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Boston's new pro women's hockey team opens inaugural season with a loss

PWHL Boston takes the ice for first game in Lowell
PWHL Boston takes the ice for first game in Lowell 02:19

LOWELL - They gave Bruins legend Patrice Bergeron a jersey to drop the ceremonial first puck. But he was the only man in uniform Wednesday night - as Boston's entry in the Professional Women's Hockey League took the ice - in Lowell.

"If we sell out the Tsongas Arena," exclaimed one female fan, "we'll be at the TD Garden next, right?"

Indeed - starting small and thinking big - the newly formed PWHL is hoping to succeed where women's pro hockey has failed in year's past.

A simple, six teams split between the US and Canada - bankrolled by the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"This is what we've been waiting for as women," says PWHL Boston Head Coach Courtney Kessel. "One professional league that's supported. And here we are."

PWHL Minnesota v Boston
Kendall Coyne #26 of Minnesota and Hilary Knight #21 of Boston join former Boston Bruins player Patrice Bergeron for the ceremonial puck drop at the PWHL game between Minnesota and Boston at Tsongas Center on January 03, 2024 in Lowell, Massachusetts. Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

It pays enough that players don't need second jobs to make ends meet - and most agree that the entire set-up puts previous leagues to shame.

"To be able to walk in and truly be treated as professional hockey players has been nothing short of amazing for us," says defender Megan Keller.

One strange thing is that none of the teams have names yet. The league delayed that in the rush to get skating.

But the Boston squad does have a league assigned color - green. And "green" is what the league must eventually make to stay in business - helped locally by a TV deal with NESN to broadcast all 24 games between now and May.

"I mean it's hockey," says Trevor Lima-Bybell, sitting in the front row. "I don't really care whose playing. It's a good time."

The 6,000 seat Tsongas Arena was roughly half-full - mostly with young female hockey hopefuls and their parents.

"Yes, I do want to be a pro player," says young goalie Whitney Mattison. "And I'm going to keep working at it so hopefully I can achieve that."

"So, I think it's really important for us to be that role model for the younger generation," says forward Jamie Lee Rattray. "And it's kind of cool to be a part of it."

And that inspiration will no doubt go a lot further if this team plays the kind of championship hockey that local fans have come to expect. 

"We're accepting of the pressure that comes with playing in this city," says PWHL Boston goalie Aerin Frankel. "We're excited and welcoming it - and we're ready to go." 

One game does not a season make.

But the locals lost their inaugural skate to visiting Minnesota by a score of 3-2. 

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