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Ottawa now a destination for PWHL players following inaugural season, GM says

PWHL Ottawa’s inaugural season ended in heartbreak on the ice, but the first season of professional women’s hockey in Ottawa was an overall success.

Toronto beat Ottawa 5-2 in the PWHL regular season finale Sunday night, eliminating Ottawa from the postseason. Ottawa needed to beat Toronto in regulation to clinch a playoff spot.

“Of course, we’re disappointed,” Ottawa general manager Mike Hirshfeld told TSN 1200 Monday morning. “We’ve worked incredibly hard over the last eight months to build this organization and I know the players have put their hearts and souls in it. Disappointed to miss; we definitely had our opportunities.”

Ottawa ended the season with three straight losses to Montreal, New York and Toronto.

“Really proud of our group. There were a lot of ups and downs this year, but really stuck together as a team and played incredibly hard.”

Hirshfeld says the team will look to improve in the offseason.

“We definitely need some more scoring, we need some more help upfront,” Hirshfeld told TSN Mornings with John Rodenburg and Steve Lloyd.

The inaugural season was a success off the ice, with PWHL Ottawa leading the league in attendance. Hirshfeld says players “want to come to Ottawa.”

“I think we’ve changed that impression, we’ve changed that dynamic. Players now want to come to Ottawa,” Hirshfeld said, noting some players didn’t know about Ottawa before the first season. “Players have seen the success and the fan hood and what happens every home game at TD Place, and I have players calling me saying, ‘how do I get to Ottawa?'”

“Everyone wants to come to Ottawa, so I don’t foresee that as a problem at all.”

PWHL Ottawa kicked off its season on Jan. 2, with 8,318 fans packing TD Place for the game against Montreal. The game set a record for attendance at a professional women’s hockey game, before new records being set in Minnesota, Toronto and Montreal.

“I’m really proud of this team,” Hirshfeld said. “I’m really proud of what they did on the ice, but I’m really proud of what they did off the ice.”

 “Just the way they connected the community and, again, really thrilled with our fan base and the fans here in Ottawa how they supported us.”

Overall, PWHL Ottawa averaged 7,496 fans for the 12 home games at TD Place, with the highest attendance of 8,452 fans for the April 27 game against Montreal.

“It was an amazing first season for our heroes,” Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said on social media. “Thanks for the unforgettable moments and see you next year.”

Hirshfeld says “100 per cent” there will be opportunities to play at least one game at Canadian Tire Centre next season.

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