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NWHL: Reflections on the Riveters First Practice

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I had the privilege of attending media day and, after a few days of processing everything from Wednesday night, I thought it was time to share some of the sights, sounds, and emotions from the Riveters' historic first practice.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Some two hours after a pair of press conferences on Wednesday night a very significant event happened at Aviator Sports & Events Center - the New York Riveters took to the ice as a team for the first time. During the players' press conference it was clear that the opportunity to play in the NWHL meant everything to these women and that they could think of little more than finally getting to step out onto the ice as a team.

"So far I've had a great time meeting all of my teammates and getting familiar with the rink and the coaches... I'm anxious to get on the ice."

-Jenny Scrivens, @JenScrivs

"The most exciting part for me is the teammates. Putting faces to the names and seeing old friends and enemies we played against growing up."

-Brooke Ammerman, @bammerman20

With three star players that represent their national teams in Austria, Japan, and Russia the Riveters truly are an international team despite the fact that the majority of the roster is American born. The American players on the team come from all over the country: Connecticut, Kansas, Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina, California, New Hampshire, Iowa, Maryland, and Michigan are all represented on the Riveters' roster. Almost all of them played at the highest levels of college hockey, and regardless of their home state or home country each of them grew up in a world where playing hockey beyond the college level, IIHF tournaments, and/or the Olympics could never be anything more than a recreational pursuit. Until now.

Most of the Riveters wore the pants, gloves, and helmets from their college careers which was not only a constant reminder of the melting pot of talent that was on display Wednesday night, which Meghan Fardelmann quipped was "the cream of the crop", but also of the significance of the their gear being paid for by the NWHL. It was a new experience for the all of the elite athletes in the Riveters' locker room, including those players who had played in the CWHL and had to pay for their gear out of their own pockets.

Gearing Up

Watching the Riveters smile, laugh, and toss around their new gear was a profound moment. It wasn't just the fact that these young women deserved this moment that moved me, it was that they had all earned it. Almost every Riveter competed against both boys and girls as they grew up playing hockey because the leagues for girls and women before college hockey, outside of some prep schools and high schools in hockey hotbed states, simply don't exist yet. Talent alone didn't get them to the NWHL. Each and every one of them loved hockey in a way that was all too familiar to me, and that was evident the moment that Dan Hill from the Bauer equipment company started tossing gloves and other gear to them in their locker room.

"For a lot of us it's comparable to Christmas morning. Getting all new gear with everyone in there excited and trying stuff on. It's pretty fun, it's a cool experience. I think we got treated better than we were anticipating. All new stuff, custom stuff."

- Madison Packer, @madison_packer_

Packer and the Riveters Mike Murphy

Madison Packer (right) talking to her teammates after practice.

The Riveters, like the other three teams in the NWHL, have a salary cap of $270,000 for their team. You don't need to pick up a calculator or open up an Excel spreadsheet to know that with 18 paid players on the roster, the players on the Riveters are not making a livable wage playing professional hockey. What it also means is that each and every woman in the NWHL is playing because of something a great deal more significant than a paycheck. The NWHL's 72 paid players and dozens of non-roster players are true pioneers of their sport. Collectively they are punching a tremendous hole in the wall that has stood between women and the sport of hockey across the world.

Gabie Figueora

New Jersey native Gabie Figueora stayed after practice to punish a hockey net.

The fact that the NWHL is only a part time job for these athletes will hopefully change sometime in the near future, but that can't and won't happen without dedicated fans that support the league's first four hockey clubs. Hockey fans living in and near Boston, Buffalo, Stamford, and Brooklyn have a chance to be a part of history this season by watching these hungry, talented athletes battle in 18 regular season games and compete for the Isobel Cup in March. The hunger for success is there in both the league and its players and, thus far, there are plenty of promising signs for the NWHL finding success in Brooklyn and the other three host cities.

Although the entire roster wasn't present on Wednesday night, one couldn't help but smile watching the Riveters take to the ice as a team for the first time. Each one of them had a unique and unbelievable path to the rink at Aviator on Wednesday night that required talent, heart, dedication, and the stars aligning just at the right time to give them a chance to be a part of history. However, all that mattered to them after they had their practice jerseys on was listening, learning, and playing some hockey.

Sometime just before 10:00 PM on September 16th, the New York Riveters finally took to the ice.

Prac1

New York Riveters Practice

Goaltenders Lundberg (top picture) and Scrivens (bottom picture) facing some wristers from their new teammates.

Coach Chad Wiseman wasted little time making good on his promise during the press conference to get his team to work up a sweat and get right into the thick of things. Both Wiseman and DeSimone made it clear that they wanted to see character, hustle, and hard-nosed hockey from their team and that is just what the Riveters gave their coaches. The players on the ice were frustrated by any small mistake and they went all out in every drill that their coach had them run. And, like any good hockey practice, it became clear early on that it's pretty brutal to be a goalie.

Shenae Lundberg flashing her pad out for a kick save.

Erin Barley-Maloney celebrating a nasty shot that beat Jenny Scrivens.

Coach Wiseman finishing off a ridiculous set-up.

Using the rink's glass as a dry-erase board, the Riveters' head coach and one-time New York Ranger drew up drills and then watched his team execute them alongside the rest of the coaching staff. Throughout the practice the league's founder and commissioner Dani Rylan, who is also the Riveters' general manager, watched proudly as the team she put together over the summer showed hustle and skill and quickly shook off any of the nerves and rust that might have been holding them back early in practice. Although Rylan had a busy night and had other business to attend to and check in on during the practice, her eyes kept drifting back to the ice surface to watch her Riveters compete with one another and put their skills, conditioning, and work ethic on display.

Coach Wiseman 2

Chad Wiseman 1

Riveters Practice

On June 11th the first NWHL contract was signed by Janine Weber of the New York Riveters, just over three months later and after dozens of interviews, countless hours spent packing, moving, and figuring out how to get to Brooklyn to play in the NWHL, the women with Rosie the Riveter on their jersey were playing hockey together.

Riveters Team Picture

First on-ice team photo.

A date with history and the beginning of the NWHL's inaugural season is under a month away for the New York Riveters. Before October 11th there will be many hours of practice and two preseason games along with plenty of time getting to know new teammates and new homes. If you love hockey and simply can't get enough of it, I assure you that you will find kindred spirits wearing red, white, and blue flying on the ice at Aviator. All of them have earned the right to play the sport that they love and to finally be paid to do it. Whatever you do, don't let yourself miss it.

Thank you for reading.

Let's go Riveters.