Why Raleigh Should Consider Women’s Hockey

Oct 31, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; A general view of PNC Arena before the game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 31, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; A general view of PNC Arena before the game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

Don’t worry Caniacs, I still write and this time I’m getting on my soapbox about Raleigh having a professional women’s hockey franchise. Recently, a new Professional Women’s Hockey League was launched with six franchises and a 24-game season expected to start in January 2024. Three teams are in Canada and three are in the United States. The American teams are in New York City, Boston, and Minneapolis/Saint Paul, but Raleigh would be a perfect addition if this league were to expand. Here’s the top three reasons why.

1. Raleigh is a hockey market.

In a state known for football and basketball fanatics, both at the professional and collegiate level, professional hockey has thrived. The 2023 Stadium Series game’s total economic impact was $13.6 million and no Stadium Series game has sold as much merchandise as the one in Raleigh, according to ABC11. A graph from HockeyDB shows that the 2022-23 season had the highest fan attendance so far at 19,526. A prominent community presence with programs such as the Carolina Hurricanes Foundation has had a positive impact, with the Foundation raising more than $17 million for children’s nonprofits since 1997 and having fundraising events such as in-game auctions and annual special events to encourage fan participation. The economic and community impact that the Hurricanes have had on the city of Raleigh and beyond should be main motivators for having a women’s hockey team.

2. Women make history on and off the ice.

The recent hiring of Alyssa Gagliardi as the first female coach for the Canes and the possibility of emergency backup goalies being women for many NHL teams prove that women have a presence in professional hockey. The 2022 United States-Canada women’s gold medal game had 3.54 million viewers, more than any NHL game televised in the 2021-22 season, and the United States women’s ice hockey team has participated in every Winter Olympics since 1998, where they won a gold medal in their first game. Manon Rheaume became the first female NHL player when she served as goalie for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992, and eight women have their names on the Stanley Cup. These milestones may seem minute, but they help pave the way for women in a predominately male sport. I know I would want to see history keep being made in a sport I love.

3. Women’s hockey is supported and encouraged thanks to youth programs and professional leagues.

The Canes’ Girl’s Youth Hockey Program is another example of community involvement, one that focuses on youth development. When the Canes first funded this program, general manager Don Waddell said “‘Making the game of hockey inclusive for everyone has always been at the forefront of the Hurricanes organization. The opportunity to create a program for young girls….is a game-changer for future generations.’” At a professional level, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association was created in 2019 with a mandate to create a women’s hockey league supported by the Premier Hockey Federation, formerly known as the National Women’s Hockey League. After the announcement of the PWHL, the NHL released a statement saying “‘We remain committed to supporting the women’s game and look forward to working together with the PWHL to grow our sport.’” Having a professional women’s team in Raleigh would align with the Hurricanes’ Girl’s Youth Hockey Program mission, as well as the NHL’s, and influence more girls to want to pursue the sport.

With the Hurricanes having as much of a presence in North Carolina sports, as well as the local community, I hope that North Carolina would consider a professional women’s hockey team because it would be beneficial in more ways than one.

Aside from the Canes, the state has the Thunderbirds in Winston-Salem, the Marksmen in Fayetteville, and the Checkers in Charlotte, along with a potential AHL affiliate whose location is yet to be determined. So, why not add a women’s team in the mix?