One of the best goalies in Womens Hockey - Noora Räty may end up retiring from Hockey at 24 years of age - because she cant find a competitive & paying league to play in.
Imagine right now Carey Price, or Tuukka Rask quitting hockey right now because they could not find a team to play for in a league they felt was at their skill level. Absurd right? I mean if they were for some reason unable to play in the NHL, they would have the KHL as a viable back up. Rask could surely go home & play in Finland & be a star there. They have options. Lets also take into consideration, neither of them are even in the top 5 goalies in the game right now at 26 years of age.
This brings me to Noora Raty. For those who dont follow women's hockey outside of the Canada/USA battles, Raty has been for a few years now 1 of, if not at times, the best goalie in the world in women's hockey. She has backstopped Finland to wins over the U.S. in the World Championships, Four Nations Cup last year & the Hockey Canada Cup here in 2010. A feat that is few & far between for teams not from Canada.
Raty carried her college, University Of Minnesota to back-to-back NCAA championships. With a career mark of 114-17-8, including a 38-0-0 mark in her final year with 17 Shutouts. She holds the record for career shutouts & single season shutouts in women''s college hockey. As a teenager she won the Best Goalie honours at the Women's World Hockey Championships, twice. In 2008 she was given the MVP of the entire tourney. Noora Raty was the best goalie in the world, and she wasnt even out of her teens yet.
Winning an Olympic Bronze medal in 2010 will be the highlight of her international career. Her two NCAA titles will be the only major championships she will likely ever win in the sport. The reason is, Noora Raty, at just 24 years of age, will likely retire.
Early retirement isnt rare in women's hockey. Some do it due to injuries, others do it to start up families. But rarely has there been someone in the women's game, still near the peak of her career retiring because she cant find somewhere to play that still wants to. This is a situation unique to Raty right now, but not unique to the women's hockey players as a whole.
Despite the feverish crowds that Canada-USA women's games get on both sides of the border, there is no professional women's league. The only pro women's hockey league currently of note is in Russia, and Raty herself has stated, it isnt "the best". North America has a women's league. The CWHL, but it isnt pro. Players travel expenses and equipment are paid for, but they do not pay the players to play. Players are expected to carry on with real every day jobs, and play a sport they love, for essentially free. This is the top level of competition in North America right now for women's hockey, a free league that doesnt travel outside the eastern time zone.
Raty stated in a very public statement on twitter that she needs a league that can challenge her (CWHL could do that) and pay her (the Russian league can do that) but finding 1 that does both is not an option at this time. Noora could play mens hockey. An option she likely has considered. Perhaps she still will. But what about all the others? What about Raty proving herself against other women's players? Growing the game? This seems to be something Noora seems eager to do. She wants to be paid AND play against women.
Noora Raty's very public plea yesterday on twitter might not help a league form in time for her career, but hopefully it will be instrumental in getting things in motion for such a league very soon. Hopefully one that can pay players, and more importantly expland beyond an area so small you can drive from the furthest 2 points of the league in a few hours.
Women have a professional basketball league, backed by the NBA. Its in its 17th season coming up, has 12 teams. With a minimum salary of $35,000 a season.
Women have a professional soccer league. The NWSL and while it pays very little comparatively, it does at least PAY its players. Minimum $6,000 a season. But there are also professional leagues in Europe for them to go to that pay much, much better.
So why is there no professional hockey league for women in North America? I'm not saying it has to pay WNBA level salaries just yet, but it could, if it had the right marketing behind it.
Cue the NHL. Like the NBA's involvement in women's basketball, the NHL could vastly boost the image, and viability of a women's league. Association with regional teams would bring recognition and would almost instantly boost the sport. It would also allow payment for services. The NHL is a multi-billion dollar juggernaut in sports, yet, no involvement in trying to develop a women's league or game. They have no problem tossing money at markets that failed from the get go, and trying to sway fans over seas with tours there that include actual regular season games. Lots of money to waste on those ventures. But women's hockey? Nope. Despite the NHL using women's hockey stories to get a few more eyeballs on broadcasts, puck dropping ceremonies & traffic to their website. That, they can do. They have no problem USING women's hockey moments & players to promote hockey, just dont put any actual money into it.
Somewhere today in Sochi, Russia Tuukka Rask is probably going to have a meal that he didnt have to pay for, and will be indifferent to the experience or even annoyed that its not what he would usually have. Noora Raty might very well have that same meal, and just be glad she didnt have to pay for it, with the $0 she earns doing the same job, and so far, more successfully in less years on this planet. Tuukka Rask will get $7M U.S. this season. He is 1 of the top 20 goalies in the NHL, MAYBE even top 10. He will make $7M because a team felt having 1 of the top 20 at his position is worth that. Noora Raty is 1 of the top 5 in the world for women, even arguably, the best. Yet no one is paying her, despite the fact shes done more in her career than Tuukka (never played a second in the playoffs in the 2011 Cup year) who still has no major accomplishments in his career outside of a bronze at the World Juniors. Noora is also 2 years younger than him. Peter Budaj, the 3rd string goalie for Slovakia this tourney is making $1.4M as a back up for the Montreal Canadiens, the same team that employs Carey Price at $6.5M.
Surely, there can be a league, that values Noora Raty enough that she can make at least 10% of what the 3rd string Slovakian goalie in the Olympic mens tournament currently makes. But, I also thought there should be a professional women's hockey league as well. Maybe there will be. Maybe the NHL, with all the hair brained schemes its put together to try & create new revenue streams will finally go "hey, how about a women's hockey league?". They put a team in Phoenix Arizona, and in a swamp in Sunrise, Florida. Surely women's hockey is less of a risk than those zany ideas. Figure it out quick National Hockey League, before 1 of the sports greatest retires, at just 24 years old.
A little side note I found as I was looking to see if there was any last details I missed. Noora finished 63rd on The Hockey News 2013 list of 100 most influential people in hockey..... ahead of 37 mostly NHL based people. Are you listening NHL? There are women players of influence, you just need to open your eyes before its too late.
Heres a few photos of this hockey phenom from the two times I got to see her in Vancouver. During the 2009 Hockey Canada Cup & the 2010 Olympic Bronze Medal game.
The Montreal Canadiens for many years have been one of the most fan friendly & accomodating teams in all of sports. Truly class acts....and this is coming from someone that doesnt like them.
Those days however, ARE OVER!
With only 2 teams having come thru this season I am going to boldly proclaim the Montreal Canadiens will end the year as one fo the 5 worst signing teams to come here.
It wasnt ALL their fault, but it was certainly MOSTLY their fault.
Things that made this trip less sucessful that was out of their hands was the fact they changed hotels, fron a relatively decent hotel, to a horrible unwelcoming one. They also parked the bus in a spot that makes it MUCH tougher getting autographs at the rink after the post-gameday practice. Unlike the spacious railed area at their regular departure point that can comfortably make room for 20+ people, the tight narrow area of the driveway ramp provides room for 1 person to stand there, and another 2 to stand over that persons shoulder. Everyone behind there is generally SOL. Besides that, this was all on their shoulders.
Starting in goal
CAREY PRICE- 2 autographs. he actually started off the trip good. He signed a handful going into the gameday skate. But with a crowd of 40 or so waiting, he fell well short of seeing that everyone got 1. As the trip went on, he became even less willing. Only signing a few coming out of gameday practice & all of ONE the day after for the post-gameday practice that was sparsely attended by hounds.
JAROSLAV HALAK- 3 autographs. He managed to go undetected right up until they were getting on the bus to leave to the airport. Mostly because he had shaved his head & it threw those of us that had met him before off. Once he was picked off, he signed willingly...of course, there was only me 1 other person there with items for him at that time.
JAROSLAV SPACEK- 2 autographs. Oddly, he refused to sign for fans going into the game. The next day however, he was more cordial & signed for the few people asking.
ROMAN HAMRLIK- 0 autographs. Was actually one of the best signers. I dont recall him turning down any requests.
JOSH GORGES- 0 autographs. With comments like "make it quick, I gotta go" you can see that he was all class on the trip. He hurridly scrawled his signature on a couple peoples items before beelining for a cab after practice. Dont recall him being any better at any other point of the trip.
HAL GILL- 1 autograph. For a guy 6'7, I had a hell of a time getting him lol. He seemed to be hit & miss signing & the 1 time previous to them leaving town that he did sign I somehow missed him. I must have been busy getting someone else at that moment. When I finally did get him, it wasnt on the item I wanted, because I didnt have time to get to it & just accepted him on the generic team item I had shoved thru the limited space available near the door of the bus.
YANNICK WEBER- 1 autograph. No one knew who he was & if it werent for the generic team item I had & another hound with a puck, he would have probably not had to sign a single autograph here. I cant say if he would be a good signer or not, as no one ever actually asked him by name.
RYAN O'BYRNE & PAUL MARA- Do not have a report on.
ANDREI KOSTITSYN- 1 autograph. Was not too willing to acknowledge anyone, let alone sign until right before they left town. He signed a few at the bus door & that was, to the best of my knowledge, all he did while here. Certainly was not a willing signer.
BRIAN GIONTA- 4 autographs. Probably the best signer on the team. Signed anytime that you were able to get near him. Was willing to do multiples as well. Which was really rare on this team.
GEORGES LARAQUE- 0 autographs. Has been one of the leagues worst signers the past few seasons. He put that label into overdrive this trip. There is mixed reports of whether or not he signed a girls jersey when he came out on the game day skate. I dont think he actually did. Which if its true, means he completed signing a grand total of 0 autographs in 2 days here. Thats sad & pathetic, considering his autograph is nothing more than "GL". Usually players get tougher as they get better, not as they get worse. His signing habits have gone the way of his playing skills, downhill fast.
GLEN METROPOLIT- 0 autographs. Signed willingly when asked. Unsure if he would do multiples, but he seemed willing to sign, so maybe?
GUILLAUME LATENDRESSE- 3 autographs. Despite the positive number if autographs I got. The other GL tried to discourage people from getting him by giving out one of the most abysmal autographs I have seen from a relative newcomer in a long time.
MAX PACIORETTY- 5 autographs. Terrific signer for now. Did 4 items in 1 shot without any hesitation. I would say, from my experience, the best signer on the team for now.
MAXIM LAPIERRE- 0 autographs. There was considerable confusion when he signed on who was signing. Some people thought it was (Max)Pacioretty, some people thought it was (Matt) D'Agostini. By the time it was deciphered for those of us on the opposite side of where he started signing, we werent prepared for him & most of us missed him. But he seemed to be an ok signer for those on the other side that were able to see who it was from the beginning.
MIKE CAMMALLERI- 2 autographs. Coming into the gameday practice he was a good signer. Making sur eeveryone got one & in most cases 2. But that was IT. He never stopped again. So make sure you are there early for the Habs, because once he signs, he has the "I got everyone" mentality & wont do it again.
SCOTT GOMEZ- 0 autographs. Only because Georges Laraque is on the team is Scott not the teams worst signer. He signed TWO whole autographs, despite being asked everytime he was seen To top it off, his autographs resembled an upside down V with a small squiggle mark following.
TOMAS PLEKANEC- 1 autograph. He signed when I asked him to sign, but prior to that I dont recall even seeing him. So unsure how he was the rest of the trip.
TRAVIS MOEN- 1 autograph. Wasnt asked by a lot of people, but the ones who did ask, he signed for. I believe he was a strict 1 per about it though.
GREGORY STEWART- 1 autograph. dont recall how he was. I got him on my team photo the day they were elaving, but have no recollection of getting him. It really was a blur for a few mins there.
KYLE CHIPCHURA 1 autograph, dont recall how he was. I got him on my team photo the day they were elaving, but have no recollection of getting him. It really was a blur for a few mins there.
MATT D'AGOSTINI- no reports.
KIRK MULLER- 1 autograph. Was a willing signer anytime he was asked.
BOB GAINEY- 0 autographs. Never was seen till just before they were ready to leave town. TWO people asked him, he signed for ONE.
Total autographs from Montreal- 29
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From time to time I have something to say on hockey. Whether its the Vancouver Canucks, NHL in general, Womens Hockey or International Hockey...if I have something to post, it will be in here.