Four Indigenous women play in PWHL season opener on New Years Day

TORONTO — The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) announced that its combined viewership for the first PWHL game hosting New York in Toronto reached nearly three million.

“Our inaugural game reached 2.9 million Canadian viewers on New Year’s Day across our three Canadian national broadcast partners: CBC, Sportsnet, and TSN,” wrote the league to its PWHL Facebook page.

The attendance total through five games is 30,335, with two games breaking one record each. Another exciting aspect of the game, is that both sides had the help of Indigenous women.

Anishnabek Abby Roque of the Wahnapitae First Nation was the first Indigenous woman to play for the US Women’s National Ice Hockey Team in 2022. And prior to last years PWHL draft, she was signed to a three-year contract by New York. She is among good company in the league as three other Indigenous women were selected.

Athletes Jocelyne Larocque, who was selected as second overall for Toronto, and Jamie Lee Rattray, selected as 15th overall for Boston, play for the Metis Nation.

While Victoria Bach, who was selected as 38th overall for Toronto and plays as a member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. This year, Bach joined the North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame (NAIAHF) class of 2023 inductees.

Three other Indigenous women, Anishnaabe Kelly Babstock, Mohawk Brooke Stacey, and Metis Kayce Anderson were also eligible for the draft but were not selected.

Still, Indigenous presence in the league is set to draw more young Indigenous athletes through the possibility of achieving a dream.

Those looking to tune into the league can expect to see some interesting rule changes as well. The league draws from a modified version of the NHL rulebook.

One big alteration is that a shorthanded goal will end a penalty.

The PWHL has also opted to allow a certain degree of physicality in the game, including body checking in safer conditions, avoiding open ice.

The PWHL standings will also have a different look from the NHL, as teams will be awarded three points for a regulation win and two points for overtime or shootout wins, with overtime or shootout losses one point. Every game will be worth three points, giving teams extra incentive to win.

It’s also worth noting that the trapezoid effectively does not exist in the PWHL. Goalies can play the puck as they choose, so long as it’s on their side of the centre red line.

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