At the start of this year’s NWHL season, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The departure of the U.S. Olympians left huge voids in rosters throughout the league. Then some draft picks signed. Then some other college free agents signed. All of a sudden the rosters were filling up, but with who? The Buffalo Beauts had a couple of signings from a Division III college team that left me a bit worried about the state of the league. When has a D-III player ever made it to any professional sports league? It’s rare, if not unheard of.
Then the season started, and that’s when I realized the massive amount of work these four teams and their staffs put in. The scouting reports were right, the holes in the rosters were filled, and the talent was through the roof. The aforementioned D-III players fit in seamlessly, just as talented and exciting to watch as some of their former first-round pick peers. These teams were flying! It reinforced to me that with proper exposure and funding, women’s hockey athletes and teams can flourish at the professional level.
I took this season to try and flourish myself. I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I made it a point to change locations more often during the game. I tried to add more depth to my shots by including objects in the foreground and/or the background of my shots. I tried shooting a wider angle for at least a few minutes each game just to look at and show the game through a different eye. I wanted to make my shots feel more real. As a former player myself, I tried to show more of what a player sees on the ice, along with the shots that could be attached to game recaps and articles. Some attempts worked, some didn’t; it’s always a learning process.
The 2017-18 NWHL season just might have been the best season to date. We can only hope that the draft, free agency, and the potential return of at least some Olympians will keep the league growing and add to the excitement. Hopefully the league will also continue its trend of corporate sponsorship and private ownership, thus obtaining the income needed to give these athletes the pay raise that they so clearly deserve. And, hopefully, I’ll be afforded the honor of again trying to capture these athletes’ feats (and defeats) as they battle their way to another Isobel Cup playoff.
Hopefully my shots here, and throughout the season, helped capture the talent and passion that these athletes bring to the ice every week. So — from silky passes and game winning goals, to saves in 10-round shootouts and shutouts in the playoffs — here are some of my best photos of 2017-18 ... and here’s to another great year next season!