A report by a person who's covered other women's sports at an outlet that has odd beginnings has the potential first homes for all six PWHL teams for this season. Despite its origins, the information sounds legit, which is that the Toronto PWHL will play out of Mattamy Athletic Centre, formerly known as the famous Maple Leaf Gardens. The building on Carlton St in Toronto is now partially a Loblaws, with the rink raised to the upper levels to still host hockey games for Toronto Metropolitan University.
I have very mixed feelings about this move, but I understand why it was made. First off, I live five minutes north of the building, the Loblaws is my closest grocery store, this team is in my backyard. That's freaking amazing and I'm buying season tickets immediately. This rink is great for me personally, but I don't think it's the best place for a hockey team – at least not permanently.
The PWHL, if I'm guessing right by looking at the national teams and the NWSL, is going to benefit greatly from a fanbase of families. Despite being on the 1-line in Toronto, Mattamy isn't where the rest of the hockey is in Toronto. While SBA is definitely the long-term goal, I hope the short-term goal is to get into The Coliseum where the PWHL can co-market to families with the Toronto Marlies, Argonauts, and TFC.
It would make sense that the team and league would need to prove to themselves they can sell enough tickets in the 7500 person stadium where the Marlies play. As a stepping stone, the 2600 seat Mattamy rink will have to do to start. As much as I would love to have the PWHL as neighbours, I also hope they grow out of the Gardens and move into the open fields of Exhibition.
Oh, and for reference, here are where the report has all the other teams playing:
Montreal - Centre 21.02 in Verdun, QC (no surprises here, the GM built the place and CANWNT trains there)
Ottawa - TD Place Arena in Ottawa, ON (home of the Ottawa 67s)
Minnesota - Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN (home of the Minnesota Wild)
Boston - Tsongas Center in Lowell, MA (owned by UMass - Lowell)
New York - Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut (home of the AHL Bridgeport Islanders)
Right off the bat, the Toronto and Montreal teams have the lowest capacities of the group at 2,600 and 2,500, respectively. I hope the PWHL is looking at CCC and Place Bell in the short future if the demand is there. They're lagging behind as the OHL and AHL rinks other teams are using are between 6,000-10,000, and Xcel is huge. I'll also add that the New York team is playing in Connecticut, but they have a good building and a good area. Perhaps we see them get called the Metropolitan somethings.
As Stan Kasten has repeatedly said in press conferences, building the new league from scratch – anticipating revenue and expenses before a puck is dropped – is hard. It's easy for a team to join an established league, but not for everything to be brand new. Growing pains are to be expected, but there is good money behind the venture for the first time ever, there's the passion and expertise that's always been there, and (hopefully) enough butts can find their way to seats to make it viable.
Ancillary, this is a must-read on the NHL's relationship with the PWHL. Could this be the NHL conservatively not wanting to jump in until they see some numbers?
There's a lot more I'd like to say, but for an FTB, I'll have to leave it here.
Various Leafs and Branches
Leafs prospect Easton Cowan had another huge night in the OHL, despite being on the "second line" for the London Knights. He scored two goals and two primary assists in a 5-1 win over the Brantford Bulldogs, with his RW Kasper Halttunen scoring twice. Cowan leads the OHL in points per game (4-5-9 in four games). Eight of his nine points this season are primary points.
In the West, Noah Chadwick also had a good night, with a goal and two points. He's up to a point per game in the WHL now.
The NHL wants to change their Draft format and how the presentation is going to look. They're hoping to put more focus on the prospects getting drafted, like the NBA and NFL do, though I don't know if they realize NHL draftees are 17-years-old and not 24-year-old star athletes on national TV every weekend and often bigger stars in their state than pro athletes. As always, we'll see how the mess unfolds.