ARLINGTON, V.A. — Professional women’s hockey made its way to the DMV and left behind an everlasting impact. At MedStar Capitals Iceplex, the top women’s hockey players from across the globe took the ice in front of a sold-out crowd for the D.C. stop on the PWHPA‘s Dream Gap Tour. And from the four-team tournament to interactions with fans, the league saw women’s hockey take a major stride forward.
The Washington Capitals teamed up with the PWHPA to host the festivities. All weekend, the Capitals practice rink was filled to capacity with young girls just getting into hockey, long-time followers of women’s hockey and general sports fans taking in the tournament. Beyond that, Allie Granato, Hayley Skarupa and more players hit the ice to host clinics for all age groups. Ahead of the showcase, the clinics were fully booked.
“If you can see it, you can be it,” Skarupa, who grew up in Rockville, Maryland, said. “If you see someone who’s like you doing a sport that you want to do, it shows that it can become a reality for you if that’s what you work towards. And so it just shows that it’s a realistic goal for these girls which it is. They can aspire to play in the PWHPA…
“It’s seeing how much the kids and the adult players even, too, enjoy it,” she added. “When we were walking in they wanted to ask us questions about the games, how far they came from and how excited they are to be here and that’s why we do it. To get that interest, that passion started and just grow how much people love the sport around here because it’s just come such a long way. It’s one of the fastest-growing sports in this area. And always having these events and opportunities for people to come out and see it is really important for long-term growth.”
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The Capitals were also involved in the weekend and accommodated the PWHPA the same way they would their own, taking care of everything from their bags to social media promotion and beyond. Alumni Karl Alzner and Peter Bondra served as guest coaches while Tom Wilson, a big women’s hockey fan, also headed to the rink to watch. Washington also hosted the PWHPA at Saturday’s game against the Seattle Kraken and had Amanda Pelkey (Team Scotiabank), Kristen Richards (Team Sonnet), Sophia Shaver (Team adidas), and Meghan Turner (Team Bauer) participate in a ceremonial puck drop with Mark Giordano and Alex Ovechkin.
Amanda Pelkey (Team Scotiabank), Kristen Richards (Team Sonnet), Sophia Shaver (Team adidas), and Meghan Turner (Team Bauer) dropping the puck tonight with Mark Giordano and Alex Ovechkin.
PWHPA Showcase is currently happening in D.C. Title game + consolation game tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/dU1iRvdBfU
— Sammi Silber (@sammisilber) March 6, 2022
“It was one of the best showcases that we’ve had this year,” Sarah Potomak said. “The Capitals did an unbelievable job supporting us and just the fans that came out, it was an unbelievable time. What I took away just was the support for women’s hockey is there. It’s so important that we give back to the game because they all came out and supported us.”
Team Sonnet (Toronto) ended up winning the tournament with a huge 10-2 victory over Team Scotiabank (Calgary). Team adidas (Minnesota) and Team Bauer (Boston) also played. The tournament featured highlight-reel plays from Jess Jones and more, but beyond the scores and results, the PWHPA saw a major step forward for the league thanks to the major turnout and continued depth in women’s hockey.
“It’s awesome that they’re seeing that there is high-level girls [sports],” Bailey Coyne, Kendall Coyne Scofield’s sister, said. “I think we’re in a male-dominated sport where they see only [teams like] the Capitals, the Blackhawks, the Blues. And that’s not all you can watch. You can watch women be successful. You can watch women at the highest level and aspire to be that, and we can have a Stanley Cup.”
In the end, Liz Knox and more hope that this moves the PWHPA closer to a full-time professional league. But additionally, they want to see women’s sports continue to grow in popularity. That means continued support on a number of levels, from marketing to buy-ins and more.
“If we can market darts, if we can market poker, why can’t we market women’s sports?” Knox said. I mean, you have the best athletes in the world just waiting to play somewhere. And I just think it takes the right people who know what they’re doing and invest. That’s the keyword we always hear: invest in women.”