro careers after graduating from collegiate programs in 2023. Monday’s game may include eight of them, including Toronto’s Jesse Compher (Wisconsin), Maggie Connors (Princeton), Emma Maltais (Ohio State), and Maude Poulin-Labelle (Northeastern). First-year pros dressed for New York include Paetyn Levis (Ohio State), Abigail Levy (Boston College), Savannah Norcross (Minnesota), and Chloé Aurard (Northeastern) who will become the first player from France to play professional hockey in North America.
In addition to Lacey Senuk, referee Jake Kamrass (Atlanta, Georgia) will work the opening game along with Antoine Bujold-Roux (Ottawa and Albany, New York) who joins Erin Zach on the lines…Puck drop is expected at approximately 12:44 p.m. ET following player introductions and opening ceremonies…The Hockey Hall of Fame will be on hand to collect items to commemorate the historic event…Fans in attendance will enjoy an immersive lighting experience courtesy of PixMob, rally towels, and chances to win prizes from Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, and Air Canada.
Nurse | Turnbull | Cogan
Connors | Compher | Spooner
Miller | Maltais | Howard
Willoughby | Vasko | Leslie
Larocque | Fast
Rougeau | Flanagan
Munroe | Knowles
Campbell | Howe
Levis | Carpenter | Eldridge
Woods | Roque | Giguere
Saulnier | Downie-Landry | Aurard
Vespa | Labelle | Norcross
Shelton | Bourbonnais
Hobson | Fallman
Baker | Zafuto
Schroeder | Levy