‘When I grow up, I want to play for the PWHL’: Minnesota women’s hockey team sets a new standard

Before Sunday’s Professional Women’s Hockey League game between Minnesota and Boston at Xcel Energy Center, Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” rang out from the speakers.

This isn’t uncommon.

There are Taylor Swift sing-alongs and the Great Clips confidence cam. Signs flood the seats, “Making HERstory,” “Future PWHL player” and “Play like a girl” are just a few.

The lights dim and and it’s hype time — montages of the players and fans fill the screens. The crowd erupts, on this night all 13,104 of them, as the Minnesota team skates onto the ice. “Minne-SO-ta, Minne-SO-ta” goes the chant, highlighting the distinctive accent.

And when tennis legend Billie Jean King surprised fans at the start of the game, it got even louder. 

Minnesota lost in double overtime to Boston and will now head to Game 5 of the PWHL finals. The series is tied 2-2. Even with the recent loss, fans continue to have high hopes ahead of the final game Wednesday that Minnesota can still earn the title. 

Billie Jean King waves with the spotlight on her.
Billie Jean King and her wife Ilana Kloss greet the crowd during Game 4 of the PWHL championship series.
Ben Garvin for MPR News

King and her wife Ilana Kloss are both board members and leaders in organizing the PWHL. Ahead of the game, King said the league “still feels like a dream.” 

Minnesota player Kendall Coyne Schofield came to King and Kloss in 2019 explaining the need for a league, many credit her with getting it off the ground. 

“She said, will you help us?” King said. “And we knew nothing about hockey by the way, but we said, ‘Yeah, what can we do to help?’ Things don’t happen overnight. It really takes so many different people and so much work. Girls are not taught to ask for what we want and need so when Kendall asked us that question, it was excellent. There were a lot of ladies that came before us, and we have to be thankful for that too.” 

Violet and Ava Evans are two who are likely to come after. They both came to Sunday’s game with their mom, Tori. Violet, 9 (almost 10, she pointed out), and Ava, 8, have both played hockey for a few years.

A hockey player tries to shoot on a goalie.
Minnesota's Liz Schepers tries to shoot on Boston goaltender Aerin Frankel.
Ben Garvin for MPR News

By bringing her daughters to the game, Tori said she wanted them to witness history. After moving to Minnesota several years ago, Violet and Ava would tell her they wanted to play for the NHL.

“I was like, ‘Uh, okay!’ But now I can say they’re going to do it — that’s their dream,” she said. “I’m so excited my girls get to be a part of this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

For anyone who says they aren’t sure women’s hockey is for them, Violet has words.

“They’re wrong, have they seen a game? If they haven’t, I’m disappointed in them,” she said.

Ava said it was hard to decide what her favorite part of a game was. In all honesty, it’s everything. 

Fans cheer as a player throws a puck over the glass.
Minnesota's Maggie Flaherty tosses a puck over the glass young fans before the start of Game 4.
Ben Garvin for MPR News

“It’s just all great. I can’t believe Minnesota, I can’t believe girls are in the PWHL here,” she said. “When I grow up, I really want to play for the PWHL.”

Wendy Haroldson and Missy Boyd came a few hours ahead of the game to buy tickets. 

Boyd started playing hockey when her son was 5 and she was 30, she just thought it seemed fun. She became a member of WHAM, the Women’s Hockey Association of Minnesota. Boyd says the crowd is one of the reasons she keeps coming back to PWHL games.

“I’m just amazed by it. It’s not what you would expect it to be. It’s a very diverse crowd, and it’s incredible to see the representation and the level of play.”

King says plans for next year include recruiting more players of color so all kids can see people who look like them on the ice. Team names are possible, but nothing is settled and no new teams will be announced. 

Hockey game#
Fans cheer before Minnesota's first home game in the inaugural season of the Professional Women's Hockey League on Jan. 6.
Nicole Neri for MPR News

Even as the inaugural season is coming to a close, King said this is just the start.

“We are really living history,” she said. “I hope you always remember it. I want it to be a part of you for life.”

Collected from Minnesota Public Radio News. View original source here.

Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) is a public radio network for the state of Minnesota. With its three services, News & Information, YourClassical MPR and The Current, MPR operates a 46-station regional radio network in the upper Midwest. Last updated from Wikipedia 2024-05-12T20:13:58Z.
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