Q & A with Rebecca Morse of the New York Riveters

Lots of hockey players grow up wanting to play, score and win for their favorite team, but for Rebecca Morse that isn’t possible at this time because there are no women in the NHL. So now, as a member of the NWHL, she is enjoying the next best thing – playing for and practicing for the New York Riveters in their new home: the Barnabas Health Hockey House aka the New Jersey Devils practice rink. The same rink that her favorite player and players, Scott Gomez and the Devils have practiced in since the Prudential Center opened in 2007.

At 24-years-old Morse is a few years removed from a four-year career at Providence College where she accumulated 60 points (16g-44a) over 136 games; she was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team as a freshman, and rightfully so – sixteen points (5g-11a), +17 and three game-winning goals. Now, she’s hoping to crack the Riveters lineup, which is pretty deep especially on the blue line with Kaleigh Fratkin, Kiira Dosdall, Michelle Picard, Courtney Burke, Ashley Johnston and Milica McMillen ahead of her. As she explains below, she may even see some ice-time as a forward.

During intermission at the Riveters sold-out home opener in New Jersey, the first sell-out in franchise history, The Hockey Writers was able to get some insight from Rebecca Morse as to how she was able to land a gig with the team, how she ended up playing defense and what the future holds for her among other topics.

The Hockey Writers: You are currently a practice player for the Riveters, but you weren’t at either of the NWHL Free Agent Camps this summer, so how did this all come about?

Rebecca Morse: I spent the last year in Providence (College) finishing my MBA degree and three players in particular – Beth Hanrahan, Celeste Brown and Janine Weber (all part of the Riveters inaugural season team) – I played high school with Celeste and we went to prep school together. Beth, I played high school and college (hockey) with and Janine, we played a year together at PC and then we roomed together the year after. In talking with them, obviously I followed the league and since my friends played on the Riveters specifically, just talking with them and it sounded like something that I really wanted to start doing. They enjoyed it so much and I heard great things, they said: just try out. Why not?

Especially they knew I was moving, after graduation I was planning on moving back home – I grew up in Westfield which is like 25 minutes away. (smiles) Also when I heard that the Riveters were practicing here (at Barnabas Health Hockey House, the practice rink and home of the New Jersey Devils), which is a little bit closer than Brooklyn so I jumped on the opportunity. I sent an email out to Chad (Wiseman, the Rivs’ head coach and GM) and we went from there.

THW: As a practice player, how anxious are you to get into a game?

RM: I actually took the last couple of years off, from playing, after graduating in 2014. I would just play shiny for fun, but I also coached. So being on the ice, it’s obviously not the same when you’re coaching – that speed and intensity – but any opportunity I had I was jumping in drills, I even got fully dressed for a lot of practices (grins). I wanted to get back into hockey and it worked out this way where I’m able to be a practice player, but at the same time playing again, being part of a team again…you get that feeling again. That love for the game (smiles wide). Obviously, you’re putting in the time, the work, you want to play a game. You want to play in every game. That’s been a little bit of an adjustment for me; but at the same time, taking those couple of years off, I’m moving at my own pace and it’s a good pace. Hopefully, I’ll get in some games here. I’m very anxious.

THW: Do you stay out on the ice later than other players once practice is over or is there just a set amount of time?

RM: I try to, but recently we’ve been going the full hour and fifteen (minutes) for practice, so I haven’t really had the opportunity. Last week there was nobody on the ice before us, so I had the opportunity to be on the ice before practice. Some of us were shooting on the goalies and I was working on stickhandling and edge-work; that was nice. This summer I was going to a lot of open hockey, various rinks around New Jersey so that helped a lot. Stickhandling at home. Shooting at home.

THW: Since you had friends on the team did you watch them all the time?

RM: I didn’t actually, I didn’t get the opportunity. Unfortunately, whenever I was home (holidays, some weekends) they were never playing here. Even when they were playing in Boston, which is only an hour from Providence, it never worked out with my coaching schedule; a lot of the games would be on Sunday nights, which is when I would be driving back to Providence. I watched some games online, though.

THW: You play defense. Why defense and not forward?

RM: Well, interestingly I’ve always had a soft spot for goalies; I always wanted to be a goalie. But at the same time, I had natural forward abilities and I don’t know how that left me as a defenseman (laughs). I guess in a sense you have the opportunity to sort of be like a goalie, but also score goals. I think that’s sort of where it came from. I was always bigger (Morse is listed at 5’8”) so a lot of it was size and at a young age, one of my strengths was definitely my shot. Generally, coaches say: oh it’s a big girl and they have a hammer of a shot, throw ‘em on defense. I tried it out, I played a little bit of forward and defense throughout my career. I’ve even played a little bit of forward in practice for the Riveters now. (On defense) I just like how you can see the whole ice, vision is much easier, and I was always an offensive defenseman and I felt I was better suited at doing that.

THW: So is your day job still coaching?

RM: I’m no longer coaching, I’m in the process of looking for a job right now.

THW: Do you have any idea what you want to get into?

RM: Actually in the summer of 2015 I did an internship here with the Devils. That was another dream come true! I interned in their communications department. Ideally, sports public relations or a sports communications department is what I want to get into.

THW: One of your teammates is Amanda Kessel, who’s kind of a big deal. Is there anyone like her or Hilary Knight or Meghan Duggan that you are kind of star struck around? Or do you know most of them from playing against them in college?

RM: You know what, even though Amanda Kessel is my teammate I think I’m still star struck around her. Just watching her in practice, it’s incredible; I’m in awe of the things she’s able to do on the ice. It’s very rare the skills and the vision, the playmaking ability, the hockey sense that she has. So probably her more than anyone else to be honest. I think I’ve played against or been around or worked with at camps other players more so, as opposed to Kessel being out in Minnesota. I haven’t had as much exposure to her, so I think she’s definitely somebody that I look up to and she’s also a great teammate.

THW: You’ve only been around the team about a month, but what do you see lying ahead for this team? Can you beat the Boston Pride, who are the defending champs and they also haven’t lost since January?

RM: I think we’re really going to amaze people. I think the squad that we have this year, there’s a lot more depth and we’re going to surprise people with the group that we have. I think we’re a well-rounded team and we can only go up. This league there’s only four teams, it’s anybody’s game each time the teams step on the ice. We’re really just going to take that opportunity; the teams that some people view as stronger, while they may be stronger offensively or score more goals, they have their flaws are maybe defensively. So that’s an area for us that we’re always constantly aware of when playing teams and trying to exploit that. On paper, some teams may look stronger than others, but we have opportunities to take advantage of those weaknesses of those teams.