In the crisp aura of anticipation that precedes a new era in sports, players in the nascent Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) are awash with an excitement that harks back to childhood wonder. Montreal’s goaltender, Marlené Boissonnault, likened it to “that Christmas morning feeling of something extraordinary that is about to unveil here.”
The thrill is contagious among the athletes as teammate Sarah Bujold confides. In just a breath’s time, they will glide onto the ice to the roar of thousands in the stands and the gaze of countless spectators afar. The specter of nerves barely registers against the pulsing heartbeat of glee they share—finally, they stand poised to compete with and among the finest in their sport.
The historic season ignites on New Year’s Day in a face-off between Toronto and New York, inaugurating a 72-game crusade toward victory. The league boasts a distinguished collection of six teams, with Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, and Minnesota completing the roster.
The scouring winds of adversity have swept over women’s hockey in the past—the folding of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2019, the buyout of the U.S. National Women’s Hockey League—but these have only cleared the path for this best-on-best league, a vessel for the dreams of future generations.
For New York forward Jill Saulnier, forming the PWHL was an investment in endurance, in the creation of a legacy where “young girls can dream to be part of it one day.” The opening day has already etched its mark, with sold-out games in Toronto—a testament to the hunger for women’s professional hockey. Montreal and Ottawa report a similarly enthusiastic response, as tickets disappear in droves.
Hailing from the Maritimes, six stoic players stand testament to the region’s pride. Among them, Toronto’s captain Blayre Turnbull and head coach Troy Ryan bring a touch of Nova Scotian grit, while Jill Saulnier, the sole Maritimer adorning New York’s roster, jests about leaving friendships at the ice’s edge—a battle awaits, and camaraderie subsides in the scintillating competition.
The Maritime threads interlace intricately. Boissonnault shares a serendipitous connection to fellow New Brunswicker, Bujold—a quirky twist of fate tying her hockey journey to familial roots. Together they relish the proximity to home, a welcome novelty after careers that have spanned global horizons.
As the league propels forward, with games broadcasted on television and a collective bargaining agreement securing the players through 2031, it stands on the shoulders of pioneers. Billie Jean King’s presence echoes the valorous past of women’s sports advocacy, while the financial heft of Mark Walter and Kimbra Walter injects the league with the lifeblood of sustainability.
The PWHL represents not just the pinnacle of the athletes’ aspirations, but a beacon for the generations that skated in shadows—without prospects, without a professional stage. Bujold muses on her past, a timeworn tale of a girl among boys until finding her place in woman’s hockey. Now, the dream they embody is splashed across their jerseys—a dream tangible and ripe.
Saulnier posits they play as much for the forbearers and future greats as for themselves. In this watershed moment, they extend an invitation to the skeptical, a promise from Boissonnault that the uninitiated need only witness the splendor of a single game to fall irrevocably in love with the sport.
The passion, the drive, the pursuit of excellence—they kindle a flame within the PWHL that invites the world to bask in the glow of women’s hockey, as it steps boldly into a brilliant, enduring luminescence.