You could say that Janine Weber is having a good season. In her second season with the New York Riveters the first ever player to sign a contract in the NWHL is currently tied for third in points (21) and tied for fourth in assists (12) as her team inches closer to the playoffs. Weber is heating up as the games get more important and for the Rivs, her performance will go a long way in determining if they win or fall just short of the Isobel Cup.
Her nine points over the previous four games has coincided with the return of Amanda Kessel, but don’t fool yourself; Weber is a great player too. “The last few games I’ve been playing with Kessel and that’s…fun,” Weber said while grinning. “It’s been easier this year (to succeed) because last year we were kind of the underdog against every team we played. This year we have three good forward lines, we have six great D, we have a solid team.”
— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) January 22, 2017
A big part of that solid team is the presence of Weber, not only on the ice but off of it as well. Her personality is easy-going and laid back, and a little goofy. As one of, if not the best player to come from Austria, her hockey skills are world class and watching her, the fans of the NWHL are starting to see that.
“Janine has been an irreplaceable presence on and off the ice this season,” Rivs blueliner Milica McMillen told The Hockey Writers. “She has gotten into her stride – especially in the second half of the season. She has been a great leader helping the new players feel like we are a part of the team, as well as producing points when it counts.”
McMillen is spot on as Weber has had five multiple-point games over the Rivs past nine games, helping their squad lock up second place in the NWHL and a home playoff game on March 17. This was a big improvement over last season when the Riveters languished at the bottom of the standings and ended up as the sacrificial lamb in the playoffs against the Boston Pride where they lost the two games by a combined score of 13-4.
— Troy Parla (@TroyParla) January 24, 2017
One of Weber’s closest friends on the team, and in life, is Kiira Dosdall. The two might as well be sisters as they have been through so many hockey journeys together and often times are roommates. Dosdall had made her way overseas to continue her hockey career after college ended and that’s where she and Weber first crossed paths. And as they say, the rest is history.
“We were stuck in an apartment together, randomly; and became buddies,” Dosdall recalled with a smile. “She was like my mom, she was 18-years-old when I got there. She was carting me around, buying me groceries and explaining everything to me.”
— Metropolitan Riveters (@Riveters) December 30, 2015
What would it mean to Weber, who is now 25-year-old, to be able to add another chapter to her bond with Dosdall if they can win the Isobel Cup together with the Riveters? Well, she didn’t want to get too far ahead of herself and look into the future, but, “Yeah, it would just be another chapter to this story we never thought would go on for this long,” she said laughing. “That would be amazing, I mean we’re basically like sisters so that would be a fun thing to do together and just add to the fun stories that we’ll be able to tell one day.”
Another fun story she can tell from this season is a little mixup she ran into in early February when she traveled overseas to help Austria try to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics. As we previously mentioned, Weber is pretty easy-going and laid back, but this incident really put that to the test.
Dude, Where’s My Equipment?
She landed in Tokyo and then… “I had my bag with my clothes, my sticks and then I was looking for my hockey bag and couldn’t find it. I asked someone from Delta and she said ‘Oh let me check.’ She scanned it and came running to me and saying something like: ‘hurry, hurry, your bag is going to Korea’,” she said with a laugh.
“I didn’t really understand what she was saying so I followed her. I think she said it was tagged wrong at Laguardia, so anyway it went to Korea. I asked if it would be here by tomorrow because we were playing South Korea in an exhibition game and she said, ‘Oh I don’t know, maybe. It will be hard’. I said, Oh great!”
Her equipment did arrive finally, the following day, but Weber had to sweat it out as game time inched closer and closer. “The morning skate I didn’t have my equipment, so I skated in my coaches skates. But it arrived in time for the game at night. I worried a little bit if it wasn’t there for our game, but there’s nothing you can do in the moment. There was nothing personally that I could do to fix it, so I just tried to take it easy.”
With Austria unable to qualify for the 2018 Olympics does that mean Weber will be back with the NWHL for season 3? “As of right now I don’t know what I’ll be doing. I would probably think about that after the season is over and after the Worlds in April. I won’t be back until May really,” Weber told THW. “That’s something I’ll think about at the end of the season once it’s that time. It’s hard to plan in the early stages of this league and women’s hockey in general. I’ll just see where it goes.”
The League, as well as the Rivs, would be that much better with Weber’s presence as a part of season three. She is such a great ambassador for women’s hockey and the NWHL, and it would be foolish of them to not do everything they can to convince her to come back for a third season.
Grow the Game
She knows how important they are as trailblazers, and also that instant success is not going to happen. It’s a process, but one that is showing results in ways. “It is frustrating, but it’s always something that’s not going to happen from one day to the next. There have been generations before us who have been trying to grow the game for sure, and I think we’re doing the same thing now,” Weber said of the lack of exposure her sport has sometimes.
“It’s easy to grow it now with social media and all of that stuff. It’ll take awhile to get where the men’s game is or where women’s soccer is. It’ll take the time to get the support. I think if you like hockey, and you give the women’s game a good chance, I don’t see why people wouldn’t like it. I think it’s a question of effort and the time, time put in by the league, the players, the media….it’s just a matter of time until it grows.”
— Metropolitan Riveters (@Riveters) October 22, 2016
As Weber mentioned, a big part of that exposure is social media, where they can connect daily with diehard and new fans of their game. It also allows fans from all over the country (and world) to watch their games and follow along with their lives as they continue to break down boundaries.
So after games how many notifications does Weber generally have on her phone? “It’s funny sometimes,” she said laughing. “When you have nothing on your phone (after a game) you’re like, ‘Well, not even my mom?’ Weber paused and laughed louder. “No, my mom always says I played well. She says, ‘Great game!’ She stays up to watch me, and she always says, ‘Great Game!’”
— Women's Hockey Life (@WHLOfficial) February 7, 2017
“You get tagged on things on Twitter, Instagram, people start following you. Your friends see things and text you, so yeah it’s definitely busy after a game like our last one,” said Weber of their epic comeback from 0-4 to win 6-5 in overtime. “It’s exciting. The more people that hear about it…I think Twitter is a good tool, there are obviously other ways too, but it’s an easy way to follow along with the Riveters, the League, the players and that definitely helps.”
“On social media, people are really excited about our game, and we’re not used to that exposure/attention really. It gives you some gratification, makes you feel good that people like women’s hockey, the League,” Weber said, and then smiled ear-to-ear. “It’s been really nice.”
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.