Monday, Aug. 20, was a busy day for women’s hockey: the NWHL announced five signings; the CWHL announced the Boston Blades were relocating to Worcester; Les Canadiennes announced the pre-signing of Geneviève Bannon; Florence Schelling announced she will be the assistant coach of the Swiss U-18 team. Then came the tweet no one was expecting:
This is the year I hang up my skates. #ThankYouHockey for teaching me who I am and how to fight for what I believe in. I will continue focusing on the @NWHLPA and advancing #WomensHockey. To all who believed in me + supported me, thank you. I owe everything to you. #Fanmily #NWHL pic.twitter.com/fug19XDNDw— Anya Battaglino (@battaglinoa) August 20, 2018
Original Connecticut Whale Anya Battaglino announced her retirement. She will continue to work as head of the NWHL Players’ Association.
A multitalented force for women’s hockey
After playing with current Boston Pride defender Kaleigh Fratkin at Boston University, Battaglino joined the CWHL’s Boston Blades for their 2013 Clarkson Cup run. She signed with the Whale in 2015. In 2017, it was announced Battaglino would be the head of the NWHL Player’s Association. Under her guidance, the NWHL dropped the “practice player” label, and she is currently working with the league to improve the financial situation for its players.
Appearing in 23 games over her three seasons, Battaglino is known more for her personality than her play. Fans were introduced to Battaglino early in season one, when an injury led her to doing color commentary for games. Signed as a practice player for season two, she continued to show up on NWHL broadcasts. She capped the season off by presenting the Isobel Cup to the 2016-17 Buffalo Beauts.
The presentation led to a yearlong discussion — what happened to Isobel’s handles? Pictures before the Isobel Cup Final had the cup with its handles; when it came time for the Cup to be awarded, it was without handles. This led fans to ask the league for an explanation. Battaglino even chimed in, teasing she knew but wouldn’t reveal what happened. That lasted until the 2018 Isobel Cup Final when, in an interview with Matt Falkenbury, she revealed the truth. In her excitement to present the Cup, she pulled one of the handles off while taking it out of its case. She was then instructed by Dani Rylan to take the other one off before presenting it.
A welcome voice, on the ice and off
Battaglino has been vocal about topics that matter to her outside hockey, as well. An advocate for mental health awareness, she has been open about her own personal struggles and what she has done to cope. In March she penned an article for Outsports about her decision to come out as a lesbian. For the past two years she has been part of the NWHL contingent of the You Can Play Project’s group marching in the New York City Pride parade. In July, Battaglino penned another article for Outsports — this time detailing how she proposed to Madison Packer.
One of the NWHL’s great personalities, her presence at the rink will truly be missed. So, as Whale fans say, “Fins up, Anya!”