Earlier this evening, the New Jersey Devils took a bold step into the world of women’s professional hockey. Seth Berkman of the New York Times reported the Devils have formed a partnership with the Riveters of the National Women’s Hockey League. The team was known as the New York Riveters; this deal will, among other things, turn them into the Metropolitan Riveters.
Those other things in that deal could be huge for the team and perhaps the NWHL as a whole. From Berkman’s article:
The Devils’ investment includes providing rent-free facilities for Riveters games and practices in Newark, and assisting in sponsorships, ticket sales and marketing. The teams declined to discuss the financial terms of the partnership.
As a part of the deal, the Devils will promote Riveters events on television broadcasts, arena displays and online media platforms, [Dani] Rylan [commissioner of the NHWL] said. The two teams will also collaborate to develop girls’ and women’s hockey programs throughout the area.
As far as I know, my knowledge of the NWHL is limited to little bits I’ve seen here and there online. I knew that the league had their inaugural championship game in the Devils’ practice rink and that the Riveters have hosted their games there. With television, online, and visual promotional coverage, I and many other Devils fans are going to learn more about Riveters.
Based on what I’ve read in Berkman’s column, I get the sense that things have not been all that well for the NWHL. While they established themselves as a proper professional league from the outset, salaries were cut. A rival league, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, is now professional and offers salaries - which takes away leverage from the NWHL from acquiring players. Their major sponsor, Dunkin Donuts, provided an important cash infusion to keep things going. The Olympics have been the biggest stage for women’s hockey and apparently several players are not going to play in the NWHL as they prepare for the 2018 Winter Games. It is not the most ideal situations for a league to be in as they enter their third season of existence.
With that in mind, this is a big get for the now-Metropolitan Riveters and the league as a whole. The support of the owners, Josh Harris and David Blitzer, should help ensure the Riveters remain stable and make them more relevant with additional promotion. It could also lead to further partnerships with other NHL teams as there are NWHL teams in Boston and Buffalo and very wealthy NHL owners in both cities. Additionally, if the “rent-free facilities” means that they will continue to play in the Barnabas Health Hockey House without paying any rent, then that will definitely help with whatever their financial situation may be.
What do the Devils get out of this? Well, I’m guessing here, it further establishes the Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (the holding company) in the area. This is a team that has played in Newark, will play in Newark for the foreseeable future, and help out women’s hockey programs in the area. It diversifies their role in the local hockey community while increasing its footprint. It also ensures that the Barnabas Health Hockey House continues to be utilized for more than just a practice rink. I’m sure it looks good to be a pioneer for this kind of partnership. Speaking of image, it’s always a plus to take out another ‘NY’ out from a team that plays in New Jersey and have them wear the same colors as the Devils. I do not know how popular the Riveters really are, but some potential cross-over from their fans to go to a few Devils games is a plus for the business too.
I may be speaking out of place here since I admittedly do not know much or have the same passion for the Riveters/NWHL like I do for the Devils. However, I would have to think that this is great news Riveters fans, NHWL fans, and those that want to see women’s hockey grow in the area. It’ll ensure that the team will remain as-is, they’ll receive more promotional and general coverage than they have been, there will be support from an organization that has plenty of resources in a stable league, and, should it work out, it could be the start of additional partnerships.
If you know more about the Riveters and the NWHL, then please feel free to share your thoughts on this bit of business in the comments. Thank you for reading.