There's a brand new women's sports league out there: the National Women's Hockey League, the first women's hockey league to actually pay their players. So what's it like going to an NWHL game? Well, fortunately for you, I have already become a die-hard fan of the league, so I can tell you all about it. And know this: we have definitely come a long way from the days of women playing hockey in full-length skirts.
The NWHL is only in its first year, and thus far, it's still a relatively small operation. There are only four teams in the league — the Boston Pride, the Connecticut Whale, the Buffalo Beauts, and the New York Riveters — and each team only plays one game a week. The games aren't on TV, though they are broadcast for free online at the NWHL website. The players also only play part-time and most have other careers they're pursuing — but hey, every sports league has to start somewhere.
And so far, this one is proving itself to be pretty great. The competition is fierce, the players are excellent (especially the big names from the US Women's Olympic Team), and the play just gets better and better as everyone finds their footing.
But as much fun as it is to watch the games live online, it's way more fun to see them in person. So if you live in Boston, Connecticut, Buffalo, or New York City — or if you just happen to find yourself in one of these places on a Sunday evening — I highly recommend checking one out. And while I can't tell you much about Boston, Connecticut, or Buffalo, I have been to every New York game, even the preseason ones — go Riveters!
So for those of you who are curious, here are nine things you'll see if you attend a women's professional hockey game. Since, you know, this is the first year anyone in the world has ever had the chance.
1. A Long Ride To Get There
I'm not going to lie, getting to the arena in New York is a pain. Women's hockey may not be high profile enough yet to get truly prime arena space. So for now, games take place at a rink in a fairly out-of-the-way part of Brooklyn that isn't near any subway stops — from my apartment in Manhattan, I have to take two trains and a bus to get there. A bus. What is this madness?
This is my face when I've been in transit for over an hour and I'm still not there. Also my face when I'm on a bus.
2. A Cool Arena
Even though the ride is long, the destination is worth it. The complex, Aviation Sport & Events Center, has a variety of sports arenas inside, plus arcade games, and a full food court with all the burgers, pizza, fries, etc. that you could ever want.
This is my face once we have finally arrived and also there are fries.
So grab yourself a beer and some fries and pick a seat — I recommend one behind the goal.
And on your way inside, maybe also buy yourself an NWHL T-shirt or sweatshirt.
You're going to need some sort of warm clothes anyway — the rink gets pretty chilly. There is a lot of ice in there, after all.
4. An Enthusiastic Crowd
The first time I went to a NWHL game, I was worried that my friends and I might basically be the only people in the stands. But it turned out there are actually a lot of people who are interested in seeing women play hockey. The NWHL might be new, but they're quickly growing an enthusiastic fan base, which includes a lot of young hockey players — especially young female hockey players.
5. Awesome Players
During the most recent game, the Riveters were playing in pink to support breast cancer research. Normally, they look a little more like this.
But either way, they're awesome.
6. A Fight (Possibly)
Even though the league doesn't condone fighting, I've only been to two regular season games and I've already seen a few scuffles. On the one hand, I am fully aware that fighting is usually counterproductive to a team's stats — but on the other, it is hockey, a sport where disputes on the ice are very common. The bottom line is: if you assume this league is meek and polite just because it's a women's league, think again.
7. A Great Game
This is my face once the game starts.
I will admit this — the Riveters are having a rocky start to their season. But last Sunday's game against the Connecticut Whale was their best yet. And I'm not just saying that because I'm already a die-hard fan.
The Whale scored once in the first period. But the Riveters quickly evened the score in the second period with a goal of their own.
In the third period, the Whale and Riveters both scored again, but the Riveters' goal was ruled a no-goal because of a high-sticking call. The crowd was not amused.
This is my face when our goals are taken away by evil referees.
The Riveters pulled goalie Nana Fujimoto in the final minute of the game, in order to try using the extra man advantage to even the score once more. But instead, the Whale were able to score an empty net goal, making the final score 3-1 and Whale victory.
Despite this disappointing turn of events, the game was awesome, and I'm already looking forward to their next home game, which isn't for a few weeks.
In case you haven't picked up on it yet, I am kind of a big fan of this league, so from my very biased vantage point, you should all become fans right away.
You can tune into games for free via the NWHL website here or buy your tickets for any of the upcoming matches here. I highly recommend it. Don't you want to be a part of history and watch a bunch of top female athletes blow everyone's minds? I mean, what else are you even doing on a Sunday night, anyway?
Images: Giphy (3); Emma Cueto