Beginning May 15, NWHL teams can re-sign players from their 2018-19 roster and their draft picks. Additionally, for those players who have completed their college eligibility and want to continue their hockey careers, NWHL Free Agency provides the best opportunity to continue playing at the highest level of professional women’s hockey. The fifth season of the NWHL will begin in October as the Minnesota Whitecaps look to defend their Isobel Cup championship.
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 the Riveters. Together we will be keeping readers informed of all of Minnesota’s signings.
On May 20 the Metropolitan Riveters announced their first signing for the 2019-20 season when they agreed to terms with forward Madison Packer. The 27-year-old is the franchise leader in goals (29), points (51), penalty minutes (91), and she has appeared in all seven of the team’s playoff games (2g-3a).
During the Riveters championship season (2017-18) Packer, a two-time All-Star, led the league in goals (10) which was finished off with a hat trick in the final game of the season. With more than 200 players planning to sit out the upcoming season in hopes of a better league, Packer was the second player to sign a contract for the NWHL’s fifth season with her signing announced an hour after the Boston Pride agreed to terms with defender Kaleigh Fratkin.
Leader of the Pack
“I’m coming back for a fifth season because I am passionate about continuing my playing career and to advance the game and our league,” said Packer in the press release announcing her signing. “I’m confident in the direction our sport is headed, and in the
In addition to being an Isobel Cup champion Packer, who has been a heart and soul player for the Rivs during her tenure, also won an NCAA title at the University of Wisconsin in 2011. With a possible vacancy at captain on the Riveters, she is a prime candidate to take on that challenge although everyone already knows that she is a leader on the ice with or without a letter stitched on her jersey.
“Madison has been a bedrock of the Riveters and a respected leader on and off the ice,” said Kate Whitman Annis, who was recently named the team’s general manager. “She is a great player to have under contract as we start to build our team.” What that team looks like is anyone’s guess with so many players committed to sitting out a season, but starting a team with a player of Packer’s ilk and talents is not a bad starting point at all.
“Individual success doesn’t mean much if the team isn’t being successful,” said the player that play-by-play announcer Matt Falkenbury calls ‘The Franchise’. “My role has always been to make plays, be a leader, and put the puck in the net. That’s a lot easier to do when surrounded by other players who elevate your game. We need to build a team dynamic that people want to be a part of. It’s always nice to make the All-Star Game, win awards, and get a ton of points,” Packer told NWHL
Packer is one of only two players (Kiira Dosdall) who has been with the Riveters franchise since its inception and despite residing in Connecticut she has been committed to growing the game in the Metropolitan area and now will unquestionably be the face of the franchise as they move into a new era of NWHL hockey in this fifth season. It’s crazy that she briefly retired for a few months in 2017 and now she is as Whitman Annis said, ‘a bedrock of the Riveters.’
“It means a lot to me. Any time you can play for the same organization for five seasons, that’s pretty special,” replied Packer when asked what being a Riveter and original NWHLer meant to her. “I am very humbled and grateful for the opportunity from both the NWHL and the Riveters. There has always been a certain identity and culture within the Riveters organization, and to be fair I think a little of that was lost last season as we struggled to be successful as a team.”
“I’m excited for the opportunity to work with the new group to restore that culture. It starts with a
It will be captivating to see which other players out there follow Packer’s lead and sign with the Riveters in what can best be described as an awkward time in the women’s hockey world.
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.