Game On Magazine September 2015 - Page 89

I t’s pretty hard to find players that are more skilled and more dedicated than Shelby Bram and Tatiana Rafter. The four-team National Women’s Hockey League, the only professional women’s hockey league in the world, certainly knew it. In fact, you could sense how excited the league was when it announced that Bram and Rafter had both signed contracts with the NWHL’s brand new Buffalo Beauts. The NWHL, the first all-women’s paid professional hockey league, was founded this year by Dani Rylan who also serves as the league’s commissioner and as general manager of the New York franchise. The league consists of four clubs -- Connecticut Whale, New York Riveters, Boston Pride and Buffalo Beauts. Players in the NWHL will be paid $10,000 per season (league minimum) with, according to Rylan, average salaries at about $15,000 per season. If she can make it happen, it’s a big step up from the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, which does not pay its players. In fact, this past season, the league champion Boston Blades asked every player on the roster to pay $350 in order to pay the entry fee to compete for the CHWL’s Clarkson Cup. I wonder if Adrienne Clarkson had that in mind when she donated the trophy. Regardless, according to Rylan, a Tampa product who played at Northeastern University (and also played a season of men’s Division III hockey at Metro State), players in the NWHL will, indeed, be paid. Rylan has secured deals with the league’s four arenas (the ice time will be donated) and a transportation deal with US Coachways. Numerous league sponsorships – including a “major equipment deal,” are paying the bills. That’s good news for Bram and Rafter. Bram (just 5-foot-3) grew up in St. Anne, Man., and played Triple A midget with the Eastman Selects and then NCAA Division 1 hockey at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., from 2011-2015. During her four years with the Lakers, Bram scored 31 goals and finished with 109 points in 141 games. In 2014, she was named College Hockey America (CHA) Best Defensive Forward and was also named to the CHA All-Tournament Team. She was also named to the All-CHA First All-Star Team in 2013. Bram, who has five brothers and two sisters, previously played for Canada in the 2011 U-18 IIHF World Championships. “Being able to play in the first paid professional women’s league is incredible,” Bram said in a written statement. “On top of that, getting to play in one of the greatest hockey towns in the nation is truly a blessing. The Beauts are a perfect fit, I will represent them with nothing but professionalism, both on and off the ice. “I will bring hard work, determination and a fun and outgoing personality to this team. I will give this team 110 per cent effort, while on our quest to become the first winners of the Isobel Cup.”  Rafter (5-foot-10), a graduate of Winnipeg’s Balmoral Hall, played forward for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds from 2010-2015. In the 2013-14 season, she led Canada West with 38 points on 20 goals and 18 assists and became the first player in UBC history to be named Canada West Player of the Year. In the same season she was named to the Canada West First All-Star Team and the CIS All-Canadian First Team. She led the league in goals, points, and power play goals, and was a dynamic force in short-handed and game-winning goals. During the 2013 Winter Universiade in Trentino, Italy, Rafter recorded 15 points in seven games to help Canada win the gold medal. She finished the 2013 season leading UBC with 13 goals and 23 points. “I’m excited to play for the Beauts because every time I lace up my skates I will be a part of history,” Rafter said. “This organization’s story is unwritten and it’s a special thing to help create its beginning. “I’ll have a chance to impact young players that share the same dream as me. I hope that by continuing to embrace my passion to play hockey it will inspire and motivate young women to continue to strive to be their best.”