The Canadian Tire PWHL 3-on-3 Showcase, held Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena as part of the NHL's All-Star Weekend, was a hit-or-miss event. As expected, the on-ice action was fast-paced and exciting, with Team King coming out on top with a 5-3 win over Team Kloss.
If you're not talking about Savannah Harmon yet, what are you waiting for? Harmon, who is a defender, factored in on all five of Team King's goals, including a hat trick and two assists. She has four points in six games so far this season with PWHL Ottawa and was undoubtedly the star of Thursday's show.
Thursday's game was played as two 10-minute halves, and Team King got on the board just 59 seconds in. Ella Shelton, who also scored the first goal in PWHL history a month ago, tapped in a backhand off a cross-ice pass from Harmon and tucked the puck in the corner against a moving Emerance Maschmeyer.
Alex Carpenter tied the game just over a minute later, slapping in a loose puck in the slot after Ann-Renée Desbiens fumbled the puck in front of the net.
The offense kept coming, as to expected in a game filled with some of the world's top players, as Jocelyne Larocque gave Team Kloss a 2-1 lead on the breakaway with a slow, high shot that beat Desbiens.
Before the first half ended, Harmon scored her first of the game on a tip-in off a pass from Marie-Philip Poulin. Alina Müller, the only non-North American player in the game, also registered an assist on the goal, which came with 20.6 seconds left.
Teams reconvened for the second half after a very brief intermission. Team King had a few good chances before Harmon broke the tie just over three minutes in, scoring her second of the night. Once again, it was the Poulin-Harmon connection that factored in, as Poulin went to the front of the net and backhanded a short pass across to Harmon, who capitalized on a moving Nicole Hensley to make it 3-2.
Just 35 seconds later, Harmon completed the hat trick. Some of her teammates even celebrated by throwing their gloves on the ice, and it was clear that players on both sides of the ice were having fun.
Kendall Coyne Schofield made it 5-2 with 3:15 to play, tapping in a goal to beat her own PWHL Minnesota netminder Hensley. Harmon & Müller also notched assists.
Finally, Brianne Jenner capped off the night with Team Kloss' third and and final goal with 1:06 to play, scoring off a cross-ice pass from Laura Stacey below the faceoff circle to the right of Aerin Frankel. Jenner would have a few more chances before the buzzer sounded, including a deflected shot and a miss, but it was Team King that won, 5-3.
- The on-ice action was fantastic, particularly the offense, though we got to see some great saves by goalies and some great defensive plays, too. Since we've been able to see some of these players in PWHL action both with and against one another, it's been fun to see those PWHL teams build camaraderie and even some sense of rivalries. Thursday's game provided the chance for some of the players to get mixed together again, and it was fun to see some different combinations – like Harmon and Poulin combining for multiple goals.
- Data tracking isn't something we've seen a ton of publicly in women's hockey yet, but there was at least some of it on Thursday night. Steven Ellis from Daily Faceoff posted a photo of the Scotiabank Arena jumbotron, which included shift times for individual players as well as team comparisons for offensive and defensive zone time, neutral zone time and possession time.
- The crowd seemed a bit quiet on the broadcast, but the announced attendance for Thursday's NHL All-Star event was 16,392. It's unclear how many of those folks stuck around for the PWHL Challenge, but it seemed like a well filled-in crowd.
- One of my favorite aspects of any All-Star style event is getting to see player personalities shine through. Whether it's Emerance Maschmeyer and Sarah Nurse absolutely crushing it with their pre-game red carpet fits, or Ann-Renée Desbiens going live on Instagram from the bench during the game, it was clear the players were having an aweseomt time, which is what it's all about.
- The broadcast seemed like a bit of a mess. I actually had both the ESPN+ stream and YouTube up, mainly so I could see if there was any difference between the two, and sure enough, there was. The YouTube stream had no commentary for the entire first half, while the ESPN+ stream had a lot of audio issues, including static and feedback at points. The in-arena public address audio was extremely quiet on the YouTube stream in the first half, and you could barely hear the player announcements. The brief intermission featured commercials on ESPN+, but the YouTube stream appeared to be a raw satellite feed, where the commentators were on camera and live but were clearly unaware. Random audio from players also came through on the feed. Overall, the broadcast was disappointing, and it's unclear if the issues stemmed from Sportsnet, the NHL, or what.
- Staying on the broadcast: at the beginning of the second half, we were very briefly treated to player possession tags, but it lasted all of two minutes before they were unceremoniously gone. Something interesting to try out – especially for those watching who may not know all the players! – but it shouldn't be piecemeal. Either give us the player tags, or don't. (For what it's worth, a lot of people on social media didn't seem to like them.)
- I was really disappointed that Al Murdoch, the public address announcer who does all the high-profile NHL events, mispronounced several PWHL player names in pregame introductions. It shouldn't be difficult to get it right.
- It's a really small thing, but I did find it a bit strange that neither Billie Jean King nor Ilana Kloss, who the PWHL teams were named after, were on the ice for Thursday's ceremonial puck drop. I never saw them on the broadcast, either, and it's possible they weren't even there, but it sure would've been nice to acknowledge them & their contributions to women's sports more personally and give some context for the team names to the audience who might not be familiar with the PWHL.
- A smoother, more professional broadcast. There was a little bit of pregame beforehand on ESPN+ with interviews of Sarah Nurse, Marie-Philip Poulin and Hilary Knight, among others, but I would've loved a little bit more. A brief postgame would've been neat, too; the broadcast just sort of ended after the game, going to a wide shot of the arena.
- A longer game. Twenty minutes went by so fast! The ten-minute halves were gone as quickly as they started. Maybe it doesn't have to be a 60-minute game, if you're looking to keep things light and fun and different, but just 20 minutes absolutely flew by. A third 10-minute period would have been nice – 30 minutes is exactly half a regular hockey game.
- A game that starts on time. I'm sure some of this had to do with the fact that there were other events on the ice right beforehand, and some of it likely had to do with broadcasting, but there's no reason an event that's been publicized as starting at 8:00 PM should start at 8:27 PM.
(Photo: Toronto Maple Leafs/X)