There have been no keg stands or swims through a public fountain. But Tatiana Rafter is still enjoying every second of her time with the Isobel Cup, even if her celebration is a bit more subdued than Alex Ovechkin’s wild, ongoing Stanley Cup escapades.
The 26-year-old Winnipegger was back home for a few days this week with a prized possession after the Metropolitan Riveters recently captured the 2018 National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) championship trophy, which is named after the daughter of Lord Stanley. Rafter was one of three Canadians on the team and the lone Manitoban.
"It’s actually been pretty responsible," Rafter joked Monday of how she’s enjoyed her allotted time with the trophy, which included meeting Mayor Brian Bowman on Monday at city hall. "We’ve had some family get-togethers and I’ve gone around and made people have sips out of it. But nothing crazy. My brother was trying to find (a fountain), and I was like, ‘No, we probably shouldn’t.’"
One thing Rafter and Ovechkin have in common is the feeling of accomplishing their goals. She reached her title dreams this spring after playing five years of hockey with the University of British Columbia and three years of pro hockey in the NWHL.
"There’s all those feelings of elation," said Rafter, who played her high school hockey in Winnipeg with the Balmoral Hall Blazers. "Our coach (former NHLer Chad Wiseman) wanted good people in the locker room first, and then he wanted us to play together and buy into a system. He wanted a Vegas Golden Knights-style team. We all really wanted to win the Cup. That was always our goal from Day 1."
Rafter scored four goals and added two assists in 16 regular-season games, in which the Riveters finished on top of the four-team league with a 13-3 record while playing out of their home base in New Jersey. They beat the defending champion Buffalo Beauts 1-0 in the single-game final.
Rafter began her NWHL career with Buffalo, then joined the Riveters last season when they were based out of New York. She played the year with U.S. Olympian Amanda Kessel, sister of NHLer Phil Kessel.
Rafter is looking to continue her career closer to home. She’s returning to UBC this summer to finish her psychology degree and is planning to play for Calgary in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) this fall. The seven-team loop, which was co-founded in 2007 by Winnipegger Sami Jo Small, currently has teams in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Boston and China.
In addition to keeping her post-hockey career in mind, Rafter now has another big personal goal.
"I want to try to make the Olympic team," Rafter said of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
She is also trying to spread the word about the many options now available for women in hockey, something she said still requires plenty of work. As she toured the Bell MTS Iceplex last weekend during a girls hockey tournament, she was surprised how many players and parents she met who didn’t know the three-year-old NWHL or 11-year-old CWHL existed.
"We really need to work on the marketing around women’s hockey, just the awareness of it," she said. "I think every parent out there who has a daughter playing hockey should know about women’s pro hockey. Once people know what’s out there, then it can grow."
Rafter said she’d loved to help be a pioneer on the local front to help make that happen. Once she hangs up the skates, she’d love to venture into the broadcast-media side of the game.
One big step in Winnipeg would be landing a team in the CWHL.
"It would be really cool to see," Rafter said. There have been partnerships in the NWHL with existing NHL teams. Her Riveters teamed up with the New Jersey Devils this season, while the Beauts have an alliance with the Buffalo Sabres. She believes this market would be perfect for future expansion.
"The last three years, I’ve tried to be an advocate for women’s hockey and it’s been a really humbling experience to be able to help give other young women the opportunity to look up to other young women," she said.
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