New York has another championship to brag about. The Metropolitan Riveters are the National Women’s Hockey League champions. They played for the NWHL’s Isobel Cup this past Sunday.
It was a packed Barnabas Health Hockey House for the final game between the Riveters and the defending champions Buffalo Beauts. The game sold out and was probably oversold, but it happens. We got there about half an hour before the game and by the time we got to the stands there was not a seat to be had. There was a strong contingent of dedicated Buffalo fans there taking up a large area of seating near the visiting bench.
The place we usually go to find seats was completely filled. There was additional seating added on the top walkway of the stands but those were all reserved. But we were directed to the other side of the rink where there were chairs and open space against the Plexiglas. This actually worked out better. Parents pulled chairs up closer to the rink so their kids could stand on the chairs and get a good view. There was also more room for kids to move around and we didn’t have to struggle to keep them sitting or to stop them from kicking people in the back as is an issue with the general admission bench seating. Also, we were closer to where the Riveters emerge from the locker room, allowing our girls to give fist bumps to the team as they made their way to the ice for each period.
The camaraderie among fans that pervaded the season was still in full effect at the final game. We stood with other die-hard Riveters fans and it was great to be closer to the action.
Taking young children to sporting events is a hectic undertaking. One has to keep an eye on the kids at all times, which is not easy when you’re watching a fast-paced championship game.
The game’s one goal was scored in the first period by Alexa Gruschow, who made an amazing diving play that showed why she was named the NWHL’s Most Valuable Player of the season. At one point in the first period, Riveter Madison Packer was down on the ice after being checked from behind by one of the Beauts. This earned Buffalo a 10-minute misconduct penalty on top of a two-minute penalty for hitting from behind. It was no matter though, Packer was back in the game in the second period. Later in the game I saw Harrison Browne take another cheap shot from behind from Buffalo.
We discovered a doll with wings that was close to the media backdrop for the Riveters. With it was a note, claiming the doll was Izzy, who had come from Buffalo to stay with her favorite team but needed the Riveters to retriever her cup. A witty good luck gesture, and it took several readings aloud of the note and the explanation to keep my girls from playing with the doll or going in search of its owner. I tasked them instead with making sure the doll was not disturbed. Someone did move the doll to a more prominent location, but the note, and the good mojo, stayed with the Riveters Nation.
As the final seconds ticked down in the third period, the excitement was palpable and when the final buzzer rang the team piled on starting goalie Katy Fitzgerald. This is the team’s first Isobel Cup championship.
While they currently play in Newark and have forged a partnership with the New Jersey Devils, who now have an ownership stake in the team, the Riveters are a product of New York City. They played their inaugural season in Brooklyn at the Aviator Sports and Events Center at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. They began as the New York Riveters and I still have a hat bearing that name.
The Riveters have made great progress as a team and brought new fans to women’s hockey and the NWHL. We can say we were there to see them win their first championship.
This coming weekend, the Riveters will be competing in the championship game against the Buffalo Beauts. We will be there to see them play for the Isobel Cup, the NWHL’s championship trophy (named for the Isobel Stanley, daughter of Lord Fredrick Arthur Stanley for whom the NHL’s Stanley Cup is named for).
It has been a great season for the Riveters, and they had a long winning streak that lasted late into the season. The family and I have been to all but one regular season home game, and we traveled to Stamford to see the Riveters pull out a thrilling overtime win against the Connecticut Whale.
We have a regular place that we like to sit for games and it’s near a group of dedicated fans who often ring cowbells. There is Dmitry, a superfan who was the first that I can remember ringing the cowbell – he offered to let one of my girls ring it at the game in Connecticut. There are a few others in the growing cowbell contingent. Also near us is Manpuku the Puppy and his human companion, both dressed to impress. We’ve also sat next to Kelsey Koelzer’s mother a few times and chatted with her about the team. My older daughters have given hugs to Rebecca Russo.
We make a point to bring our daughters to see these games because it’s important that they see women in sports. Even at a very young age girls crave representation in what they see. So much of our culture presents women is nonsense, and the NWHL allows us to go to events where young women are the center of attention in a very positive way.
And it has been a joy to watch the hockey. Madison Packer’s smooth and aggressive style of play is a thing of beauty – she will circle around, almost as if she’s leisurely skating around the rink, and then wind up exactly where she needs to be, taking control of the puck against the boards or winding up in front of the net to score. And I have never seen a player hustle down the ice like Harrison Browne – breaking away ahead of everyone else to drive to the opponent’s net.
This past Sunday, the Riveters shut out the Whale 5-0 to earn their first trip to the final game.
The only team to beat the Riveters so far this year has been Buffalo, who have been playing very well and are the defending champions.
The NWHL has been gaining momentum with every season. This season, the Riveters entered a partnership with the New Jersey Devils, which took a part ownership of the team (that hurts as a Rangers fan but if it’s good for the Riveters, so be it), and the Buffalo Beauts were purchased by the company that own the Buffalo Sabres NHL team. And the cause of women’s hockey was given another great boost this year with the U.S. women taking the gold in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The final game is at the Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark, New Jersey and it’s easily accessible via public transportation. There is ample, affordable parking if you drive. If you like hockey, you won’t be sorry to be there for this big game.