The Global Game: Nationalities in NWHL History
Who else misses the flag shoulder patches?
The NWHL celebrated its fourth anniversary on Oct. 11, 2019. In the four years since that first puck drop, 277 players (excluding goaltenders who dressed but never played) have suited up for the league’s Founding Four teams and the expansion Minnesota Whitecaps.
Fourteen different nations have been represented over four full seasons and the start of season five. Here’s how the geography breaks down.
The vast majority of NWHL players have come from the league’s country of origin. American NWHL alums include Olympians, world champions, college standouts, and many more.
The NWHL has attracted talent from across the border since its inception. Of the eight players who’ve been in the league since year one, two are Canadian. Ontario-born defender Shannon Doyle has spent her entire NWHL career with the Connecticut Whale, while Kaleigh Fratkin of British Columbia started with the Whale before spending a season with the Riveters then shipping up to Boston. She’s been a staple on the Pride blue line since 2017.
Year one of the NWHL saw forward Ludmila Belyakova sign with the then-New York Riveters, while forward Yekaterina Smolentseva and defender Katia Pashkevich went to the Connecticut Whale.
Happy birthday to Katia Smolentseva of the Connecticut Whale! pic.twitter.com/H8iP4pqhH7— Paul D'Amour (@nyriveters2015) September 15, 2016
Goaltender Maria Sorokina played for both the Connecticut Whale and the Metropolitan Riveters during the 2018–19 season.
Forward Tatyana Shatalova, 20, is the first Russian player with the Riveters since Belyakova in 2015. Although born in Belarus, she plays her international hockey for Russia and won a U-18 World Junior Championships bronze medal in 2017.
Forwards and Czech national teammates Denisa Křižová and Kateřina Mrázová each played for the NWHL in 2018–19. Křižová was the first Czech draft pick in league history, going 13th overall to the Connecticut Whale in 2017. She signed with the Boston Pride in 2018.
Mrázová joined the Whale as a free agent in 2018. She scored 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 15 regular-season games and two more in the playoffs.
Defender Lenka Čurmová and forward Iveta Klimášová made history in 2019 when they signed with the Buffalo Beauts. Čurmová, 22, scored the first goal of the 2019–20 season.
Forward and 2014 Olympian Michelle Löwenhielm became the league’s first Swedish player when she joined the Connecticut Whale for the 2018–19. She was also the NWHL’s first Swedish All-Star.
Goaltender Lovisa Selander came to the Boston Pride in 2019 after a legendary NCAA career at RPI.
First-year fan favorite goaltender Nana Fujimoto suited up for 16 games with the New York Riveters.
The Smile Japan Olympian put together a respectable .914 save percentage in the NWHL’s inaugural season.
Goaltender Sojung Shin came to the New York Riveters in 2016–17 as preparation for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
Innsbruck native Janine Weber spent two seasons with the New York Riveters before signing for a season with the Boston Pride in 2017. She scored 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists) in 48 NWHL career games.
Two-time Olympian Meeri Räisänen spent the 2018–19 season with the Connecticut Whale.
FIRST #NWHL WIN FOR THE LEAGUE'S FIRST FINNISH PLAYER AND STARTING GOALTENDER MEERI RÄISÄNEN WOOOOOOO! https://t.co/OizTIJCH5D— Meredith Foster (@fosterwrites) November 18, 2018
Goaltender Tiffany Hsu signed with the Buffalo Beauts in 2019.
*The political status of Taiwan is disputed. Teams play in IIHF competition as Chinese Taipei.
Bulbul Kartanbay’s long and winding journey through North American hockey brought her to the Metropolitan Riveters this season, making her the NWHL’s first Kazakh player.
https://t.co/yoiEaNNEZs— Bulbul Kartanbay (@kartanbay) September 29, 2019
My first steps in NWHL pic.twitter.com/xYgZPFIJuw
Defender Tanja Eisenschmid played five games with the Minnesota Whitecaps in the 2018–19 season.
Team China captain Yu Baiwei was a surprise signing for the Minnesota Whitecaps. She previously spent two seasons as a defender with Kunlun Red Star and the KRS Shenzhen Vanke Rays of the CWHL; Yu has yet to suit up for an NWHL game, but her presence is historic nonetheless.
*Whitecaps defender Rose Alleva was born in China and adopted by an American family in Minnesota. She did play for Team China during her time with the Vanke Rays and Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays and may continue to do so this season. I don’t know how she’d describe herself, so I don’t wish to ascribe a national identity and accidentally be a dick about it.
All stats courtesy of Mike Murphy’s tracking and Elite Prospects.