There doesn't appear to be a definitive list of the most attended women's hockey games ever, so it's not entirely easy to put Saturday's Fill the Bowl event at the Kohl Center in context, but we can try.
North Dakota, where hockey is essentially religion, co-opted the Fill the Bowl concept two weeks before Wisconsin's event. Like Wisconsin, NoDak hosted Minnesota and like UW, NoDak was hoping to break a record. The difference? North Dakota was hoping to break its own record for attendance at a women's event. And it did, drawing 5,835, "crushing" its own old record of 3,200 people to watch a women's hockey game. It set a record for the number of people watching women's hockey in the state of North Dakota.
The best I can tell, Wisconsin's 2014 Fill the Bowl made the top 11 of most attended women's hockey games ever. It was also the biggest crowd watching a hockey game anywhere in the world that day - including four men's opening round and two women's quarterfinal Olympic games in Sochi that day. (There were 11,678 at the USA-Russia game that took place early on Saturday morning,
The list below is not entirely comprehensive, but it was compiled based on what I could gather were the best attended events. The largest Olympic crowds are on the list for reference.
18,013: 2013 IIHF Women's World Championship Canada-Finland Game
17,227: Dec. 20, 2013 Bring on the World Tour, USA-Canada in Toronto
16,805: 2010 Vancouver Gold Medal Game USA-Canada
16,496: 2010 Vancouver Opening Round Canada-Slovakia
16,398: 2010 Vancouver Bronze Medal Game Sweden-Finland
16,324: 2010 Vancouver Semi-Final Canada-Finland
16,021: 2010 Vancouver Semi-Final USA-Sweden
15,003: 2007 IIHF Women's World Championship (two games)
14,994: January 16, 1998 USA-Canada pre-Olympic game
13,776: 2013 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal Game (USA-Canada)
13,573: 2014 Fill the Bowl
12,402: 2012 Fill the Bowl
11,174: 2013 IIHF Women's World Championship USA-Canada Opening Round Game
8,626: 1998 Nagano Olympics Gold Medal Game
8,599: 2002 Salt Lake City Gold Medal Game
8,399: 2006 Torino Canada-Italy Opening Round Game
6,664: 2006 Torino Gold Medal Game
Perhaps more telling: the number of fans in the Kohl Center on Saturday surpasses what passes through the gates for many other teams over the course of a season.
There are just five teams (Wisconsin included) that draw more fans in a year than UW drew to Fill the Bowl on Saturday.
This table (of the top 25 teams) comes from USCHO:
2012-13 Season Attendance
|Rank||Team||Dates||Total Attendance||Average Attendance||Capacity||Cap. %|
|21||St. Cloud State||16||4,379||274||5,763||4.7|
College Hockey Stats.com has updated stats for this season and shows Saturday's attendance would have beat all but four team's home attendance for the season (Wisconsin being one of the four.)
As the Olympics play out, there is constant conversation about US and Canada domination, and whether the sport should continue to be supported by the IOC. Events like Fill the Bowl that expose more fans and possible future players to the game have nothing but positive effects on the future of women's hockey.
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