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New York Riveters: general info, and free agency signing rundown

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Everything you need to know about the New York Riveters and the current climate in women's hockey as the National Women's Hockey League prepares for its inaugural season

Janine Weber takes her game-winning shot in overtime in the Clarkson Cup Final for the Boston Blades.  Weber was the first free agent signing by the New York Riveters, and the first NWHL player signed in history.
Janine Weber takes her game-winning shot in overtime in the Clarkson Cup Final for the Boston Blades. Weber was the first free agent signing by the New York Riveters, and the first NWHL player signed in history.
Sportsnet

Hey!  Welcome to New York Riveters coverage at Lighthouse Hockey.  I'm Zoë and I'll be taking care of you for the inaugural National Women's Hockey League season.  I was writing about the Boston women's hockey scene over at Stanley Cup of Chowder, and I'm going to continue to do that when I can, but I've moved closer to New York than to Boston, and this team is going to be great to watch.  Here's what you need to know. . .

WHERE: Your New York Riveters will be playing at Aviator Sports in Brooklyn.  It's right next to Marine Park, and you can get there on the Q35 bus.  The facility has two NHL sized rinks and seating for 2000.  It also has a free parking lot, which I will be driving to and parking in for as many home games as I can get up to from Philadelphia.  Hope to see you there.

If you can't make it out to games, the NWHL will be offering a streaming service.

WHO: The Riveters GM is league founder and commissioner Dani Rylan, who launched the league at a formal event in New York City this April.  A head coach has not yet been named.

There have been some fan concerns about Rylan serving as both league commissioner and GM of the Riveters, but so far so good in terms of each team getting a fair shot at available free agents and prospects.  After following many of the new Boston Pride players last year, for example, I can state with authority that competition for the Riveters out of the gate will be stiff.

FREE AGENT SIGNINGS

  1. Janine Weber F - Austrian Weber was the OT hero for the Boston Blades in the CWHL Clarkson Cup Final.  She was a rookie at the pro level last year, but she's a power forward in the making, with strong skating, ability to evade backchecking, and a lethal shot.  Weber previously played at the college level for Providence College.
  2. Celeste Brown F - Brown was named captain of the RIT Tigers for her junior season in 2013-14.  Throughout her collegiate career she has shown her ability to come up in big games, often on the power play, as well as keen defensive sensibilities.  Her ability to track the puck at both ends of the ice means she can both block shots and take her own.
  3. Kiira Dosdall D - Dosdall graduated Colgate University in 2009, where she served as captain and built a strong career as an offensive threat from the blueline.  She then played professionally in Austria for the Vienna Sabres for four years.  She currently serves as the head coach of girls' hockey at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, NH.Dosdall provides veteran experience on the backend and a real scoring upside.
  4. Morgan Fritz-Ward F - The recently graduated Quinnipiac senior was also team captain her senior year and brings another strong two-way ability at forward to the Riveters roster.
  5. Beth Hanrahan F - The former Providence Friar graduated in 2015 and also served as a captain, leading her team in points last season and compiling a resume of game-winning goals and multi-goal games in Hockey East.
  6. Madison Packer F - Packer graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2014, where she developed a reputation as a physical forward; Dani Rylan described her style as "gritty."  She has a knack for getting possession in the offensive zone and making plays from down low.


Individual contract financial terms have not been disclosed, but each team operates under a $270,000 salary cap.  The regular season consists of 18 games, played on weekends, so the NWHL as the first women's paid professional hockey league in North America is treating the game like a part-time job.  Players will be compensated according to their roles.

Long story short, the Riveters have loaded up on offense in the form of smart two-way players.  They're still in need of a goaltender, a full complement of defenders, and some skaters at forward, but they're off to a good all-around start.  The free agency period ends on August 17, and players must be signed by that date to be eligible to play in the 2015-16 season.  For all free agent signings, the NWHL has a handy tracking page.

DRAFT PICKS

The first ever NWHL draft was back on June 20, and draft order was determined by lottery.  The Riveters won the first overall pick and first choice in each of 5 rounds.  Draft picks are rising college seniors who won't be eligible to play this year, but will be eligible next year to sign a contract with the team that drafted them.  There are, however, no obligations; the draft is considered a means of establishing a relationship between team and prospect, especially if the player will have to move to a new city to start their pro career.

1.) Alex Carpenter F (Boston College)
2.) Haley Sarupa F (Boston College)
3.) Erin Ambrose D (Clarkson University)
4.) Dana Trivigno F (Boston College)
5.) Kimberly Newell G (Princeton)

Dan did a quick scouting report on each of the five Riveters draft picks here.  Check it out!

The weird stuff

I wrote about this frequently over at Cup of Chowder, but the NWHL's beginnings seem to have a genesis in poor relations between the other North American pro league, the Canadian Women's Hockey League, and American players.  Notably, there was a brief labor dispute between Boston Blades players and the CWHL last November that led to the cancellation of two home games against the Montreal Stars.  Purportedly, the CWHL was asking for multi-year contracts with players without the promise of pay.  It's not known what terms were agreed to that allowed the CWHL season to continue for the Blades.  A couple weeks ago, I was able to report a rumor that certain Blades players had been granted "special release" from their CWHL contracts to explore terms with the NWHL. Neither the CWHL nor the NWHL has officially commented on these matters.

In light of the NWHL, the CWHL has announced that they will pursue expansion within the United States, something they had previously said they would not do until they were able to pay their players.  With the NWHL offering pay right out of the gate, it seems to have been an impetus to the CWHL to start accelerating their plans.  The CWHL's only American team, the Boston Blades, has already seen seven key players sign with an NWHL club instead.

It's also notable that many of the major names (including a serious number US and Canadian Olympians--Hilary Knight, Kacey Bellamy, Brianna Decker, Tara Watchorn, Genevieve Lacasse, Monique Lamoureux, Meghan Duggan) who were playing for the Boston Blades have yet to announce where and if they will be playing in 2015-16.  If the Riveters or any other NWHL club can finalize terms with any of these Olympic athletes, it goes without saying that this will elevate the on-ice product considerably.

Personally, as I've said many times, I want to support and write about any women's hockey league that a player wants to be a part of, and I'm excited about the NWHL because the Riveters mean I get to keep attending pro women's hockey games in person even though I'm leaving Boston.  Bringing you #BrooklynHockey is going to be a pleasure.