The Metropolitan Riveters have a new look with only 3 returning players and a new Head Coach Venla Hovi. On Wednesday, Hovi and Captain Madison Packer took questions from the media. Here are some highlights.
Before getting into the Riveters themselves at one point in the presser in response to a question from TXHT Packer spoke about what excited her about the league in general as the off season brought numerous new staff members to the PHF including a new commissioner. The Riveters Captain who has been in the league since its inception had glowing things to say about several developments:
“Obviously the hiring of Reagan [Carey] was huge, the addition of [Brianna] Decker and [Kacey] Bellamy and a few others is a huge step in a right direction,” Packer said. “They are going to demand a certain level of excellence. I’ll speak specifically for Reagan and Decker because I’ve worked with them and alongside them on a lot of things. They demand excellence in everything that they do and that’s not going to change. Certainly that’s why I think Reagan took the job because she knows it a big project and something she can make real change on. So just seeing some of the things already that have changed and some of the conversations that I’ve been a part of she’s one of the best that there is out there and I think a perfect person that is out there. So I’m really excited to see where she takes the league and how all the individual markets benefit under her leadership.”
Turning to the Riveters themselves, again the team is a nearly entirely new edition compared to last year’s model as international players, players from the PWHPA, and players from other PHF teams all ended up on the Metropolitan roster. Alex Azzi asked a question about whether team culture survived the changes or was new:
“Every year is a little different no matter how many people returning you have or not,” Packer began. “I think that overall though it’s a completely different environment in a lot of ways and in a lot of ways I think that’s a good thing. I think that the biggest difference that you notice is the professionalism and the accountability that is in the room. We have a lot of players who have a great deal of experience internationally, professionally in other leagues, at the collegiate level.”
Packer defined what the players were bringing in the door that contributed to the culture but it also meshed with the cultural expectations coming from outside as well:
“And we’re on the ice four days a week, we’re in the gym three days a week, we have access to a lot more resources and things like this so just overall the bar has been raised from an expectations standpoint and with that the culture shifts in the room, it’s more competitive and it’s just been a really special thing to be a part of,” Packer said.
Packer had more to say about the changes including in response to two questions about what was exciting her about the upcoming season. The first by TXHT led her to single out the team’s new bench boss, Hovi, and in doing so posited a domino effect that can follow from coaching choices in the league:
“She’s [Hovi’s] a huge asset and resource and just elevates the bar of what our coaches should be and how their background should look,” Packer said. “We’ve learned a lot already in a short period of time focusing on…I think sometimes they get lost in translation between different levels of play and things like that, so just bolstering coaching staffs is exciting…and then as you make additions across the league in leadership positions you draw in more talented players underneath. So for me to get play with some of the players that I’m playing with this year, you know Minttu [Tuominen], Anna [Kilponen], [Amanda] Pelkey, the list goes on of the just some of the influx of talent that we have in our market and that’s exciting for me.”
A question from Armand Klisivitch led to a fascinating response from the Captain regarding what her role may be on the team this season as she lamented perhaps her role being too overstretched in the past and looked forward to the possibility of less being more:
“Just the ability on focus on different things,” Packer said in response to what excited her about the season. “We have a lot of different weapons in the arsenal if you will. We have a lot of players that are good at specific things. If you look specifically at me looking back over the last couple of seasons, I had a lot of ice time and played in a lot of different situations that maybe took away from my ability to produce in others. So less is not always a bad thing. I think that I might get less ice team over the course of the season but that’s…I’ve got a lot of good people who are going to take opportunities that were falling on me. It’s take a lot of pressure off, it just makes it more fun and it’s a good opportunity for other players to step up and have an opportunity.”
As Packer had mentioned, the team practices four days a week, but it also practices in the morning which is a departure from other teams and previous Riveters seasons. Erica Ayala asked Coach Hovi to elaborate on how she structured those practices.
“Coming into the role I had a few things I wanted to be pretty stern about that I said that if I was to come and be in this role where we need to take the team which is maybe different direction that it was before,” Hovi said. “And there comes a point that we have to push the game forward and make the right steps and I personally having lived and being an athlete before very much aware of the toll that it takes on your body but also the demands and the responsibility that comes along when there is more financial support for players and all that comes with as I just mentioned responsibility. We want to make everyday life for the players the best it can be and I as a coach selfishly want fresh players on the ice. I don’t want them there after an eight hour work shift. Because that puts hockey being second, so I wanted to kind of shift the thinking of you know we should practice in the morning and then whoever is going to work afterwards is going to work but I’m getting them right after a good night’s sleep and they’re ready to go and they’re to focus and that way our game is getting better as well because they’re practicing at a higher level. So I kinda drew the line of we’re practicing in the morning if that is actually was an option and then having the conversations and recruiting players. It was a straightforward conversation, ‘Can you make morning practices?, ‘Oh you can’t, then this isn’t the team for you.’ It’s as simple as that and then they went elsewhere. And then the players we have are committed to being at practices and being there in the mornings and so far I’ve only received good feedback.”
Ayala asked Packer about the system as well, and the Riveters Captain called it a “huge advantage for us” while echoing some advantages Hovi mentioned including a change of focus to hockey first and players being fresher during practices. Ayala also queried Packer about differences between American Dream and previous Rivs facilities and Packer noted the team had its own locker room, an office for coaches and a training and cool down space. Also in response to a question from Alex Azzi regarding the skylight above the rink, Packer explained the way the sun comes into American Dream there hasn’t been a glare, and “it kinda feels like you’re playing outside. A lot of us like that feel.”
It will be interesting to see what these changes lead to in terms of performance in the regular season and beyond.
D.F. Pendrys is a trans non-binary freelance reporter and editor of Glaive Sports.
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