On Feb. 22, 2018 Amanda Kessel, widely considered one of the best players in the world, scored a clutch goal in the shootout of the gold medal game at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Now, five months after having a gold medal placed around her neck, Kessel is ready to step back onto NWHL ice. She has re-signed with the Metropolitan Riveters, the team she played for in the 2016-17 season.
“Really, this developed within the last week,” Kessel told The Ice Garden. “I’ve been thinking a lot about where I want to be, and because I went to school in Minnesota I thought about [the Whitecaps] too, but New York just has this pull on me. I wanted to come back here.”
In her first NWHL season Kessel thrilled Riveters fans with 18 points in just eight games. She missed much of that season due to injury, but the Olympian returned in time to be one of the NWHL’s two captains for the 2017 All-Star Weekend in Pittsburgh. Her return is huge news for the Riveters and the NWHL itself. At the close of the NWHL’s second season, Kessel led all the league’s athletes in jersey and shirsey sales. She’s a bonafide superstar.
Kessel will be joining a Riveters team that won the 2018 Isobel Cup, which means that she has a chance to help the Riveters become the first NWHL franchise to win the Isobel Cup twice. But her decision to re-sign with the Riveters had more to do with people than it did hardware.
“I think that would be awesome,” Kessel shared. “For me that wasn’t a deciding factor, but knowing how many great players are on the team, and how many good people are on the team is something that helped make my decision an easy one.”
Two years ago Kessel formed lasting friendships with core players on the Riveters, including a few alumnae of the University of Wisconsin -- the eternal rival of her alma mater, the University of Minnesota. “Some people that were rivals are now best friends,” Kessel explained. “Having the opportunity to play with them is something that I thought about as well.”
As one might expect, the former Golden Gophers star is also excited about a road trip to Minnesota, the state where she played both her high school and college hockey. Kessel is also excited to experience the benefits of the strategic alliance -- which is often called a partnership -- between the New Jersey Devils and the Metropolitan Riveters. She also believes that collaboration between the NHL and NWHL is something that we need to see more of.
“I think ultimately that will be the deciding factor for the future success of the league,” Kessel told The Ice Garden. “You need help and need somewhere to start. The platform that [the NHL] has is obviously huge, and it can only help us. It’s awesome to see where it’s going.
“The Devils partnership, which happened while I was away from the team last year, is great for us and I was super happy to see that,” Kessel continued. “Sometimes you just need help starting. They have the opportunity to really help the women’s side of the game, which I ultimately think helps the entire game of hockey grow.”
Kessel is the first member of Team USA’s PyeongChang gold medal roster to sign an NWHL contract this summer. She told The Ice Garden that she definitely expects a “handful” of her fellow gold medalists to return to the league. If that proves to be true, then the NWHL is certainly on track to have its biggest and best season yet.