‘They are going hard.’ Pezzetta praises first live PWHL experience

In attendance for a record-breaking Professional Women’s Hockey League game with his Montreal Canadiens teammates, Michael Pezzetta was blown away by his first live PWHL experience.

‘They are going hard.’ Pezzetta praises first live PWHL experience

Feature Photo: IG /  @canadiensmtl

Michael Pezzetta’s first live Professional Women’s Hockey League game will not be his last.

Pezzetta, who skated in his third NHL season with the Montreal Canadiens in 2023-24, knew it was going to be special when PWHL rivals Montreal and Toronto faced off at Bell Centre on April 20 for a matchup dubbed Duel at the Top.

But how intense the entire experience would be caught the 26-year-old completely off-guard.

“I think just the atmosphere stood out for me the most,” started Pezzetta, who attended the 21,105 sellout and professional women’s hockey attendance record game alongside several of his teammates.

“To see over 21,000 fans going absolutely nuts was cool to be a part of.”

“After the first goal Montreal scored, I think people were standing waving the rally towels for a good five minutes. It was a blast.”

Attendance for the Duel at the Top surpassed the previous record of 19,285 at Scotiabank Arena on Feb. 16, when Toronto bested Montreal 3-0 in the Battle on Bay Street on home ice.

In a 3-2 victory for PWHL Toronto in Montreal where forward Sarah Nurse scored twice, including the overtime game-winner, which side won felt second to what the PWHL has accomplished since puck drop Jan. 1 on the inaugural season.

It’s something not lost on the players, including PWHL Montreal forward Laura Stacey.

“One moment that stuck with me was when our team stepped onto the ice and the arena erupted,” said Stacey, a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning women’s hockey team at the 2022 Olympic Games.”

“Our Celine Dion remix was blaring and 21,000 people were standing on their feet cheering us on. It gave me shivers.”

The Team Canada veteran is still awed by what she saw at Bell Centre, particularly the respect shown for PWHL Montreal Captain, Marie-Philip Poulin.

“I would also say the standing ovation Marie-Philip received when she was announced in the starting line-up, and they had to wait because nobody stopped cheering it was an emotional and full-circle moment.”

Poulin also received major respect from NHLPA members earlier in the season through the NHLPA Player Poll, where she was named the PWHL player that NHL players most enjoy watching.

Pezzetta, who has played in 175 regular season NHL games, has high praise for the players.

The 2016 sixth-round NHL Draft pick of the Habs appreciated the game’s intensity.

“I think what impressed me the most is how hard they play. The girls are hitting and getting into scrums after the whistles. It wasn't just stick-checking.

“They are going hard. As someone who plays the game hard, I was having a blast watching that.”

It wasn’t the only thing he took notice of.

“The speed and pace of the game there was a lot of back-and-forth action, and it kept you on the edge of your seat the whole game.

“It was a great show and atmosphere.”

Stacey was happy to have her men’s league peers in the Canadiens players in the stands.

“It was amazing to see the Montreal Canadiens players in the stands supporting us. They have watched and supported us all season long, but for them to show up and fill the seats it means a lot to every one of us.

“We are big fans of watching and cheering them on all season and to see them show that support back was really special.”

No need to ask if Pezzetta will be back in the stands again.

“I've never watched a women's game live, so I wanted to be there to see how it was and enjoy the atmosphere. I wanted to show that I support them and everything they are trying to build.

“Obviously, I've watched Team Canada on TV and the dominant games they’ve had, but it was cool to see a league match and I was happy that I went.”

He encourages other hockey fans to tune in to PWHL action.

“I think once you watch a game, you see how exciting it is.”

Something that Stacey and her PWHL contemporaries have known for years about women’s hockey.

Sharing it with a larger audience has been a dream come true for the Ontario-born forward, who started playing hockey at the age of four.

“That game truly showed every single one of us that women’s hockey and women’s sports are here to stay.

“This league has far exceeded our expectations and it continues to break more records and more barriers and it is an absolute honour and privilege to get to be a part of it.

“Four years ago, we sat out and took a stance because we knew our game and our sport deserved and could do so much better. And now we are getting to see first-hand how badly everyone truly wanted this.”

All the success, for the PWHL and its players, is well-deserved, said Pezzetta.

“I could only imagine for the women that it's been a long road to get their league up and running. To see that kind of support must have felt amazing.”