18 March 2024 / by Zoha Naghar
PWHL Toronto


March 8th, 2024 marked International Women’s Day: a day to celebrate all the strong and inspiring women we admire and look up to in our day-to-day lives. Yesterday, not only was it International Women’s Day, but it was also the Toronto vs Montreal PWHL game at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (The MAC) at Toronto Metropolitan University.


It was a special day for the players to be on the ice, to look around, and truly see a part of why International Women’s Day is so important.


There was a different energy walking into the MAC that night. It felt very warm and homey. Families were spilling into the stands, young girls had Toronto and Montreal jerseys on, and some even came wearing their own Little League hockey jerseys, holding signs that said “future PWHL player.”


The energy was just electric. The game had customized PHWL Toronto dumbbells that fans rang up until the very last celebration buzzer after Toronto won 3-0 against Montreal, earning Toronto a nine-game winning streak.


The fans were so loud it felt like everyone was back at Scotiabank Arena on February 16th when the Toronto vs Montreal game broke a historical record of 19,285 fans in attendance. The energy and the love for the game were evident across every fan’s face.


As I took a little walk down the stands, I saw many women with their daughters, sisters, and friends, laughing and smiling, and although this is seen at all home games at the MAC it felt extra special that night. 


The floors of the MAC were shaking with excitement after #34, Hannah Miller, scored Toronto’s first goal a few minutes into the first period. What made this moment more special was looking down at the crowd and witnessing a heartwarming moment between a mom and daughter. Sitting rink side, they sat back down in their seats after celebrating Miller’s goal, and the mother wrapped her arms around her daughter to hug her. Shortly after that, her daughter placed her head on her mother’s shoulder, and they sat in an embrace while watching the game. 


The little girl was also wearing a jersey of her own from her town hockey league and it was that moment that made it even more clear that Professional Women’s Hockey is so important for future generations to come.


During the first intermission, the Oakville Hornets came out on the ice to play some hockey, but their jerseys weren’t just any jerseys; they were Tim Hortons x Barbie jerseys that were pink and white in colour. These two iconic companies are the official partners of the PWHL jersey. 


One of the most fitting moments was watching one of the players skate past the Barbie poster on the rink that reads, “You can be anything.” The young girls and the entire PWHL league are turning that slogan into a reality. 


The second period of the night’s game got feisty. The players got into two physical fights on the ice within an eight-minute radius and ended up with three in the penalty box from Toronto and four from Montreal. 


During the second intermission, a mother lifted her young toddler on her shoulders who was holding a sign that read “future PWHL goalie” with an arrow pointing down towards herself. Just a few rows up, a mother with her three daughters, one on her shoulders, and two holding her hands, were dancing to the music and looked like they were having an incredible time. 


The mother said, “We love women’s hockey. We will always support the PWHL, and it’s creating new opportunities for young girls like my daughters. This game being on International Women’s Day will be a memory forever.” 


What does this game mean to the players? Natalie Spooner, #24, said, “To be able to play on International Women’s Day with such a pivotal year in women’s hockey (…) I don’t think there’s a better way to do it. To see all the ladies and girls in the crowd. I had my son there watching which was pretty amazing, so I think it was pretty cool.” Spooner also had custom skates on during last night’s game in honour of IWD.


#14, Renata Fast, beamed a smile and said she was feeling pretty incredible that night. “What better way to celebrate IWD than to play a hockey game in front of a sold-out crowd in our inaugural season against a team that, you know, we’re fighting for first place for.” 


Sarah Nurse, #20, also wore a smile when asked about playing on that special day. “It’s pretty awesome to be able to celebrate with all the women in the crowd and all the women watching at home and following on socials, so it’s been an awesome day.”


To end the night off, in the third period, Toronto’s Rebecca Leslie scored her first goal of the season, bringing the score to 2-0, and Emma Maltais wrapped up the game by scoring an open netter making the final score 3-0 and continuing Toronto’s win streak. 


After the Toronto team embraced one another in celebration, they went on to greet the Montreal players, and fans from opposing teams were doing the same in the stands: shaking hands, laughing, taking photos with signs that said “women” or “future draft pick.” The arena was buzzing from start to finish.


There truly was no better way to celebrate International Women’s Day than in an arena full of aspiring hockey players, current PWHL players, and generations before them who weren’t able to play in a professional league. Not to mention, all the women in sports media who were behind the scenes of the entire show. 


Before leaving the arena, people were reading signs on the wall where the Toronto players wrote down the name of a woman whom they look up to, and as I got to the last name on the wall, it made me realize that Women’s Day is every day, and twenty years from now, it’ll be the next generation of players writing the current league’s names on these papers under the words “my idol.”