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Rink Ink: Q&A with Tatiana Rafter

Tatiana Rafter of the New York Riveters narrates the story of getting her tattoo.

Tatiana Rafter tries to keep the play alive.
Michelle Jay

The Ice Garden has a series, “Rink Ink,” which features various hockey players’ tattoos. A form of self-expression, tattoos provide unique insights into the players’ lives — their mottos, their beliefs, their motivations, their interests. For the next installment, The Ice Garden spoke with Tatiana Rafter of the New York Riveters.

What is your tattoo and meaning behind it?

My ink is very minimal, and I’m not planning to get anything else done, but I've definitely said that before! I had my first and only tattoo done shortly after the inaugural NWHL season ended. The tattoo is an arch of seven stars and a crown. The arch matches the logo of the Buffalo Beauts.

To me, the tattoo has come to symbolize my role in pioneering the birth of women's professional hockey. Professional leagues didn't exist when I was a young player, and I think that the opportunity to work toward playing pro would have been completely inspiring and mind-blowing. Instead, my reality was that you played collegiate hockey, played for Team Canada, but that was as high as your career could take you.

Women's professional hockey still needs to improve in many aspects, but the fact that there is now a base level foundation to build upon is incredible. The creation of the NWHL has highlighted an extreme imbalance of gender parity between professional male and female hockey players, but without its formation, there wouldn't be an opportunity to bridge this gap in financial compensation. Funny that seven tiny stars and one little crown represent such big ideas.

When did you get your first tattoo?

I was at my house in Buffalo, New York, watching the weekly Bachelor episode with my roommates and some other teammates. It’s how I knew it was a Monday! We had just lost to Boston in the Isobel Cup Finals, and it was the final week we had to spend with each other, so everyone was talking about our plans for next season.

At the time, I was unsure what I was doing for the next season and knew it might have been my last. My roomie, Hannah McGowan, had been contemplating a tattoo on the inside of her ankle for the past two weeks, and during a commercial break, decided that she wanted to go do it that minute. It was around 10 p.m., and we called the tattoo parlor and asked if they would stay open for us. We only lived a five minute drive away, so the owner didn't have a problem with it.

Everyone was pretty invested in The Bachelor because it was the two hour, women-tell-all special, but I wasn't as interested and ended up going with Hannah for moral support.

When we got to the parlor, Hannah's tattoo took about eight to ten minutes. She was barely phased while getting it — she didn't even need me to hold her hand! Then again, she already has many tattoos. Her tattoo was the top of the Buffalo Beauts’ logo, and it was shaped in a crest on the inside of her ankle. I figured it must not have been that bad since she was a total champ. Then, out of the blue, I asked if [the artist] had some time to give me the same tattoo. I asked Hannah if she cared [that I was getting a similar tattoo], and she didn't at all. In fact, she was stoked about it.

I got mine on the outside of my ankle because I figured that for my first tattoo, the skin was too sensitive on the inside. That's the only reason. Our team’s equipment manager Mike Murphy was there as well, so he held one of my hands and Hannah held the other. I was definitely close to hurting their hands at some moments! Mine hurt A LOT more than Hannah's, but I toughed it out, and now I share this with her wherever we are in the world. That year was an amazing experience, and the people I met I will never forget. I believe that aspect is very special.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to get tattoos?

My tattoo was spur of the moment, but even through it was a split decision, I knew it would carry meaning throughout my life. If you are going to get a tattoo, I would ask yourself if it something that is ever-changing or if it will remain constant.