“Can you tell us about having to build a team around, as (GM) Jason (Kelly) said: Not just Ball Hockey players, but All Hockey players,” reporter Erica Ayala asked two members of the inaugural NWHL season and New York Riveters — Amber Moore and Cherie Stewart. It was a fitting statement on Hockey Day in America (February 19) as we spoke to the two trailblazers, at a Riveters game, about their new endeavor.
Stewart and Moore will be competing for Team USA in the Women’s Ball Hockey Championship (June 3-10) in Pardubice, Czech Republic. “I like that whole ‘not just Ball Hockey, but All-Hockey’ – I think it’s really interesting, like in January back at camp we had a whole team building exercise where we were talking about our insecurities as players, areas where we are more confident and it was interesting to hear and break down. A lot of the field hockey players were like yeah I can’t believe I’m on the dek with people who played college hockey,” said Moore.
“Us coming from ice hockey, not being as comfortable with the ball and the way that it moves compared to people who only play ball hockey. So it definitely adds different dimensions to the team and the ability to bring it all together, work together has been really inspiring and also just having the All-Hockey environment has added more layers and depth to the team as a whole.”
Returning to the NWHL was somewhat of a consideration for both, but as they explained it just wasn’t in the cards for them and it worked out for both as they will now represent their country and compete for a gold medal.
— ASHI Women's Team (@ASHI_WNT) February 19, 2017
“I think for me, I would have loved to play but also the reality is that I was going to start a grad school program, and the workload,” said Stewart. “This is like a bonus, hockey for me – I’d love to play with some great players, but respecting that there are a lot of younger people out there waiting to get in here (NWHL), I am happy that I was a part of the inaugural season.”
The move from Brooklyn, New York to Newark, New Jersey isn’t far at all in miles or distance, but as anyone who has lived in these parts knows on any given day a 15-mile trip could take two hours. “They asked me back to be a practice player but I have grad school on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the commute to Newark is…intense,” Moore said with a chuckle, “and I wasn’t ready to commute 15 hours – for not my job – a week. I definitely think just in retrospect it was a good decision to step away because I have been able to develop different areas of my life – advancing professionally in other aspects and also still playing a lot of really awesome hockey.”
Moore and Stewart have been on many hockey trips and adventures as they explained to us, and they’re happy to be on another new journey that will take them overseas. “We’ve been doing this hockey thing together for two years straight and when I asked her: hey do you think ball hockey is something that’s in the cards?,” Stewart recalled, “She’s like sure, what do you do? They saw her skill, saw that she’s a good player, a good person and I think they made the right decision to bring her in. I’m super happy to travel with her, she’s easy to travel with,” she added with a smile, “sometimes.”
As Moore explained they only practice six-seven times a year, which means they do a lot of self-maintenance when it comes to working on their skills however they can while living their lives in the city that never sleeps. “Knowing that Worlds is coming up, knowing that you’re accountable as an individual but also to your team, really pushes me to focus on the task at hand and know that even if I’m tired at the end of the day I’m making sure that I’m putting in the effort and going the extra mile to really get to where I need to be physically,” she said. “Because there is a level of accountability that you have to have when you are only meeting six or seven times a year.”
“Amber likes to do a lot of Cross Fit and does a lot of off-ice stuff,” Stewart said. “I like to go play a lot of hockey and I do a lot of stick work. I’ll go out and rollerblade (weather permitting) but right now I’m playing a lot of ice hockey and that helps with my ball hockey skills.”
The two have experienced so much together and without question, it appears that they will continue to go through some fantastic experiences together as Moore spoke of her special bond with Stewart.
“She’s really shown me around the New York hockey scene and I couldn’t be more grateful,” said Moore with a smile. “I definitely wouldn’t have done Riveters if it wasn’t for Cherie, and then showing me ball hockey, getting me involved in a whole bunch of men’s leagues as well; it’s been unbelievable. I definitely think we’ve gone through a lot of hard times together…and it’s really forged our friendship. I couldn’t be happier to have a buddy for the Czech Republic.”
NWHL fans near and far will all be rooting for Amber Moore and Cherie Stewart this June as they look to lead the program to its second ever medal at the Women’s Ball Hockey Championships.
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.