Toronto to host New York in PWHL's 1st regular-season game on New Year's Day
Ottawa's home opener will be against Montreal on Jan. 2 at TD Place
The first regular-season Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL) game will be held in Toronto on New Year's Day.
The Toronto team will host New York for an afternoon game at Mattamy Athletic Centre (12:30 pm ET), the downtown rink that will serve as the team's primary venue during its first season, the league announced on Tuesday.
All six teams will host home openers within the first two weeks of January, with teams set to play 24 games each during the league's first season.
Ottawa's home opener will be against Montreal on Jan. 2 at TD Place (7 p.m. ET.), the arena where the team will both play and practice this season.
Montreal will host Boston for its home opener on Jan. 13 at Verdun Auditorium (3:30 p.m. ET.), which also serves as the team's practice facility.
"Giving our athletes the opportunity to step onto the ice to compete in front of our passionate fans has been the driving force of our efforts, and it's going to be an exciting reality on New Year's Day," PWHL advisory board member Stan Kasten said in a statement.
"It's time for the best women's hockey players in the world to lift our game to greater heights."
Boston will host Minnesota for its home opener on Jan. 3 (7 p.m. ET.), while Toronto will head to Connecticut for New York's first home game on Jan. 5 (7 p.m. ET).
Minnesota will host Montreal for its home opener on Jan. 6 at Xcel Energy Center (3:30 p.m. ET), which is also home to the NHL's Minnesota Wild.
Home venues announced
The PWHL also officially announced its primary venues for each team on Tuesday, with Montreal and Ottawa using the same facility for both training and games.
Both those rinks are steeped in women's hockey history. The arena at TD Place in Ottawa is the old Ottawa Civic Centre, which hosted the first Women's world championship tournament in 1990.
Verdun Auditorium is home to Centre 21.02, the high-performance women's hockey centre that takes its name from the date the Canadian national women's team won its first Olympic gold medal in 2002.
"Centre 21.02 was created to be the home of women's hockey," said PWHL Montreal general manager Danièle Sauvageau, who created Centre 21.02. "January 13 is a moment we have been waiting a long time for, and a moment to remember as our team will play its inaugural home game, the first in its history."
Toronto's primary venue, Mattamy Athletic Centre, has the smallest capacity of the six teams, with room for about 2,600 fans. The rink is in the renovated upper level of the old Maple Leaf Gardens and has been home to Toronto Metropolitan University teams since 2012. The team is training out of the Ford Performance Centre in Etobicoke, Ont., which is also used by the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Marlies.
The Xcel Energy Center is the largest venue that will act as a "home" arena for a PWHL team this year, with capacity to seat more than 18,000 fans in downtown St. Paul. The Minnesota team is also sharing a practice rink with the Wild.
"The Xcel Energy Center is a premier venue which has the amenities to provide our players and our fans with a first-rate game experience," Minnesota GM Natalie Darwitz said in a statement.
The New York team will play at Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., which is home to the American Hockey League's Bridgeport Islanders and can seat about 10,000 fans. The team is using a separate practice facility in Stamford, Conn., which is about a half an hour away.
Boston will play at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass., which is home to the UMass Lowell hockey and basketball teams. It seats about 6,500 fans, which Boston GM Danielle Marmer described as "ideal."
PWHL teams will each play 12 home games and 12 away games in the first season, but don't expect all 12 home games to be in the team's primary venue. Kasten has hinted that some games may be in NHL arenas or in cities without NHL or PWHL teams. The league hasn't released the rest of its 2024 schedule yet.
The primary venues may also not be home for the long term. The league started looking at venues in July, when arena availability was already spoken for in many markets.
"That was a big factor in where we could either play or train," Kasten said in September.
Asked about the ideal size of a PWHL venue earlier this year, Kasten said the league would play in some AHL and Ontario Hockey League buildings this season, which may be a better fit than NHL-sized rinks.
"We understand we're not going to be selling out big buildings necessarily right away in year one," he said at the time. "We're prepared for that. We will learn along the way and just take our time getting to the ideal places."