Jan 7, 2024 - News

Minnesota hockey fans set record for largest crowd to witness pro women's game

A hockey arena with a white ice sheet and a crowd, filling the lower two-thirds of the stadium, standing and applauding.

A record-setting crowd of 13,316 fans applaud a PWHL Minnesota goal during the team's home opener at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Photo: Kyle Stokes/Axios

The largest crowd to watch a professional women's hockey game ever packed the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday.

Driving the news: More than 13,000 fans attended PWHL Minnesota's home opener and 3-0 win against Montreal. The X is the largest home arena in the new Professional Women's Hockey League.

  • Fans in Ottawa set the previous attendance record of 8,318 just last week.

Why it matters: The attendance record is good news for the first-year league, which has ambitions to do for women's hockey what the WNBA's launch in 1996 did for women's basketball.

Of note: The PWHL is backed by some heavy hitters, including tennis legend Billie Jean King and Mark Walter, part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Flashback: In North America, other women's hockey leagues have come and gone, with players complaining about poor wages and a lack of health insurance. The PWHL wants to change that.

A fan searches for her seat in a large professional hockey arena.
A fan searches for her seat at Xcel Energy Center during the home opener of PWHL Minnesota, a team in the new Professional Women's Hockey League. Initially, the team only sold tickets in the arena's lower bowl, but later opened both the club level and part of the upper deck to ticket sales. Photo: Kyle Stokes/Axios

What happened: Excelsior native Grace Zumwinkle scored all three Minnesota goals, and dozens of lower-bowl fans tossed their headwear onto the ice to celebrate the hat trick.

πŸ’­ My thought bubble: There were at least a dozen local girls hockey teams in the stands, including a particularly vocal St. Paul contingent in the suite level. That felt like both a genius marketing move and a huge boon for the in-arena atmosphere: those kids cheered. The. Entire. Game.

What we're watching: If the record holds up. New York's PWHL club plays part-time in an NHL-sized arena, too.

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