Ever wanted to know how professional hockey players prepare for a game, or what they do in between periods, or after pregame warmups in the locker room? You must be curious because you opened this article! Recently I spoke with Jenny Ryan, a defender for the Metropolitan Riveters to find out what her routine when she’s getting ready for and during NWHL games.
After four years at the University of Wisconsin, Ryan has been a part of the NWHL for the past two seasons, and she was a major player in helping the Riveters to capture their first Isobel Cup last season. As a rookie she was a point-a-game player – finishing with 16 points, which was good for fifth in the league and first among all first-year pros; she was also second in power play points (9), and third in shots on goal (49). From before she gets to the rink, the downtime as she waits to take the ice for the start of the game, what’s going on inside the Rivs’ locker room during intermissions, Ryan was kind enough to fill us in on all of the details.
It’s Game Day
The day starts just like, well any other day for her. Ryan lives in New Jersey with her close friends and Riveters’ teammates – Courtney Burke and Rebecca Russo. “I live with Courtney and Russo so when we wake up Russo and I will go to get coffee from Dunkin’ and take a little morning walk. Then we make bacon and eggs, and we all eat breakfast together,” said the 24-year-old from Victor, New York. “Usually Russo’s parents come over and hang out with us for a little bit and then we’ll all head over to the rink. That’s pretty much our routine in the mornings before an afternoon home game.”
Once at the rink, Ryan doesn’t have a set routine really, but there are a few things that she enjoys doing with and around her teammates. “I usually tape my stick, hang out and listen to music for a little bit,” she explained about what happens once she gets into the Riveters locker room. “Then we go play soccer (next to the rink) for a while, that’s usually my warmup. I’d say myself and Kiira (Dosdall) get really intense during soccer trying to beat a good score.”
Hit the Ice
Once she takes the ice, that’s where although she’s not superstitious she may just be a little-stitious! “I like everything being routine in that I like being in the same spot in line for all of the warmup drills that we do. I like being in the same spot for when we do our stretching,” Ryan described. “Then the three of us have a little bit of a handshake thing that we like to do before the game. We definitely keep that the same, I try not to be too obsessive about little things because then if they go wrong then I’m hung up on them (laughs)! The general flow is the same before every game though.”
Whatever Ryan is doing don’t question it just roll with it, because it works: in 29 career games as a pro she has 19 points (4g-15a), and she has been one of the best defenders on her team and the league in that time. After about 15 minutes the players will head off the ice and go back to their locker room. The next time that door opens it’s time to defend their home ice against another NWHL foe.
“I just sit in my locker, try to keep it light and make some jokes with the girls. I just try to keep myself from getting in my own head before the game. I get excited (to play) obviously,” said Ryan with a smile. “You think about what everyone needs to do (for us to be successful). We all have a talk before – just little details about the team that we’re about to play. So that we can alter things in a way that we can counter the other team if needed.”
After what is an intense period the team heads back to the locker room to get some rest and to sometimes regroup. “I’ll usually have an orange or something like that. Then, it’s really hot in the locker room,” she said with a laugh, “so we try to move away from where everybody is, sit somewhere on the side. It’s the same thing though (as before the game), little chats with the people I’m around about what’s going on in the game and what we can do to improve our play against that opponent.”
So Jenny, which Riveter most likely to pick up their cell phone and browse social media during intermission? “Ummmmmmmm, I think there’s a lot of us!” Ryan exclaimed, unable to contain her grin. “We try not to keep phones in the locker room unless it’s for music. Maybe (Kimberly) Sass; I don’t know if she’s on her phone but I know she likes social media.”
Win or lose the Riveters, like every other NWHL team when they are at home, will assemble in the lobby of the rink to sign autographs, take pictures or selfies with, and chat with their fans. The game could be over for an hour and sometimes there are still players taking time to get to know their fans better, and helping to give some of them a memory that will last a lifetime.
“Personally I just do some stretching, so my muscles don’t get too tight,” Ryan said of what she does once she takes all of her hockey equipment off. “Then get in the shower and try to get out here in a reasonable time. Mainly just making sure we don’t have any bumps and bruises that need to be attended to by our athletic trainer.”
In addition, following the game some players will have to do interviews with the attending media (like in this instance) or will have friends and family in town that they will chat with outside the locker room. A bunch of the players will end the night getting some good food and having some beverages locally as they finish winding down after what is always an intense game.
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.