History was made Thursday as Janine Weber became the first free agent to sign a contract with the National Women’s Hockey League, inking a one-year contract with the New York Riveters.
In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Weber, alongside Riveters GM and league commissioner Dani Rylan, announced that the former CWHL player, who is only months removed from scoring the Clarkson Cup clinching goal in overtime, had agreed to a deal that sees her become the first signee for the league. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Rylan said the specifics of the contract would be released following the free agency period.
“When I first heard about the league, I was hoping to be able to join,” Weber said. “I'm very happy to sign a contract with the Riveters since it's very exciting to be living and playing in New York City.”
Last season, Weber, an Austrian national, played for the CWHL’s Boston Blades, scoring three goals and seven points in 17 games. She also suited up for the NCAA's Providence College, where she amassed six goals and 11 points in 35 games. While the move from Beantown to the Big Apple is exciting, it signals more than an opportunity for her to continue playing the game she loves – it gives her the chance to focus solely on becoming the best hockey player she can be. Weber was teaching at a school for kids with developmental disabilities last season and, she said, the deal with the Riveters will allow her to drop the part-time job.
“Starting right now I’ll be playing hockey for a living, mostly,” Weber said. “I think (the NWHL) will help women’s hockey a lot because more players can play professionally and. . .do everything they need to do to be the best hockey players they can be without having to worry about making enough money to survive.”
Whatever Weber is earning in the NWHL, it will fall under the league-mandated salary cap that limits each team’s spending to $270,000 for the 18-player roster. That sets the average salary for a player at $15,000, and the league has set a salary minimum for players at $10,000.
Being paid as a professional player and the ability to continue to grow her game were two big reasons Weber came over to the NWHL, something she said she had thought about once she heard of the league’s creation.
“There was immediate interest,” said Weber. “If you are playing hockey here and you want to get better and keep playing at a high level, you hear about a league like the NWHL and you’re really interested in it. Most girls were interested when they heard about it.”
Weber added that as a team, the Blades had talked about the league, but it was difficult to really consider moving over because she was still in the CWHL.
Another bonus for Weber, too, is that she won’t have to worry about getting herself any equipment. Some may recall the incident following the Clarkson Cup final, in which the Hockey Hall of Fame requested Weber’s stick but she was hesitant to give it up as it would leave her with only one stick and she was worried about purchasing another.
“We will be providing equipment for the players,” Rylan said. “So hopefully Janine will have multiple sticks in the NWHL Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame.”
As for signings, while Weber is the first, this should help kick off the NWHL’s free agency period and there should be a run of contracts being signed.
“I think there’s going to be a huge wave after this,” said Rylan. “I expect future signings to come in bunches.”