New Jersey Devils and New York Riveters Reach Partnership Agreement
As part of partnership, the NWHL team will be rebranding to Metropolitan Riveters.
The New Jersey Devils and the New York Riveters have announced the first ever partnership agreement between the National Hockey League and National Women’s Hockey League with a three-year deal on Thursday.
The deal provides the NWHL team with rent-free use of the facilities for their games as well as practices.
The Devils will also help the Riveters in acquiring sponsorship deals, with their ticketing sales as well as marketing the team as they begin their third season.
The deal will also include a rebranding of the NWHL club. Their first two seasons they wore red, white and blue jerseys. In season three, they will switch to red, white and black, to be similar, to the Devils’ color scheme. The team will still have Rosie the Riveter on the crest of the sweater.
NWHL commissioner, Dani Rylan told the New York Times, “To have an NHL franchise putting their stamp of approval on us, is game-changing.”
The Riveters are one of the “Founding Four” teams in the NWHL, along with the Connecticut Whale, Boston Pride and Buffalo Beauts.
The Riveters will open the 2017-2018 season, on October 28, when they host the Pride at 1:30 PM at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The game will be part of a doubleheader with the Devils hosting the Arizona Coyotes, later that night at 7:00 PM.
Unique Doubleheader Opportunity
Riveters season ticket holders will receive tickets to the Devils game later that night and Devils ticket members will receive their usual seats for the Riveters game. For non-season ticket holders, the organization will provide an option to purchase a special ticket to this unique doubleheader opportunity.
The 40-dollar special offer, will grant access to the Riveters at 1:30 PM on Saturday October 28 and then upper level seats to the Devils game at 7:00 PM. In addition, the 150-dollar package gets fans lower level seats to the Devils game and season tickets to the Riveters.
First NWHL Game in NHL Arena
The home opener for the Riveters, who will now be known as the Metropolitan Riveters, will be the first NWHL contest to be played in an NHL arena. Rylan added that more doubleheaders were indeed possible during the season.
The Devils will promote the Riveters on their television broadcasts, arena display boards and over online and social media platforms. Rylan also noted that both clubs will join forces in efforts to promote girls’ and women’s hockey programs throughout the area.
The Riveters will continue to play most of their home games and practice at the RWJ Barnabas Health Hockey House, the Devils practice facility located right next door to the Prudential Center.
After playing their inaugural season at Aviator Sports and Events Center at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York, the 2017-2018 season will mark the second for the Riveters in Newark.
In the past, the rival Canadian Women’s Hockey League was able to get some support from some of the Canadian NHL clubs, but the NHL has been slow to support women’s professional hockey as a whole. They had been a little timid that having two women’s professional leagues would be viable.
During the 2015 NHL Winter Classic in Foxborough, Massachusetts the NWHL was given time to play on the rink at Gillette Stadium. The 2017 NWHL All-Star Game took place at the Pittsburgh Penguins practice facility, the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania.
The UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex will also host a neutral site game between the Whale and Beauts in the 2017-2018 season.
On September 6, the NHL, NWHL, CWHL and many other hockey governing bodies all signed the Declaration of Principles, which is designed to provide more inclusiveness in hockey.
Partnership Springboard for Expansion and Exposure
Rylan added, “We expect this deal to be a large domino, not only in our current markets, but in future expansion markets as well.”
She hopes that the league will be able to add two more teams within the next few years and told the Times, “We think this is ultimately going to change our trajectory significantly, and having an NHL club back our brand and the women’s game, it is going to be exciting to see the ripple effects of this deal.”
This partnership with the Devils comes at a crucial time for the league. The NWHL was the first women’s professional hockey league to pay their players, but were forced to cut salaries last November creating uncertainty through the league.
With many of the NWHL’s bigger named players being unable to participate in the league this season, as they prepare to represent the United States Women’s National Team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the CWHL expanding to China as well as beginning to pay its players this season, that uncertainty looms larger.
Nine Twitter Game of Week to be Played in Newark
Over the summer the NWHL reached a deal with social media network, Twitter, to live-stream 19 games during the 2017-2018 season. Nine of those games will be played by the Riveters in Newark.
NWHL Chief Financial Officer, Steve Skillen added that the new deal with the Devils should help to provide more marketability to the players.
He also told the New York Times, that despite the pay cuts, absence of the players on the national team and litigation against the league by former investors, the Devils reached out to Rylan about formal discussions on a partnership, prior to the conclusion of last season.
Rylan added; “It is incredibly important for us to continue the brand of women’s hockey regardless of what year it is, whether it is an Olympic year or otherwise. I think the larger the microphone, the better our opportunity is to do that. That is what we have here with the Devils, a stage for these women to really have a spotlight put on them in non-Olympic years.”
Riveters, Devils & HBSE to continue to Grow the Game
The Devils are owned by Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who also own the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association. The two investors created Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment at the end of September as an umbrella company for all their holdings.
Hugh Weber, President of Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment said, “We will continue to champion and provide a venue for youth hockey in New Jersey, while giving this dynamic team of professional hockey players the best facilities available, in which they may train, play and inspire the next generation of women’s hockey athletes.”
World Girls’ Hockey Weekend
The new alliance between the two organizations will face off this weekend at the Prudential Center as the Devils open the 2017-2018 campaign against the Colorado Avalanche.
As a part of the Riveters and the Devils support for World Girls’ Hockey Weekend, the Riveters will host over 60 local girls’ youth hockey players from the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association at the Devils game.
In addition to attending the Devils game and question and answer session with the Riveters, the future professional hockey stars will get the chance to participate in an exclusive skating clinic after the game.
In a press release by the Devils, Weber added, “The partnership between Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment and the NWHL’s Riveters presented itself as an extraordinary opportunity to support youth and women’s professional ice hockey at the Prudential Center.”
“We are confident that New Jersey Devils fans and those supporting the development of young women in athletics are as proud as we are for the Metropolitan Riveters to call the Prudential Center home. Under the continued leadership and guidance of HBSE Founders, Josh Harris and David Blitzer, we will continue to champion innovative partnerships that promote youth hockey in the Tri-State area.”
Rylan added, “The Devils and HBSE have shown their commitment to women’s hockey in the metropolitan area in a very big way. We are grateful to begin this long-term collaboration with them and are confident that together we will grow the game.”
In addition to the Riveters rebranding as the Metropolitan Riveters and changing the color scheme to match the Devils, Riveters players will also participate in coaching, instruction and other community projects.
Select Riveters games will also be broadcast on The One Jersey Network, the online digital network of the Devils, streamed over www.newjerseydevils.com.
Riveters Captain Ashley Johnston & Goalie Katie Fitzgerald Share Excitement
In a conference call with Rylan and Riveters captain, Ashley Johnston and goaltender, Katie Fitzgerald, the goalie mentioned that many of her teammates were not sure that a partnership with the NHL would happen during their careers, but are excited that was able to occur as quickly as it did.
Fitzgerald also noted how excited she is to be associated with the team Martin Brodeur achieved so many of his records for.
Name Change Helps to Show Team Represents the Metro Area
Rylan noted that while Rosie will remain as the logo on the chest, the name Metropolitan Riveters was decided on so as “not to forget about the franchise’s roots.” She is excited for the partnership and became even more so, after hearing Fitzgerald and Johnston’s comments regarding the agreement.
The commissioner hopes that this partnership will become a springboard towards growing the game in other NHL markets.
Johnston, who commutes from Albany, New York for games and practices mentioned that she, along with teammates Michelle Picard and Madison Packer have helped develop young players throughout New Jersey. They are excited about the partnership and for what is to come about in the future.
Johnston added, “I was never a New Jersey Devils fan, but I sure am now. Their support, this opportunity, they have been amazing to us.”
With the Pittsburgh market having shown support for the game and league, in hosting the all-star game last season and a neutral site matchup this year, Rylan mentioned that Pittsburgh could be one of the options for expansion.
In talking about the CWHL she added, “We try to do what we can to work with them, at some point, you go your separate ways. We will continue to reach out to them and try.”
According to Rylan, the fanbase of the league grew by about 15 percent, by having the opportunity to have an NHL club host their all-star game last season. The Devils have supported the league before this partnership in the past as well.
The first Isobel Cup Championship was played at the RWJ Barnabas Health Hockey House following the 2015-2016 NWHL season. The year before the Riveters moved from Brooklyn to Newark.