Pillow Fight League, a Semi-Professional Women’s Sports League Featuring Pillow Fighting

For a brief period in the mid-2000s, a new sport caught on wildly that was based on pillow fighting. Originated out of Toronto, the sport quickly turned into a semi-professional league with women training hard to become the next ultimate pillow fighting champion.

The Pillow Fight League (PFL) is a Toronto-based, semi-professional sports league centered on public pillow fights. Only women fighters are allowed to participate, and the competition takes part in a fighting arena, similar to a boxing ring.

The Pillow Fight League
The Pillow Fight League. Image Credit: Indiegogo

Even though by the name of it it sounds like a girls’ sleepover, the fights are very intense. There are specific rules designed to keep the match fair. Cuts, scrapes, and bruises are common when it comes to the fighters. Some of the fighters have even endured serious injuries such as concussions, broken teeth, black eyes, torn muscles, split lips, and bruised kidneys.

The League was founded by Stacey P. Case and Craig Daniels in February 2004. Since then, numerous fights have taken place across  Montreal, Quebec, and New York City.

Contestants in a Pillow Fight League
Contestants in a Pillow Fight League. Image Credit: Karenkayho via Wikipedia

Stacey P. Case served as the PFL Commissioner, while Craig Daniels served as the Honorary PFL Commissioner. They started the league in 2004. It was launched in 2006 at a Canadian goth bar, The Vatikan, in Toronto.

Originally, the league grew out of a few live events by Skin Tight Outta Sight, a Canadian burlesque troupe. The events took place during a performance by Mr. Case’s band. Mr. Case then organized tryouts for audience members. Finally, in 2006, the official league was launched with a primary emphasis on pillow fighting.

The concept was a moneymaker for the founders. Once it was launched, the event attracted intense media coverage. ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Good Morning America, ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX were all talking about the fights. Eddie October, reality television and sitcom producer, bought the television rights for the PFL in 2007.

The fights take place between two or three girls, and there are specific rules that decide how the fights should be conducted. The fights are presided over by a three-judge committee that keeps track of the progress of the match. 

Previous PFL fighters
Previous PFL fighters. Image Credit: Polly Esther via Vice

There were specific rules that drove the matches. Firstly, only women fighters were allowed to take part in the fights without any exceptions. Each fight had a time limit of five minutes. A fighter wins in case her opponent surrenders, or she “pinfalls” her opponent, or the referee stops the contest. In case of situations where no winner could be decided after the five minutes time limit, a three-judge committee declared the winner based on their observations.

Attacks such as punching, clotheslines, leg drops, submission holds, and some other moves were allowed. But, they were only allowed as long as a pillow was used to execute the moves. No fighter could oppose an attack move by holding the pillow of the opponent. This would lead to a warning from the referee. Eye-gouging, scratching, biting, hair pulling, or low blows were strictly barred. No rude or lewd behavior was allowed.

The most important rule was that the pillow cannot be loaded with foreign objects such as bricks.

The league ceased operation in 2011. In 2016, the ownership rights of the Pillow Fight League were bought by another organization. They tried to revive the league via funding from Indiegogo but were unable to raise the required amount. 

In March 2011, the Pillow Fight League ceased operations due to health concerns of  PFL Commissioner Stacey P. Case. After being on a roll for five consecutive years, people associated with the league were sad to see it ending so abruptly. In 2016, the PFL ownership rights were sold to a group led by Brandy Dawley, a Canadian media personality. Dawley announced that she plans to make the new versions of the pillow fights bigger, better, and more polished than before.

The new owners launched the BringBackThePFL.com, an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, to raise $20,000. Along with an objective to raise money, they also hoped that Indiegogo will help in spreading awareness about the league, but they were unable to raise any money and the league now has officially been closed.

Even though the league is no longer up and running, the women who were part of the league still have a fondness for the sport. They cherish each other like “old wartime buddies,”  as described by Sarah Kurchak, a former PFL fighter, in a first-person account on Vice.
[source: 1,2,3]

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