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Peterborough’s first Professional Women’s Hockey Game a Resounding Success

By Kelly Jessup
Group of people standing on the ice for puck drop at PWHPA game in Peterborough
Credit: Kenneth Andersen L-R: Kristen Richards, Aaron Gavey, Fran Rider, Jayna Hefford, Rebecca Michael, Jocelyn Larocque, Cal Perks, Jamie Lee Rattray, Ella Perks, Lara Perks, Eunice Given, Rose Powers, Pat Bronson, Karell Emard

Just days after the 2022 Olympic Women’s Hockey Gold Medal game in Beijing, the Peterborough Petes became the first Ontario Hockey League (OHL) team to host a Professional Women’s Hockey Player’s Association (PWHPA) game, which drew their biggest crowd of the year on March 26, 2022. Team Sonnet (Toronto) and Team Harvey’s (Montreal) faced off to a crowd of 2700 fans, which was the highest attended event at the Peterborough Memorial Centre since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Game attendees overwhelmingly identified as women and were only 10% representative of the Peterborough Petes season ticket members, which is a strong indicator that the game engaged new fans, outside of the Petes fan base.

According to Burton Lee, Peterborough Petes Executive Director, Business Operations “Athletes, and coaches, which included some of the top women’s hockey players in the world, continually commented that “this really feels like a hockey town” and “we can’t wait to come back to Peterborough! This is better than our events in New York City, Toronto, Ottawa, Washington” etc.”

From an economic standpoint, the game generated over $60,000 in revenue for the team and facility, and drew impressive national media coverage from journalists such as Julia Tochieri and Shireen Ahmed, whose article headline for CBC read “Women’s hockey gets royal treatment it deserves in Peterborough”.

What I saw over the weekend was a junior team and an entire community enthralled by the women players and proud of their community. Team Sonnet (Toronto) was going to take on Team Harvey’s (Montreal) at the home of the Petes — a first time for both the OHL team and the PWHPA.

Shireen Ahmed, CBC Sports

The game also had an impressive list of VIP attendees including:

  • five-time Olympic medalist, Hockey Hall of Famer, and PWHPA Chairperson Jayna Hefford
  • Fran Rider, one of the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association founders, and current president
  • Jocelyn Laroque and Jamie Lee Rattray, two members of the Canadian Olympic team, and recent gold medallists from the 2022 Beijing Olympics
  • Lara Perks, former NWHL and CWHL player, and mother of Pete’s Next-Gen Coach Cal, who was recently featured on Ellen

It was also an important business-building opportunity for both the Petes and the PWHPA. The Peterborough Petes, which is one of the most decorated teams, and the longest-standing club in the OHL offer the newly formed PWHPA a significant opportunity to find new business partnerships and to expose long-time hockey fans to the women’s game. The PWHPA drew new fans to the rink and solidifies to women’s hockey fans, players, and coaches that the club is supportive of building the women’s game. The first 2000 fans received a commemorative PWHPA poster, and after the game, an autograph session was held with PWHPA players.

The event included an all-women broadcast team, announced on International Women’s Day which included Global News’ Katrina Squazzin, Global-Peterborough Sports Anchor Meaghan Roy, and TSN’s Julia Tocheri.

Learn more about the Peterborough Petes and check out upcoming events at the Peterborough Memorial Centre.

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