Montréal and Toronto Will Battle for World Record Attendance

On April 20, the current top teams in the PWHL will face off at the Bell Centre.

Montréal and Toronto Will Battle for World Record Attendance
The Battle on Bay Street, via Alex D’Addese/PWHL.

In a matchup of the current leaders in the PWHL standings, Montréal and Toronto will fight for something even bigger: bragging rights.

The two teams will meet on April 20 at the Bell Centre, home to the NHL’s Montréal Canadiens. PWHL Montréal’s game against New York, currently scheduled for April 19 at the Verdun Auditorium, will reportedly be rescheduled for April 18. 

The Bell Centre can hold over 21,000 spectators for hockey games, making it the largest hockey venue in North America and one of the largest in the world. The PWHL will be aiming for a sellout crowd to set a new world record for women’s hockey attendance. The prospect is not unlikely; it’s what they’ve been doing all season.

Over the first two and a half months of the PWHL’s inaugural season, several attendance records have been broken, some multiple times. On Jan. 2, the game between Ottawa and Montréal at TD Place broke the record for the highest attendance at a women's professional hockey game with 8,318 fans.

PWHL Minnesota shattered that record four days later when they hosted Montréal at the Xcel Energy Center in front of 13,316 fans. Minnesota had the advantage, as their home facility is also the home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild and can hold nearly 18,000.

As the largest home site among the Canadian PWHL teams, with a capacity of about 10,000, Montréal’s Place Bell took the record for the largest attendance at a women's professional hockey game in Canada at their next matchup against Ottawa on Jan. 27, hosting 8,646 fans.

But that record didn’t last very long. Before the season even started, PWHL Toronto had sold out every game at their home rink, the Mattamy Athletic Center, which seats under 3,000 people for hockey games. On Feb. 17, they hosted PWHL Montréal at Scotiabank Arena, the home of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, and the evidence of their fanbase’s devotion was impossible to deny. The 19,285 fans in attendance at the “Battle on Bay Street” set a new world record for attendance at a women’s hockey game, period.

And now, there will be a new challenger: the “Duel at the Top.”

Despite the name, there is a chance that these two teams may not be the leaders in the league standings five weeks from now. PWHL Minnesota hangs only three points behind Montréal and Toronto — and could tie them with a single regulation win. Even Boston, 10 points behind the top pair, has four games before the end of March for a possible 12 points, while Montréal only has two.

Regardless of who is actually at the top on April 20, fans are likely to come out in numbers. The hockey rivalry between Toronto and Montréal predates the PWHL ... and probably predates the NHL. At this point, it’s in the water. It would take a near sellout to top the record set at Scotiabank, but hockey fans in Quebec will have more than just the draw of seeing their local team to spur ticket sales; pride will be on the line. Toronto has won all three games against Montréal so far this season and had shutouts in the last two games; Montréal will want to take revenge in front of the home crowd.

Adding to the excitement, the matchup will be the weekend after the end of the Women’s World Championships. Women’s hockey historically sees a boost in visibility after international events. The Duel at the Top has the chance to not only set a record for highest attendance, but also — with the right broadcast partners and advertisement — to end up being the top-viewed professional women’s hockey game as well.

Tickets to the Duel will be available to the public on March 20. Per the league, fans can sign up online for PWHL Montréal’s e-newsletter for priority access. PWHL Montréal season ticket holders and anyone with a ticket to the game at its original venue will be contacted in advance of the public sale.