The 2018 offseason took a bumpy course for Meeri Räisänen. After an exemplary year with Naisten Liiga’s HPK Hämeenlinna and an Olympic bronze with Team Finland she sought new challenges across the women’s hockey landscape only to encounter months of uncertainty.
Räisänen registered for the CWHL Draft in August and was selected in the eighth round by the Markham Thunder. Due to the depth in Markham’s net she didn’t attend training camp and continued pursuing her options. Both Räisänen and women’s hockey observers questioned how such an elite-level goaltender was without a net so late in the offseason.
Finally, on October 1, Räisänen announced she’d signed with the Connecticut Whale, becoming the NWHL’s first Finnish player. The Ice Garden caught up with Räisänen on the eve of her flight to the United States.
How did this deal happen? When did the discussions start?
After the article about me not having a team yet, which I shared on Twitter, one of the Whale’s players [sent] me message on Instagram asking if I would like to talk to their head coach. I said sure, and he e-mailed soon asking my interests to join the team and the league.
Good summary, you seems to know where I am atm. Still unsigned. Tried to reach out CWHL Boston, NWHL Boston and Connecticut, teams in Sweden, and nothing. I am very confused about how things are at this point. I just wanna play,want to get back the joy of the game and wanna win. https://t.co/TmYBGBmnBp— Meeri Räisänen (@meeriraisanen) September 1, 2018
And when I heard that they take care of people and offered me to coach next to playing, and took care of place to stay at, I wanted to know more. We started to talk soon after I tweeted.
The Whale have the most international players in the NWHL this season. Do you anticipate being able to help each other with the transition to life in the USA?
I am sure we get a lot of benefit and mental help from each other during the season. It’s a big change in life moving overseas, and Europeans have quite same habits and culture.
What are your personal goals for the season?
My personal goals are doing my team and teammates better by doing my best on and off the ice. Want to help my team win as many games as possible.
With the National Team, my goals are at home Worlds. We want to do better that at the Olympics.
What are you most excited about?
I am super excited about level of hockey at the US. And I am excited about learning more from hockey and culture and people in there. Playing the best hockey in the world and I know women’s hockey is way bigger there. I am excited about getting to know normal US life since moving to a host family - that is the best way to know living at the States. And of course about my new teammates!