From May 1-31 NWHL teams can re-sign players from their 2016-17 roster and their draft picks during the restricted free agency period, and beginning on June 1 any unsigned players left will be free to sign with any team. The third season of the NWHL will begin on October 28 as the Buffalo Beauts begin defense of their Isobel Cup championship, and with up to 12 players unable to participate in the league this season due to their selection for Team USA’s 2018 Olympic team, this will be the most competitive season yet.
My colleague Nathaniel Oliver will keep THW readers up to date on Buffalo and Boston’s signings throughout the summer, while I post updates on Connecticut and New York.
On August 7 the Riveters shocked the hockey world when they lured Isobel Cup champion Harrison Browne out of retirement and signed him to a contract. An All-Star last season, Browne played both seasons with Buffalo, appearing in the Cup Final twice and his 18 career points (7g-11a) is 25th all-time in NWHL history; three of those goals are shorthanded which is second in league history.
“I took a lot of time these last four months to reflect on my career, my rights, and future steps that I am eager to take in my life,” said Browne, who last season became the first transgender player in American professional team sports, in a press release. “After thinking long and hard about exactly what those signify and how they can connect, I decided I wasn’t ready to retire from the NWHL.”
— Harrison Browne (@Hbrowne24) August 7, 2017
“What can I say? I’m a hockey player! I continued to train a lot this summer and spent some time-on-ice with (Rivs head coach) Chad Wiseman, who lives a town over from me in Ontario. I realized I had more to offer,” said one of the four players voted to the All-Star Game by the fans. “Thank you to Buffalo, my teammates and coaches and the staff, and to all the Beauts fans who treated me so well these past two seasons,” he added. “I will never forget your kindness and support.”
A week after Browne was signed Lauren Wash announced that she had terminated her contract and was going back to school. Wash signed mid-season with the Riveters and chipped in three points (1g-2a) over the eight games she played in; she had re-signed with the Rivs on May 24.
“I’m leaving the NWHL because I’ve decided to go back to school this fall to study to become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. I’m super-excited to move forward with something I’m so passionate about, but I’m also sad because it’s hard to leave the Riveters,” Wash said in a statement released on August 14. “I want to thank the organization, my teammates, and the NWHL for the amazing experience. My gratitude also goes out to the fans for their support of me, the Rivs, and women’s hockey.”
Here is the Riveters roster as of August 18:
Goalie: Katie Fitzgerald, Sarah Bryant
Defense: Ashley Johnston, Kiira Dosdall, Courtney Burke, Jenny Ryan, Kelsey Koelzer, Michelle Picard
Forward: Tatiana Rafter, Rebecca Russo, Miye D’Oench, Cheeky Herr, Alexa Gruschow, Lindsey Hywla, Bray Ketchum, Harrison Browne
On August 1 Connecticut welcomed back defender Jordan Brickner for a third season with the franchise. In 32 career games, the 26-year-old blueliner has amassed 16 points (1g-15a) and joins Shannon Doyle, Anya Battaglino, Kelly Babstock and Sam Faber as players who will be a part of all three seasons with the Whale.
“It is exciting to see all of the players signing or re-signing with the Whale,” Brickner said in a press release. “I went to high school with Stephanie Mock, so I’m thrilled to play on the same team with her again. I’ve really enjoyed being able to continue my hockey career in the NWHL. I have met some great friends and have been able to re-connect with old friends and teammates. I’m fortunate to be able to continue to play the game I love so much.”
The Whale also added a forward on August 15 when they agreed to terms with Emily Fluke, who put up 115 points (54g-61a) in her collegiate career with Middlebury College and was captain her senior year of not only the hockey team but also for the school’s field hockey and lacrosse teams.
“I’m really happy to turn pro and return to Connecticut to play for the Whale,” said Fluke in a press release. “When college ended, I wasn’t ready to stop playing hockey, so to be able to do it in the ultra-competitive NWHL is a dream come true.”
Here is the Whale roster as of August 18:
Goalie: Sydney Rossman
Defense: Cydney Roesler, Shannon Doyle, Elena Orlando, Anya Battaglino, Rachel Ade, Jordan Brickner
Forward: Kelly Babstock, Juana Baribeau, Stephanie Mock, Sam Faber, Emily Fluke
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.