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Around the Rink in the PHF: The Waiting is the Hardest Part

In this ATR we hear from two Riveters - Madison Packer & Kaycie Anderson, plus news and notes from around the PHF as we inch closer to opening day.

Michelle Jay

Welcome back to Around the Rink!

It feels more real now, right? The schedule is out and the matchups are set. The rosters are nearly complete (you can do it!). Heck, one team has already played an exhibition game (more on that later). We are almost a month away from the start of Season 8 and there is a lot to get to, so let’s stop wasting time! Thanks to all of our readers at The Ice Garden, and thanks as always to my teammates, and the players and coaches.

And here, we, go!

Point Shots

1* I made the drive up to the Metropolitan Riveters' new home at the American Dream mega-mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey for the press event officially welcoming them to the rink where they practiced for all of last season. This season, the Rivs will not only practice there, but they’ll play all 12 of their home games there.

ATR has learned that American Dream is building the team a new locker room, a laundry room, and a coaches’ room — something that Riveters management prioritized this off-season for their players. In the past, the team would practice two nights a week, now they will be skating four times a week, bright and early at 9:00 am; most teams are now practicing more than two times a week — a result of players being invested in more. For some pictures of the event check the thread of tweets below.

The bottom line is this: the Riveters wanted to be in a place that prioritized them, and they wanted to take care of the players’ needs and desires. Playing and practicing at American Dream checks all of those boxes. As for the fan experience, that is TBD.

But here’s what I learned (not sure if any of this is officially official): someone with knowledge of the situation informed me that likely the bottom floor of the mall (rink level) will be free/general admission and that the second and third floors surrounding the rink may have some tiered seating bleachers that can roll into place for the games, and that is where any paying ticket holders will be located. Maybe there will be some perks for those that choose to pay for an experience they can likely get for free on the ground level.

1.1* “We’ll be practicing Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays,” new Rivs forward Kaycie Anderson told me following the press event. “Ever since covid, a lot of us have had the flexibility to work remotely for certain opportunities, and the players here on visas can only play hockey, so this is their job and it makes it easier to have everyone here at 9:00 am; which is surprising!”

“Then you have Kendall (Cornine) who has to physically be at work, so she is zooming around but she makes her schedule work so she can get here and get back to school (after we skate).”

By the way, Anderson told ATR that she was college roommates at Norwich University with her team’s new GM Tori Charron. Small world that hockey world, eh?

2* The Buffalo Beauts had their players involved in some fun bonding trips again during their training camp. This past Saturday was a moonlit boat ride around the city of Buffalo, and Sunday the team was split up and had to complete an Escape Room challenge. I don’t know if the other teams are doing stuff like this, but I love the ideas, the creativity, and the sharing of pictures on their social media. Oh yeah, Montreal had one a few weeks back where they went go-karting.

Some players that a source told me to keep an eye on this season: Antonia Matzka, Madi Nichols, Sam Fieseler, and Cassidy MacPherson. They could be primed for big seasons in western New York. I’m also excited to watch their goaltenders, which I think will be the big X-factor for them.

2.1* The Beauts, so far, are the only team to actually release their training camp roster — which also included their practice players. The one name we weren’t aware of before that was goalie Tera Hofmann, who played for Toronto and the Rivs during her first two seasons. Hofmann is an A+ person, and teammate (by all accounts) and we couldn’t think of a better fit for her than the Beauts.

Another A+ person, Dominique Kremer was named the new captain of the Beauts this past week. She’s pretty good at the hockey too, considering Kremer is the reigning Defender of the Year.

3* Last thing on Buffalo here, I’ve had multiple conversations (mostly non-hockey-related) with now former Beauts captain Taylor Accursi this off-season, and I think the both of us are a bit shocked she isn’t playing this season. Why hasn’t there been much chatter about this or the fallout between the franchise and its all-time leading scorer in Buffalo or from its writers? Strange.

I find it hard to believe that we’ve seen the last of the Blonde Bomber. Who knows, maybe someone will make a splash ahead of the postseason and find some room for a 27-year-old sniper with 29 career goals at this level.

4* The Boston Pride played an exhibition game this past Sunday (a 3-2 loss to Northeastern) and - surprise, they’ve signed the dynamic Loren Gabel in addition to re-signing Kayla Friesen. I found out about the signings on Friday from a well-placed source that the two forwards had been practicing with Boston and that news was confirmed on Sunday when Head Coach Paul Mara tweeted (for the first time in eons) his forward lines for the exhibition against Northeastern.

4.1* The Pride have started announcing signings again so expect to see those two dynamos announced in addition to captain Jillian Dempsey, Olivia Zafuto, Katie Burt, and Taylor House.

By the way, check out their new bling. Impressive and well-deserved.

5* I won’t bore you or make this any longer by getting into great detail about the Season 8 schedule that was recently released, but you can read my recap of it and a small breakdown of each team’s 24-game slate: PHF Release Schedule.

What I will say here is that I promise to you all: I’ll try to get to as many games as I can to give everyone the best PHF coverage around.

6* The Toronto Six have been busy filling out their front office and coaching staff with a bunch of hires, perhaps none more prominent than the recent naming of Sami Jo Small as the new Team President, succeeding Digit Murphy - who took the same position with the Riveters. The franchise has added a bunch of people this off-season who know what they are doing and know the game/the sport, and Small’s addition enhances that.

7* Wanted to share this full, unedited quote from Riveters captain Madison Packer from when we spoke last week at American Dream. I asked one of the league’s remaining OGs if she ever gets frustrated that not everyone is here in the PHF. Or does she just do her own thing, let them do their own thing, and whatever happens, happens?

“I don’t know if it’s frustrating, or disappointing is maybe a better word. I don’t know what more we can do; I just wish that they could see that - it’s obviously not what they have in their minds, but people are making real money here and there are a lot of players who are better than me, and I’m one of the top-paid players in the league. You would be making great money over here, and making me and everyone else better. That’s what I want, to get it to the point where I can’t play anymore. I’ve done my job and made the league strong enough that I can’t compete,” said Packer.

Michelle Jay

“If we get all the best players playing in the same spot - people will be making $120- $130,000 because the sponsorship dollars are coming in and the money will be there. It’s going to happen, just not as quickly as everyone wants. It’ll happen, we’ve already seen it start to happen. Eventually, people age out, and eventually, people will get tired of leaving money on the table. We just have to keep our heads down and keep doing the right things - not engaging in the back-and-forth, which is not healthy. We want everyone, and if they think that what they are doing is right, then to each their own and hopefully we can meet in the middle at some point.”

8* If you didn’t know, a new episode of the PHFuture Considerations podcast is live! After Eleni, Mike, and I discuss the schedule, new rinks, the Montreal Force, and I break some signings (that you already knew if you read ATR!), we were fortunate to be joined by Connecticut Whale center and alternate captain Emma Vlasic. She gave us some insights into her training regimen, whether or not she actually likes pickles, and who will have more points this season - her or her brother Alex of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks.

Michelle Jay/NWHL

Thanks to everyone who has listened to us, given feedback, rated us, and asked when we are recording next.

8.1* I believe the Whale still has a few signings left to reveal — forward Tori Sullivan and captain Shannon Turner. Out in Minnesota, the Whitecaps have yet to officially announce the signing of two-time Cup champion Amanda Boulier, nor the re-signings of defenders Emma Stauber and Maddie Rowe as well as netminder Jenna Brenneman.

Notable Quotable

“I don’t know (laughs). Either pink or blonde. Emily Fluke told me (on the ice last season) that I look like a Sour Patch Kid. Maybe I’ll keep it just to spite her.” — Riveters captain Madison Packer’s reply when I asked if her hair will be pink or blonde this season.

Michelle Jay

Notable Quotable II

“That is true, she is (a pain in the ass to play against), haha. During all of the face-offs (when the Rivs and Whale would play) she’d line up next to me and ask me if I wanted to fight! And now she’s going to have to find someone new to ask. But I’m happy to be on her team.” — Riveters forward Kaycie Anderson’s reply when asked about not having to play against Madison Packer anymore; Anderson and Packer have been friends off the ice for years.