"You should be very proud of yourselves. People paid to come and watch you play today. That's how talented you are."
-Boston Pride Head Coach Bobby Jay
On Oct. 11, 2015 the National Women's Hockey League began its inaugural season. After training camps throughout the summer, a draft on June 20th, media days, practices and much anticipation, the women of the NWHL suited up and hit the ice for what would mark the official start of the first professional women's hockey league to pay its players.
Made up of four teams located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, the NWHL has brought the best women's hockey players in the world to the Northeast, and one of those teams, the Boston Pride, is made up of some serious talent. Including four Olympians and numerous CWHL, U.S. National Team, and NCAA stars, the Boston Pride are sure to make a run for the Isobel Cup (named after the daughter of Frederick Stanley, donor of the Stanley Cup) during their first season.
I attended the Pride's last practice before their first game and traveled by bus with the team for their season opener against the Buffalo Beauts at HarborCenter in Buffalo, N.Y. on Oct. 11. Despite the long journey, the team's energy and excitement throughout the weekend was palpable and contagious, and I was thankful to be able to witness such an important day for professional women's hockey. The Pride went on to beat the Beauts 4-1, and have won two more games since.
I was first made aware of the NWHL by a journalist friend of mine, and right away I started visualizing the photos I wanted to make of a story that needed to be told. I knew that this league was going to be something special, something that deserved attention, and I wanted to be a part of making that happen. Luckily, the league has been kind enough to allow me to document the Boston Pride's season as much as possible. I plan to focus on the things you will not see watching at home or sitting in the bleachers. On top of practices twice a week and games every weekend, many of the women of the NWHL balance life as a professional athlete with full-time jobs, so I hope to profile a couple of players' lives outside of hockey as well.
The photos I have taken thus far are a kind of "rough draft" for me. I am not a hockey photographer by any means, and that was certainly reaffirmed as I tried to shoot a bit of action during the game. I see them as a definite starting point, but feel they are lacking story-wise. So, I am excited for what the season will bring, to get to know the players, and to focus on those quiet moments outside of what is taking place on the ice. I hope to join the team as much as I can, and am looking forward to making some interesting pictures as they pursue a championship season.
One moment that really stuck out in my mind when looking back on the weekend was head coach Bobby Jay's pregame talk to the team in the locker room, as quoted above. Instead of pumping the players up, he asked them to reflect on all of the hard work it took them to get to that game, and to recognize how much they had accomplished. After spending the weekend with the Pride, his words seem even more fitting, because what left the biggest impression on me was the team's immense sense of gratitude.