PWHL player Emma Greco, of Burlington, Ont., says television has made a difference in women’s hockey
Emma Greco of Burlington played in two other professional hockey leagues before the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), but says she never saw the kind of interest the women’s game is seeing now — and she credits that in large part to television.
“People I haven’t talked to in a while will message me and say, ‘I was watching you on TV,’ or they’ll post me on an Instagram story saying they were watching my game at a bar somewhere,” said Greco, the former Burlington Barracuda player, who was a fullback. About Minnesota Nine shots and four penalty minutes In the PWHL this year.
“This is madness.”
In Greco’s previous leagues — the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) — most games were not televised, making it nearly impossible for fans who couldn’t be there in person on a regular basis to follow the contests or get to know the players.
“Our championship game was only on TV. It wasn’t consistent,” says Greco, whose current team led the league through most of January but now sits second in the standings behind Montreal. “It’s been a lot of fun so far.”
Transfer of league matches In Canada it is shared between CBC, Sportsnet and TSN, with games broadcast on CBC also appearing on CBC Gem.
The league said its first match had arrived 2.9 million viewers.
“Market it right, people want to be seen.”
Greco, 28, grew up in Burlington’s Aldershot neighborhood and attended Maplehurst Public School and Aldershot High School, where she “played a range of sports…hockey, soccer, field hockey, basketball, and badminton.”
Outside of school, she played hockey for the Burlington Barracudas until ninth grade.
Fellow Burlington Barracuda graduate and PWHL member Renata Fast, who plays for Toronto in the new league, spoke to CBC Morning metro Last week on the importance of visibility and marketing in developing women’s football.
Fast, who was born in Hamilton before moving to Burlington, was one of the PWHL players participating in a new official National Hockey League All-Star Weekend event, a televised women’s 3-on-3 event last Thursday in Toronto.
She says the interest the league has received, including selling out Toronto’s entire domestic season on the first day tickets became available, shows there is a huge appetite for women’s hockey if people get a chance to see it for themselves, something that often starts with TV coverage.
“We used to play hockey professionally in the past but we didn’t have the support we have now,” Fast told CBC. “It’s very nice to see that when there’s investment behind something and the right people are there to market it properly, people want to show up.”
Fast said the girls she has coached say they watch the matches on TV, which shows them there is a future for them in the sport.
“I’ve been part of every league possible.”
After Barracuda, Greco joined the Toronto Eros. Both clubs are part of Ontario Women’s Hockey Leaguethe top tier of under-22 women’s amateur hockey in the province.
The Eros has proven to be a major training ground for members of the PWHL: According to the Hockey News, A “full 10 percent” of current PWHL players have worn the club’s jersey, including Jesse Eldridge, Jill Saulnier, Sophie Jacques, Lauren Gabel, Erin Ambrose, Laura Stacey, Darrell Watts and Claire Dalton.
Greco also played soccer throughout her youth, and was apparently very good at it. After her four-year hockey scholarship at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut ended, she received a football scholarship for the final year she needed to finish her master’s degree in business administration.
“I thought I was done playing hockey,” she said in a Zoom interview in late January from her home in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, which she shares with teammates Michela Cava and Melissa Chanel.
This idea did not last. “After soccer season was over, I decided to join the Connecticut Whale, which was in the PHF at the time. So I did that for the rest of that year.”
Greco went from there to the Toronto Furies of the CWHL, and a series of day jobs in marketing and sales. Most recently, she worked as the Director of Business Development and Marketing, and a skating coach at Barnburner Hockey Academy in Toronto.
Now a full-time hockey player, she says she is “grateful” to have found her way here after such a winding path.
“I think I’ve been a part of every possible league,” she said. “It’s really great to get to the bottom of it and have a sustainable league that’s going to be here for a long time.”