The Riveters were my gateway into the women’s game. And, in many ways, the play of captain Madison Packer accelerated my love of the game itself.
For those who don’t know, I started covering women’s hockey when the then New York Riveters were founded in 2015. At the time, I was a casual fan of women’s hockey who was covering the NHL’s New York Rangers at Blueshirt Banter. My life changed after I attended my first Rivs practice as a member of the media. Before I knew it, I was writing about the NWHL, CWHL, international hockey, and, occasionally, collegiate women’s hockey.
I’ve written more than a few features on Packer over the years, both here at The Ice Garden and elsewhere. I’ve watched her break into the league, lift an Isobel Cup, retire, unretire, establish herself as an elite player in the league, captain an All-Star team, and transform before my eyes after a career-saving hip surgery.
Packer is equal parts talented and tenacious. She’s a pain in the ass on the ice and passionate off of it. Media members who know her know that she always speaks from the heart. She’ll tell you what she really thinks and is aware of what people think about her — she’s authentic. You always know what you’re getting with Madison Packer and, for the past six years, the Riveters and the league itself have been lucky to have her.
On Jan. 22 against the Boston Pride, Packer became the second player in NWHL/PHF history to reach the 100-point milestone, following Jillian Dempsey of the Boston Pride. She reached 100 career regular season and playoff points with a primary assist on an Emily Janiga goal in the third period. It was her 103rd career game — a testament to her consistent production and unwavering work ethic.
Now, let’s look at how she got to the century mark.
16 GP, 3 goals, 4 assists, 2 PPP, 48 SOG
The inaugural Riveters were a lot of fun to watch, even if they struggled a bit in the standings. Before the puck dropped, Packer was tabbed as one of the team’s offensive threats by then general manager Dani Rylan Kearney. Packer finished with 3 goals and 4 assists in 16 regular-season games. If those numbers don’t jump out to you, consider that the Rivs had 40 goals — so she had points on 17.5% of the team’s goals despite missing two games.
Something else worth mentioning is how unlucky she was in her first year. Packer shot just 6.0 percent that year. Fortunately, she had more luck in the playoffs and picked up a goal in the postseason. Packer finished second on the Rivs in iSOG with 48, an average of 3.0 SOG/GP.
17 GP: 8 goals, 5 assists, 5 PPP, 49 SOG
Packer’s production ramped up in a big way in her sophomore year. On a Riveters team bolstered by the additions of Amanda Kessel, Rebecca Russo, Miye D’Oench, Kaleigh Fratkin, and Courtney Burke, Packer was a force to be reckoned with on the power play. She scored half of her 8 goals on the advantage and was just as effective at evens where she also picked up 3 primary assists.
Much of the spotlight was on Kessel and Janine Weber — first and second on the club in scoring, respectively — but Packer was second on the team in goals and stood out in the games where Kessel wasn’t in the lineup.
In the Rivs lone postseason game, Packer had an assist and a minor penalty to get into the box score. The 2016–17 Rivs were nothing like the 2015–16 version, and Packer played a key role in that.
12 GP: 10 goals, 8 assists, 6 PPP, 44 SOG
The Isobel Cup year.
Packer was limited by injuries but put up monstrous numbers in the dozen games she played in the season. On a Rivs team with a lethal power play, she had three goals and three primary assists on the advantage but she made her biggest mark at evens with seven goals and four primary assists.
That’s right. All 18 points Packer piled up in the 2017–18 campaign were primary. And she did it in just 12 games. She led not just the team, but the entire NWHL in Pts/GP (1.5) and averaged 3.7 SOG/GP. When she was in the lineup, she was red hot, as evidenced by a 22.73 Sh% — a far cry from the 3.0 Sh% in her first season.
Madison Packer is a slick, creative passer dot gif. pic.twitter.com/9l36tzEQNN— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) December 8, 2017
In the playoffs, Packer was money. She had a three-point night in the semifinal against the Connecticut Whale and was held off the score sheet despite playing a strong game in the Isobel Cup Final against the Beauts. Fortunately for the Riveters, Katie Fitzgerald was brilliant and Alexa Gruschow’s famous flying goal was the only goal that mattered.
Packer lifted the Cup as one of just four of the original Riveters still with the team.
15 GP: 8 goals, 5 assists, 3 PPP, 40 SOG
In what was arguably the most frustrating Riveters season to date, Packer found a way to be a bright spot on a team that seemed to lose its way after the departure of head coach Chad Wiseman. The Rivs scored less than half as many goals as they did in 2017–18, but Packer was integral to the offense they did have.
Packer finished second on the team in scoring — behind Kessel — and shared the team lead in goals (8) with rookie Audra Morrison. Again, she made her biggest impact at even strength, scoring 7 goals at EV. That was good for first on the team and tied her for fifth in the league with Jonna Curtis.
The 2019 playoffs were the first in which Packer failed to pick up a point. She played two games but only made it into the box score for a minor penalty. Overall, it was a frustrating year for the Riveters even though Packer found individual success.
24 GP: 13 goals, 21 assists, 7 PPP, 93 SOG
The 2019-20 season was one that belongs in a frame and on the mantelpiece in the Packer home. In her first year as team captain, she became the first Riv to record 30 points in a season, finishing with 34 — 29 of which were primary.
Packer was healthy and, at times, she looked downright dominant. Her chemistry with Kate Leary was off the charts, and she took her playmaking ability to a new level. Packer, who operated mostly as a finisher in her first few seasons, found new ways to dismantle defenses with her vision and passing. She was nearly an assist per game player in 2019–20, and finished the campaign with 15 primary assists at EV alone.
In a season that was all about the nearly unbeatable Boston Pride, Packer flourished under first-year head coach Ivo Mocek. Already a passionate player, she played as if she found a deeper love for the game, relishing in the success of her linemates and teammates and leading the Rivs to a 10–11–3 record, good for third in the league — a dramatic improvement from the 4–12 campaign in 2018–19.
With this individual effort, @madison_packer_ became the first player in @NWHL history to score 10 career power play goals. It was also the 32nd goal of her pro career. Packer has points in 5 straight games to start the 2019-20 season. pic.twitter.com/FhRBvQpjmA— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) October 28, 2019
To date, the 2019–20 season was the most productive of Packer’s career. Both her 13 goals and 21 assists were personal bests in a single season. She even set a new personal high in PIM in a season, with 48 — listen, it was a 24-game season. When she wasn’t in the penalty box, she was generating offense and killing penalties, which is something Packer never gets enough credit for her skill in.
She finished fifth in the league in scoring (34) in 2018–19 and was an All-Star captain. It was a banner year for her as an individual that ended all too suddenly with a swift exit in the playoffs.
2020–21 (Lake Placid)
3 GP: 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 PPP, 10 SOG
Lake Placid. The one and only time Packer finished a “season” without any points. In three games, she was held scoreless on a Riveters team that never truly got a chance to show what they were all about. Due to a COVID breakout, the Rivs were forced to make an early exit. It was, for all intents and purposes, a lost year.
10 GP: 5 goals, 5 assists, 38 SOG
And here we are, the present day.
At the time of this article, Packer has 10 points in 10 GP, because of course she does. In 97 career regular-season games, she has 47 goals and 48 assists. If that doesn’t speak to both her consistency and how well-rounded her offensive game is, I don’t know what will.
MADISON PACKER SHORT-HANDED, ARE YOU SERIOUS!? pic.twitter.com/P23lMIab00— Metropolitan Riveters (@Riveters) November 21, 2021
Once again, Packer has proven her ability to develop chemistry and produce with a new wave of linemates — this time around it is with fellow winger Rebecca Russo. Together, they are the spearhead of the Rivs offense. When that pair is going, the Riveters always have a chance to come out of a game with points.
Seven seasons in, it’s clear that Packer finds a way to click with whoever she’s skating with because it’s a skill that she has in spades. She’s adaptable. While it’s clear that she has her strengths — I firmly believe she’s the most dangerous player in the league carrying the puck behind the opposing team’s net — she also knows how to play to her teammates’ best qualities. That is what has made Packer a truly great player in the NWHL and the PHF. That is what has made her a six-time All-Star.
To all those that I’ve played with these past 7 seasons, this point was for you. I never would have gotten here without you, and I’m so grateful for this moment. pic.twitter.com/cYUV8H2pye— Madison Packer (@madison_packer_) January 23, 2022
Packer is the highest-scoring winger in NWHL/PHF history and the highest scoring Riveter to ever wear Rosie. No forward has piled up more points on the power play in their NWHL/PHF career. No player has made more trips to the All-Star Game.
On her road to 100 points, Packer has left a mark on the Riveters franchise and on the league that is entirely her own. She’s battled for each and every one of those points in a way that only she could. Her production and overall impact over the years both serve as a testament to why professional women’s hockey is so important and how much players have to offer beyond their collegiate years.
When I think of pro women’s hockey, I think of Madison Packer. I think of the league and franchise records she has set and all she has done to give the next wave of talent the opportunity to usurp them. Packer has raised the bar while helping to build something bigger than herself, and she’s done it all her own way.