Breaking Boundaries: The PWHL’s Journey to Recognition and Impact 

Eddie Sheppard

Eddie Sheppard

Between January 4 and 9, 2024, Abacus Data conducted a nationwide survey involving 1,500 Canadians (18+) to gauge their perceptions of the recently established Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL). The survey delved into public opinions regarding the league’s significance, its anticipated impact on young Canadians, and potential challenges it might face. 

Revealing a notable lack of awareness, the findings also acknowledge the PWHL’s influence on women’s sports. The results address strategic opportunities to amplify the league’s impact and examine the challenges that shape the PWHL’s pivotal role in the Canadian women’s hockey landscape. 

Limited Awareness of PWHL in Canada 

As the inaugural season of the PWHL is in full swing, the findings from the current study reveal a significant lack of awareness about the league among Canadians. A significant 45% of respondents expressed minimal familiarity with the league, and surprisingly, 20% admitted to being completely unaware of its existence. These statistics collectively underscore that almost two-thirds of the Canadian population possess little to no knowledge about the PWHL. Although one might anticipate limited awareness given the approximately 4-month period between the league’s official announcement and its inaugural game, this outcome emphasizes the necessity for heightened efforts to improve awareness and visibility of the PWHL across Canada. 

Shaping Optimism for the Future of the PWHL 

Despite limited visibility, the PWHL gains substantial recognition for its significance in women’s sports, particularly shaping the experiences of young women nationwide. The study reveals a positive perception, with 42% of Canadians emphasizing the importance of the PWHL, in stark contrast to the 25% who consider it unimportant.  

Moreover, optimism prevails regarding the PWHL’s future success. Notably, 38% of Canadians express positivity, a sentiment that significantly rises to 70% among those who are aware of the PWHL. This highlights the necessity of strategic initiatives focused on awareness and understanding to continually foster an optimistic outlook on the league’s future success. 

Seizing Opportunities for Women’s Hockey: Growth and Impact 

Despite the lack of awareness, Canadians largely understand the opportunities that the league can leverage to enhance its impact on women’s hockey in Canada. A noteworthy 35% of Canadians see the PWHL inspiring a new generation of female athletes, while 30% recognize its role in creating opportunities for young players, and 24% believe it can enhance the visibility and popularity of women’s hockey. These findings emphasize the league’s pivotal position in fostering talent, inspiring athletes, and elevating the overall appeal of women’s hockey. 

The findings further emphasize the league’s capacity to defy gender norms and advance gender equality in sports, as indicated by 21% of respondents. Additionally, 19% of participants recognize the league’s potential to promote equality and inclusivity in the sports community. This underscores the league’s positive role in breaking down barriers, promoting inclusiveness, and advocating for equal opportunities for female athletes. 

Navigating Challenges and Barriers to PWHL’s  

When considering the potential barriers/challenges facing the PWHL, 38% of respondents express concerns about substantial financial disparities compared to men’s hockey. Additionally, 28% note the risk of insufficient partnerships and sponsors, posing a potential threat to the league’s financial stability. These perceived challenges may hinder investments in player development, marketing, and infrastructure, impacting the league’s overall influence. 

Apart from financial challenges, 36% of Canadians express concerns about the league’s limited visibility and media coverage, highlighting the necessity for improved promotional efforts. Additionally, 25% point out a deficiency in the league’s presence in markets across the country. Addressing these challenges is important for expanding the league’s reach, fostering a broader appeal, and ensuring sustained growth and impact on women’s hockey in Canada. 


In its growing stages, the PWHL stands at a critical juncture, navigating the balance between promising opportunities and visible challenges. Recognizing the pivotal role of strategic initiatives in enhancing awareness and understanding, the PWHL has the potential to inspire a new era of female athletes, providing unprecedented opportunities for player growth, and elevating the profile of women’s hockey. Despite the hurdles that accompany any new venture, the league emerges as a dynamic force for positive change, poised to overcome challenges and redefine the landscape of women’s sports. 

Crucial for ensuring continuous growth and influence, the league must actively forge strategic partnerships, broadening its media presence, and venturing into new markets. Effectively navigating these challenges and capitalizing on the positive sentiments expressed by Canadians are important steps in shaping a promising future for the PWHL, and women’s hockey.  

The league’s unwavering commitment to overcoming obstacles will become instrumental in solidifying its lasting imprint on the narrative of women’s hockey in Canada. 


The survey was conducted with 1,500 Canadian adults from January 4 to 9, 2024. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.  

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.53%, 19 times out of 20.  

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region.  

This survey was paid for by Abacus Data Inc. 

Abacus Data follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements that can be found here:  


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