Just weeks away from the opening of the inaugural season, the NWHL has announced the league’s first ever international game. The New York Riveters will play a three-game series against Smile Japan — the Japanese Women’s National Team — in Nikko, Japan at Nikko Kirifuri Ice Arena.
Not only will the game be a historic event for the budding league, the connections between the teams run deeper than it appears on the surface.
Nana Fujimoto, goaltender for the Riveters, is the Japanese national team’s goaltender, winning best goaltender honors at the 2015 Women’s World Championships in Malmö, Sweden. At the tournament she posted a .938 Sv%, a shutout and a 1.52 goals against average, leading Japan to their first-ever win over Sweden, avoiding relegation.
She additionally played for Smile Japan at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Fujimoto will have a unique perspective on the game, facing Smile Japan from the other side of the rink. “I’ve seen the team from only their point of view, but this time I hope that I will be able to observe them with a broader perspective. I am really looking forward to competing with them,” Fujimoto remarked in a NWHL release.
Riveters coach Chad Wiseman also has a connection with Japanese hockey, having spent time in Japan during his playing career. “This is a historic opportunity to bring the NWHL to Japan and grow the game of women’s hockey,” Wiseman said.
The games will take place from December 16 to 19, over a short span of time where there are no NWHL games scheduled.
The Riveters kick of their inaugural season with the NWHL on October 11 playing the Connecticut Whale on the road.