Yesterday, the NWHL hinted on social media that Team Kazakhstan forward Bulbul Kartanbay had signed a contract with one of the league’s five teams. Today, it became official. Kartanbay is a member of the Metropolitan Riveters.
Just over two years ago Kartanbay created a Twitter account to show of her stickhandling skills and to share her dream by stating: “I want [to] play in USA.” Now, after coming so close to achieving that goal with the CWHL’s Boston Blades and spending last season training in Calgary, that dream has come true — roughly 5,900 miles away from where it began.
“My dream came true ... I am grateful to life for the opportunities that have opened before me. Now it’s time to compete in the NWHL among many of the top players in the world,” she said in the league’s press release.
Kartanbay is the first Kazakh player to sign with the NWHL in the league’s brief history. She’s one of three international player to sign an NWHL contract this offseason. Tatiana Shatalova, a 19-year-old Russian forward, also signed with the Riveters on Aug. 14. Iveta Klimášová, a 21-year-old defender with experience on Slovakia’s Women’s National Team signed with the Buffalo Beauts on Aug. 16. It’s also worth noting that the Riveters recently added Ivo Mocek — the second European head coach in NWHL history — to the fold.
The Kazakh forward has already taken a major step in adjusting to the North American game and ice surface by playing a 19 games with the Calgary Coyotes of the Southern Alberta Women’s Hockey Association (SAWHA). Kartanbay scored 29 points in those 19 games, which was good for fourth on a team that featured former Calgary Inferno players.
With Kartanbay signed the Riveters now have eight of their 25 roster spots filled. They remain the only team without a goalie under contract and have the fewest total signings at this point in the NWHL offseason.