A week of firsts for Ottawa, for better or worse.
When the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) had its first game in the city, advisory board member for the league, Stan Kasten, made it clear this reality was never in their cards early.
“This wasn’t necessarily on our opening list for cities,” Kasten said. He explained it was Bettman, the National Hockey League’s commissioner, who encouraged him to build a team in Canada’s capital.
“I’m really happy I was smart enough to take his advice,” Kasten said about Bettman.
Now, Ottawa has been making history in strides. Their back-to-back games this week proved as much.
Tuesday, January 23rd was the city’s first win at home, where they defended their title as provincial champions, beating Toronto in overtime.
“It’s exciting to have those conversations about the battle of Ontario,” said Ottawa’s captain, Brianne Jenner. “Next time we face them they’re certainly going to be hungry, we have to expect that.”
Up until then, Ottawa had walked away from every game taking away at least a point. Head coach for the team, Carla MacLeod, talked about how they have been this consistent.
“Just building every day,” MacLeod said. “It wasn’t a perfect game by any means so it’s just a matter of getting better. We’ll analyse this game with the coaching staff and make sure when we drop the puck tomorrow there’s something we’ve learned from it.”
And much to learn there still is. When the puck dropped on Wednesday against Boston, it was another night of firsts for Ottawa – though not as positive. Ottawa would finally finish a game without any points.
“It wasn’t a great start,” MacLeod said after the game. “It’s been a couple of games in a row. We’ll keep working on that.”
Still, MacLeod had some positives to take away, highlighting her team’s goaltending, specifically Emerance Maschmeyer. She wasn’t supposed to play on Wednesday, but an unlucky injury for Sandra Abstreiter put her back between the pipes late into the first frame.
“[Maschmeyer] has been around the game so long that she knows: when you’re back up, you’re always ready to go. She was for us tonight.”
MacLeod also noted how much of an impact Ottawa’s fanbase has had so far.
“When you feel the emotion of the game and its resonating through the crowd, obviously it impacts the bench too. And it gets exciting.”
The PWHL is a tight league. Of its 18 games so far, nine have ended in a 3-2 score.
Ottawa has a chance to either continue or disrupt that pattern come Saturday, January 27th, when the face off against league-leaders, Montreal.