It happens twice a week, like clockwork, in The Rink at American Dream.
Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, after the ice-skating children and parents have cleared the ice, the ice rink staff get to work. They chip off the top layers of ice and then steer the Zamboni back and forth to leave a smooth, groove-free new topcoat. Once that is done, they set up red hockey goals at opposite ends of the rink.
Then it starts.
One by one, players from the Metropolitan Riveters, New Jersey’s top professional women’s ice hockey team, hit the ice. They wear red, blue, green, white and black training jerseys. You slide across the ice and will soon be accompanied by coaches Ivo Mocek and Kelly Nash.
In just 30 minutes, The Rink at American Dream transforms from the usual crowd of first-time skaters and skating enthusiasts to the training ground for a professional hockey team – and anyone walking through the mall can take a seat and watch the Riveters train.
“As one of the few teams that has always open training sessions to the public, this shows our fans what they can learn and expect from women’s hockey,” said Anya Packer, the team’s general manager. “This is really unique in the sports world in general, so I’m proud to say that we have such a transparent open door policy.”
The Riveters have been training twice a week at the NHL-sized rink at American Dream in East Rutherford since October and will continue to do so throughout the season.
The story continues under the photo gallery
Exposure from practicing at American Dream is critical, Packer said. She is no stranger to pushing for justice in women’s hockey. Packer was a fullback with the Connecticut Whale for three years before assuming the role of executive director of the National Women’s Hockey League Players’ Association. This season, the seventh year of the NWHL was renamed the Premier Hockey Federation.
“I would say 99% of the time people just don’t know it exists or they don’t know what’s going on in the world of women’s hockey,” Packer said I don’t know. So what a great opportunity to establish and expand women’s sport in this whole new community of people who just don’t know who we are. “
The team that plays their home games at Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark was looking for a new training track. “Any hockey player in the world would tell you that this is the number one major problem – just getting the time on the rink,” said Packer.
Packer met with the general manager of The Rink and they checked the availability of the venue. They found a suitable time – Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – and the partnership was established. During the Christmas shopping season, the start of training has been postponed to 9:00 p.m. or 9:30 p.m.
Getting the riveters on the ice at American Dream is a “top priority” as many skaters are exposed to the ice for the first time there every day, Packer said. Even when there are no exercises to watch, there is an LED-lit screen that wraps around the perimeter of The Rink, calling it the “Home of the Metropolitan Riveters.”
American Dream “keeps bringing new people onto the ice and the rink. So it was really exciting to put a professional team on this ice and keep exposing the same people to the highest levels of women’s hockey, ”said Packer. “Watching people stop and take pictures, or ask us who is on the ice, or start looking up our social contacts [posted on the display screen] – It was really unique to introduce a whole new community to women’s hockey. “
Growing hockey, local
The Rink at American Dream, operated by Canadian developer Triple Five, helped meet a need in North Jersey – it provides an additional venue for hockey players. According to American Dream, the rink is used by eight youth, travel and high school programs for training and games. The venue operators also work with regional and national brands to bring a schedule of camps, clinics, tournaments and other hockey-related experiences to market.
The ice rink also hosts a Learn to Play program that is a partnership between American Dream and the New Jersey Devils. This program was created by the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL to help lower the barriers to entry into the sport as hockey is considered one of the most expensive youth sports to invest in. The program, which ran for six weeks in the spring, cost about $ 230 and included a full head-to-toe set of hockey equipment for each registered player. Exercise can typically cost hundreds to thousands of dollars per child.
In November, the Riveters introduced the New Jersey Devils Youth Hockey Club and Ironbound Elite as official junior members of the team, saying they would work with the organization to help expand girls’ hockey in the state. The potential for girls’ and women ‘s hockey in New Jersey can already be seen in the riveters’ list. Two of the team’s 20 players are Garden State products – Allie Olnowich of Chatham and Kinnelons Kendall Cornine.
“There are players who played in New Jersey and are now back playing for the Riveters, like Kendall Cornine, who is affectionately known as ‘Score-Nine,'” said Packer. “She’s a product of New Jersey hockey, and seeing her close that circle and then come back to play in New Jersey is exactly what we want the sports world to grow in New Jersey.”
And with the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on the horizon, local hockey enthusiasts expect their sport to spike in popularity – especially with the U.S. women’s Olympic ice hockey team entering the tournament as the defending champions. In 2018, the US won their second gold medal after beating Canada 3-2 in a shootout in Gangneung, South Korea. The dramatic victory coincided with the anniversary of yet another historic hockey moment – the Miracle on Ice, when the US hockey team defeated the Soviet Union in the medal round during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
“Our national team is the crown jewel of women’s hockey in America, and when it is successful we succeed,” said Packer. “When they come home with a gold medal, we see an increase in the number of girls who want to be the next Olympic gold medalist, who want to be the next gold medalist. We’re becoming a tangible, everyday place where you can keep seeing these athletes. And so we are stronger than anyone else for our national team, because a rising tide is lifting all ships. “
The Riveters (2-3) lost a weekend road series against the Toronto Six. she Returns to Newark on December 18th to face Boston Pride. During that game, Packer said, the Riveters will wear bespoke jerseys to raise awareness of mental health, an effort led by the team’s captain Madison Packer.
Melanie Anzidei is a reporter for NorthJersey.com. For full access to the latest news, subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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