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PWHL’s New York team makes a splash at Rockefeller Center and hoping for more ‘pinch me’ moments


NEW YORK — Abbey Levy couldn’t believe her good fortune as the goalie stood inside the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink wearing a PWHL New York jersey earlier this week.

“It’s like a Hallmark movie for me,” Levy said.

Moments before, Levy and her teammates were introduced to a throng of fans, holiday tourists and curious onlookers on a clear, crisp winter day at the famed outdoor rink. New York’s newest professional sports team was making a splash in the big city ahead of its inaugural game on New Year’s Day against Toronto.

It was especially memorable for Levy, the only New York-native on the roster.

“This is a special environment for all the players here, most of whom are tourists, so for them being here, they’re in awe. But for me, this is my home,” said Levy, who grew up 27 miles north of Manhattan in Rockland County. “For me, this is a full-circle moment, having come into the city so often during my childhood.”

Levy wasn’t the only one excited.

Forward Emma Woods danced across the ice in time with Ace Frehley’s “New York Groove” blaring through the sound system. Teammates hugged, laughed and took selfies like any typical tourist would.

There was a team photo in front of the famed gold Prometheus statue and massive Christmas tree. Coach Howie Draper and general manager Pascal Daoust promised big things for the coming season. And defenseman Micah Zandee-Hart was introduced as New York’s first captain.

“This was such an amazing event,” Draper said. “When the players started skating around … I got chills up and down my spine.”

PWHL trying to find its place in crowded New York sports scene


Now the New York entry in the brand-new Professional Women’s Hockey League must find its place amid a crowded sports landscape in the Big Apple. And the league, years in the making and funded by the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership group, needs to find success where previous women’s hockey leagues failed before in North America.

“This is a ‘pinch-me moment’ for all of us because we’ve been waiting for this to happen for so long,” Zandee-Hart said. “I think if you look across women’s sports in general, from the university level up to the pro level, people are really starting to watch. We’re breaking attendance records and viewership records. So, I think it’s the perfect time for us (hockey players) to be part of this groundbreaking in women’s sports.”

One young girl watched the players on the ice and asked a reporter, “So, they’re like the Rangers?”

Well, yes. And no.

They’re professional hockey players, like the New York Rangers. But the six-team PWHL has quite the mountain to climb to reach the heights of the National Hockey League.

Yet matching the NHL is less of a goal than inspiring girls, like the youngster who watched wide eyed at Rockefeller Center.

“There’s a lot of talk among the players about the next generation and what we’re doing is going to impact them so much, they’re going to have something tangible and real to dream for now,” defenseman Jaime Bourbonnais said.

“I always dreamed of playing in the NHL growing up, there was no women’s professional league. So, to have something now that I didn’t even know I was dreaming of, this is exactly where I want to be and what women deserve.”

Added forward Jill Saulnier, who helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, “There’s a big emphasis on the next generation, getting this right for them. Leaving a legacy, a footprint.”

Then there’s the competitive side. These are elite athletes built to win.

As Daoust said, “Our goal is to be the last team standing.”

And that fits with Levy’s vision.

“Expectation is to be as part of history right now, soak all this in. But at the end, we want to be playing in that last game and get that win.”

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