I grew up in New York City - born in Brooklyn, raised on Staten Island - so hockey had always been around. I grew up in a baseball household. I knew hockey was a sport. I knew Manon Rhéaume had played in a preseason game. Then the Rangers won the Cup in '94 and my apartment complex became hockey crazy that summer. I became a street hockey player and a casual fan.
Fast forward to 2011. By this time hockey is slowly becoming an obsession. I had moved to British Columbia (halfway between Canucks and Flames territory) and decided to revise a (still) unfinished story about a rookie's first season in the MLB. I changed sports from baseball to hockey and began to research the sport further. In my research, I came across the original NWHL, the Western Women's Hockey League, and the CWHL. The more I learned, the more I was convinced the story's love interest should not be the stereotypical female sports fan but a hockey player. On top of that, the main character was going to be a fan of her, not the other way round. So I began the process of giving her depth and quickly came to one big issue: I had no clue about women's hockey. Around this time, the CWHL announced they were expanding to Alberta.
Team Alberta (or the Alberta Honey Badgers as they were unofficially called) hooked me immediately. This was the first time I was fully exposed to women's hockey outside of the Olympics. Following them through Facebook, I slowly learned the women's game. I learned the difference between IIHF rules v. NHL rules. I learned the glaring disparities between compensation for the men's game vs. the women's. The only thing I didn't learn - the players names (sorry). I was invested in Team Alberta. I suggested a name when they had their "Name The Team" contest (I suggested "Sirens"). Tho disappointed my name didn't win, I was excited to learn they were going to be called the Inferno. At this point, I was a casual female hockey fan.
Now comes the 2014 Sochi games. I'm back in NYC. I'm obsessed with Olympic hockey, watching every game I can. I remember watching the women's tourney and hearing a story about one of the players adopting a stray dog. Can honestly say I don't know if I saw the Women's gold medal game (I had just started a new job, so my hours didn't coincide with hockey) but I do remember cursing the Canadians for winning gold, again. I remember wanting more and paying attention to my first Women's Frozen Four that year. In March 2015 as I was getting ready for my second Women's Frozen Four, I came across an article saying their was a new women's league and they'd be playing in Brooklyn. The current NWHL was born. And I was one of their first fans.
The summer of 2015 saw the birth of the NWHL. I followed religiously on Twitter to learn who the teams were. I followed every signing. With every new name, a new story for me to learn. I remember the buzz around Hilary Knight signing with Boston. The players getting paid. The accessibility of players - I remember when Kiira Dosdall followed me back on Twitter and how amazing it felt. I remember the build up to the first game and how I scrambled to find friends who would come with. I remember my first Riveters game at Aviator Sports and seeing players walking among the crowd during their pregames. I remember the amazing line of fans after the game waiting to meet them. That first game solidified my love of women's hockey. I went to 3/4 more Riveters games that season. I brought my nephew to his first hockey game - the Beauts overcoming a 4 goal deficit to beat the Riveters in a SO. Me and my "hockey wife" (as we call each other) went to the first Isobel Cup Final game. As I write this, I'm wearing my Denna Laing shirsey (while waiting on an Anya Battaglino one in the mail). It's rare to see me without my faded Rivs' cap or to hear me trying to persuade someone to watch the women's game. Women's hockey has become such a big part of my life, I've decided to give the love interest from my unfinished story her own story.
I'm hooked on women's hockey. Through all the highs and lows, the joy and tears, I will be forever grateful for letting the sport into my life.