With a third season filled with optimism and a bold direction forward, the NWHL features strong leadership in the board room and on the ice. A significant aspect towards ensuring a prosperous future involves a strong working relationship between the league and its player representatives. With former Boston Pride General Manager Hayley Moore taking on the role of Deputy Commissioner, while Connecticut Whale blueliner Anya Battaglino, who took on the role as head of the NWHL Players Association (NWHLPA) prior to the 2017 All-Star break, they comprise a remarkable pair of strong women are poised to help set a positive tone.
Collaborating with Battaglino shall include the NWHLPA’s Board of Directors, marking the first season that this configuration is in place. Comprised of eight player representatives (two per team), such a distinguished group involves competitors of unique backgrounds, unified in the admirable cause of ensuring a sustainable future ahead.
Approaching her first full season as head of the NWHLPA, Battaglino’s positive attitude and infectious enthusiasm are helping set an encouraging tone. Displaying a strong maturity, she is dedicated to help steer player relations with the league in a positive direction,
“I am extremely optimistic about the direction that the NWHLPA is headed! This is the first year of our Board of Directors structure, and the PA Reps and Board Members have more structure and more communication than ever before. The NWHLPA is starting to procure more resources for player support and having more league head office support.”
Representing the new-look Metro Riveters on the Board of Directors includes Kiira Dosdall, whose hockey background also includes professional competition in Europe. An inaugural member of the Riveters, the chance to take on the role of Player Representative is one that adds to Dosdalls growing legacy in franchise lore.
With the Riveters becoming the first team in league history to enjoy a partnership with an NHL franchise, the New Jersey Devils, it represents so much more than a key step in its evolution. Considering the magnitude of this allegiance, one that certainly affirms that the women of the NWHL are major league, Dosdall approaches the role of being a representative with a very strong sense of importance,
“Absolutely. Representing the players is an integral part of the success of this league. It is an honor to work on the behalf of the players this year to build a foundation for this league that is focused on the players’ rights and further development of the league.”
Joining Dosdall as the second member of the Riveters in this significant role shall be teammate Miye D’Oench. Entering her second NWHL season, D’Oench was originally drafted by the Boston Pride. Part of the blockbuster trade involving Alexandra Carpenter, she has emerged as a key building block for the Riveters future.
Having scored on NHL ice when the Riveters hosted the Pride at the Prudential Center to launch the 2017-18 season, D’Oench is poised for a breakthrough season. A significant component in taking that big step forward is demonstrated by her enthusiasm for the betterment of the league and its players, showing a combination of fervor and alacrity.
In discussing the opportunity to collaborate with D’Oench on the Board, Dosdall praises her presence. Confident that her on-ice leadership skills will result in a seamless transition for this key role, Dosdall accentuates the sense of teamwork,
“Because the members of the PA represent the players of the NWHL, it is our duty, our privilege and our nature to act as an example on and off the ice. I am really looking forward to working with Miye. She is one of the most level-headed people I have ever met, and she is a natural collaborator. Miye will certainly bring a sound, trusted voice to the PA!”
The defending Isobel Cup champion Buffalo Beauts feature a pair of charismatic players in Jordyn Burns and Kelsey Neumann. Raised in the State of Hockey, Burns is part of a number of stars from Minnesota making their mark in the game throughout the nation. Having once played at the University of Syracuse, Burns is no stranger to womens ice hockey in the State of New York.
Part of the Beauts group of goaltenders, Neumann first made her mark with the franchise via social media. Last season, Neumann and Amanda Leveille, who is the Beauts starting goaltender this season, plus legendary backstop Brianne McLaughlin comprised a unique trio known by the sobriquet, McLevMan.
Through a series of unique videos and photographs, their adventures were accentuated by the fact that they would be donned in full gear. Neumann continued that tradition during this off-season, signing her new contract with the club while donned in every piece of goaltending equipment imaginable.
Having won both the Isobel and the Clarkson Cups, the role of Player Representative adds to Jillian Dempsey’s legacy as one of Bostons best homegrown talents. An inaugural member of the Pride, she is definitely one of the clubs biggest drawing cards. Taking on the mantle of team captain this season, it is part of a tremendous transition for Dempsey, one that also sees her abandon her traditional number 3 in favor of 14.
Serving with Dempsey in the role of representation for the Pride involves second generation athlete Marissa Gedman. Akin to D’Oench, Gedman also competed collegiately for the Harvard Crimson. A multi-sport star growing up, Gedman is the daughter of former Major League catcher Rich Gedman, who was a member of the 1986 American League champion Boston Red Sox. A popular teammate and inspiration, having helped organize numerous fund raisers for Denna Laing, Gedman has also skated for the Pride since their first season.
As a side note, Dempsey and Gedman are not the only charter players of the Pride to take on a key leadership role in league circles. Of note, former Pride player Kelly Cooke holds a position this season on the Player Safety Committee. AJ Mleczko and Josephine Pucci, both alums of USA Hockey, plus Terry Koharski and Joe Ernst comprise the members of the Committee
Part of the Connecticut Whale’s offensive attack, Juana Baribeau enters her first season as a Player Representative. While playing hockey at the collegiate level for Clarkson, she was a Major in the discipline of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, ensuring that she shall provide great acumen to the Board. Worth noting, Baribeau, who grew up in Amos, Quebec, is the only Canadian-born member in this gathering of hockey leadership.
In addition to Baribeau’s presence, the Whale also features goaltender Keira Goin. The only rookie among the competitors that make up the Board, she graduated in 2017 from Utica, where she won 40 games with the Pioneers program, never posting a losing season.
As both Baribeau and Goin also enjoy the opportunity to call Battaglino a teammate with the Whale, they have also witnessed her positive influence on the ice. Considering that Battaglino is a charter member of the Whale, one of the franchises foundations, they definitely have a role model and mentor in such a sensational competitor.
Whether it be on the ice or off the ice, it is certainly evident that Battaglino takes tremendous enjoyment in all her involvements in the game. In the time that she has taken on the admirable and tireless role of NWHLPA Director, it has developed into a labor of love.
In getting the chance to know the players as people, it has surfaced as the most enjoyable and treasured element in this exciting chapter of her NWHL career. With an empathic approach and kindhearted demeanor, the opportunity to become better acquainted with the players has also provided Battaglino with a renewed sense of purpose, gaining a more profound understanding of her role.
“I have most enjoyed working closely with the players to understand on an individual level their goals and needs. As the Director of the PA, I have taken a more personal role with our players, and meeting them as people and not opponents on the ice has been really amazing. These pioneers are amazing, their stories are passionate, and it has been a truly inspiring process.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Acknowledgements: Chris Botta