Minnesota wins PWHL home opener, shatters pro women’s hockey attendance record

Team Minnesota wins its home opener for the Professional Women’s Hockey League

Team Minnesota wins its home opener for the Professional Women’s Hockey League

It was an electrifying moment.

A packed crowd at Xcel Energy Center, roaring as Team Minnesota scored its very first goal, at its home opener.  

“This is so crazy,” smiled Ashlyn Bailey, from Crookston. “This is awesome to watch now. So excited when we found out that we were going to come watch this game.”

There was a big turnout from the Crookston Girls High School hockey team, which made the four-plus hour trek to St. Paul, to see Team Minnesota beat Montreal, 3-0.

“I mean, it’s wow, that’s all you can say,” declared Taylor Field, also from Crookston. “It’s just an amazing deal for everybody.”

13,316 fans packed the ‘X’ — an attendance record for the brand-new Professional Women’s Hockey League, or PWHL.

“It’s inspiring,” exclaimed 11-year-old June Newhouse, from Minneapolis. “It’s really nice, it’s something to look up to.”

June and her mom Tara say they were excited to be a part of hockey history.

“You know, it’s raising women’s sports, getting us more exposure,” Tara explained. “All of the things that are positive for role models for young girls like my daughter.”

The players were feeling it too.

“It was electric,” Team Minnesota Goalie Maddie Rooney told reporters. “To have us be able to play in this huge arena and have the younger generations in the stands being able to look out onto the ice and think ‘I want to be like her someday,’ I mean, that’s so big for our sport.”

Rooney and Forward Grace Zumwinkle had plenty of reason to be in good spirits after the game.

Zumwinkle, originally from Excelsior, scored the PWHL’s first hat trick — three goals against Montreal.

Rooney, from Andover, stopped all 24 shots she faced — right in front of a hometown crowd.   

“A huge credit to the State of Minnesota,” Zumwinkle enthused. “Great turnout tonight. It was awesome to see we broke over 13,000 fans. Huge tribute to them.”

11 players on Team Minnesota have local roots, but some hail from as far away as Finland and the Czech Republic.  

“They’re incredibly skilled,” added Ken Klee, the team’s head coach. “The level is high, and the girls are great players and great people and it’s really exciting for them.”

A winning night for the new franchise — and just maybe, the inspiration for some hockey dreams.

“I think it’s really cool that we can do this one day,” Field said. “And it’s something we can look forward to in the future.”