From the first puck drop, every one of the almost 8318 fans in the PWHL Ottawa’s first home game knew they were seeing something special.
It wasn’t just that the game set the North American attendance record for professional women’s hockey. And it wasn’t just seeing hockey legends and team captains Brianne Jenner (PWHL Ottawa) and Marie-Philip Poulin (PWHL Montreal) go head-to-head in a fast-paced and physical display of hockey might.
It was special because of the crowd itself, populated by thousands of young women and little girls escorted by their parents to watch hockey history unfolding on the ice before them. They were there not because they were tagging along but because, on the opening night of the PWHL in Ottawa, they could finally see someone like themselves out on the blue line.
We popped into the PWHL Ottawa dressing room at Lansdowne to chat with four of the players about that night and their chance to be out on NHL ice with the Ottawa Senators on January 28 for the Sens Skills presented by CAA North & East Ontario.
Joining us were team captain Brianne Jenner, forward and Toronto native Daryl Watts, Saskatoon’s Emily Clark and defender Savannah Harmon.
Having grown up dreaming of playing professional hockey, what does competing in Sens Skills mean to you?
Savannah Harmon: “I think it’s really an honor to be a part of it. Being in Ottawa and having our first home game, having the sold-out rink, I think we’re really excited to now be partnering and doing an event with the Ottawa Senators, and I think we’re all really looking forward to it.”
Brianne Jenner: “Yeah, I think it’s great to be welcomed into the Ottawa sports community and I think an event like Sens Skills is just so much fun. There’s going to be lots of kids there. I think it’s going to be a celebratory environment, so we’re pretty excited to be involved.”
Daryl Watts: “Yeah, I think you grow up watching like the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, so to actually be able to go on the ice and just watch all the guys do the competitions and then actually participate will be really cool.”
Emily Clark: “Yeah, I just echo what they’re saying. I think being a part of the Ottawa community, we’ve obviously felt the love and support, and we know a lot of the community will be at the Sens Skills. So for us to have another chance to be in front of them, a part of the community, and a chance to show off our skill to the guys, I think it will be a lot of fun.”
What is going to be the high point?
EC: “I think just being on the ice with them and for people to see us on the ice with them, same screen, same sheet of ice. And I think just to showcase our game and our skills, really exciting.”
SH: “I completely agree. I think being on the ice and just taking in the moment and, like you said, just having be on the same sheet and just being able to showcase, you know, our skill and our abilities.”
Fans are seeing a different kind of game being played than they see with 67's or the Ottawa Senators. What do you think are the main things that distinguish PWHL play for the fans?
BJ: “Well, I think one thing that’s really unique about our league is, is we’re I mean, we’re starting with an original six. So, every team is absolutely stacked and every game is going to be really fast-paced and close. And we only have, you know, a 24-game schedule until playoffs. So I think every single game is going to be a really, really competitive game. I think we’ve seen that in the first week of the PWHL and I think it’s just going to keep escalating.”
SH: “I think the physicality also just brings another aspect to the game, especially for how our team kind of thrives and how our team rolls is being physical and owning the puck. And so I think especially when we’re at home in our rinks, I think just like that we get that energy from the fans and I think the physicality just adds to the intensity in the atmosphere of the game.”
EC: “Yeah, I would add, I know people are really excited about the physicality and we are as players and I think it just adds to the game and the excitement And I mean, this league has been a long time coming and I think there’s also just so much passion from everyone that gets to play in it because we just we don’t take a single day for granted here. So I think fans are definitely seeing the passion shine through, too.”
What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to showcase what you can do to young girls? And what message do you have for young girls who love hockey and for any women who have passed through the system and didn't have the chance that you guys have got?
SH: “Hopefully they’re proud. I know we wouldn’t be in this position without all the pioneers that came before us and just to be a part of this league. I know we’re all incredibly honored. So hopefully when they come out and they see our games and they’re proud and know that they also had a part in creating this league, Like I said, it’s been a long time coming and we’re just really honored to be a part of this inaugural season.”
DW: “I think it’s also incredibly exciting for the young girls to be able to see this league because we always talk about exposure and for them to actually see the PWHL, the attention that we’ve been getting in the media, I think it’s wonderful. Now young girls can look up to this league rather than, you know, of course they’re going to watch the NHL, but it’s just nice to have a female league that they can be excited to work hard to one day plan.”
What would be the next thing that that that you want to participate in in the in the future in women’s hockey?
EC: I think just seeing this league grow into the potential that we know it will. I think that there’s such a need for what we’re doing and I think the best part of some of the stuff I saw through the first week is that young girls won’t know any different. And I think that’s one of the greatest legacies that we can leave behind.
And to your point, we talk about the next generation a lot and the importance of that. But like you say, there’s a lot of women that didn’t get the opportunity to experience what we can. So, we definitely want to make them proud and know that their efforts definitely got us here.”
Join us for a fun family day at Sens Skills presented by CAA North & East Ontario!
1 pm on January 28 at the Canadian Tire Centre
Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.ca.