Japanese goaltender Nana Fujimoto signs with NWHL’s New York Riveters

Jared Clinton
Nana Fujimoto (Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Japan’s Nana Fujimoto had already made waves in the NWHL by attending the international free agent camp, but the New York Riveters are giving the 26-year-old goaltender the chance to become the face of women’s hockey in her home country.

Late Monday, the Riveters announced they have inked Fujimoto to a contract for the upcoming NWHL campaign. Fujimoto is coming off of a Women’s World Championship tournament where she was named the top goaltender with a 1-1-0-1 record, one shutout, 1.52 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. Above her obvious talent, her personality made her an obvious choice for the Riveters, said GM Dani Rylan.

“It’s impossible not to fall in love with Nana Fujimoto,” Rylan said in a release. “She is one of the best goaltenders in the world and her sheer joy while playing is contagious to teammates and fans alike. She literally traveled across the globe to earn a spot in the NWHL and we are both honored and ecstatic to welcome a member of Smile Japan to the league.” Read more

New York Riveters sign Lyudmila Belyakova, NWHL’s first Russian player

Jared Clinton
Lyudmila Belyakova (Richard Wolowicz/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

The New York Riveters made NWHL history when they inked Janine Weber to the league’s first free agent contract, but the club has made history of another kind, signing the league’s first Russian player.

Riveters GM Dani Rylan announced this past weekend that the club has signed Russian national team forward Lyudmila Belyakova to a contract for the 2015-16 season. Belyakova was one of the attendees at the league’s international free agent camp and impressed Rylan, which led to the signing.

“Belyakova is a dynamic forward with competitive international experience. She’s goal-oriented and creative around the net,” said Rylan in a release. “We’re excited to showcase international talent in the NWHL and hope Lyudmila is the first of many Russian players to join our league.” Read more

Public backlash leads University of North Dakota president to reconsider nickname committee’s five-name list

Jared Clinton
Connor Gaarder of Univeristy of North Dakota celebrates a goal at the Frozen Four. (Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

The saga surrounding the University of North Dakota’s nickname saw a new wrinkle this past week when fans were upset not about the removal of the former Fighting Sioux nickname, but by the nickname committee’s decision to remove North Dakota (a.k.a. no nickname) from the list of monikers that would make it to a public vote.

It was announced Tuesday that, by a vote of 7-4, the no nickname option was removed from the list to be submitted for a public vote. Instead, the naming committee submitted Fighting Hawks, Nodaks, North Stars, Roughriders and Sundogs as options to be approved by UND president Robert Kelley.

However, following a public outcry in favor of keeping the athletics department without a formal nickname, that could change. According to the Grand Forks Herald, Kelley, “emailed staff and the UND community,” early Friday morning saying he would consider adding the option to the mix. Read more

NWHL announces winners of fan-designed jersey contest

Jared Clinton
NWHL promotional video (via NWHL/YouTube)

The winners of the NWHL’s jersey design contest have been announced, and four of the league’s fans have had their picked by a fan vote. The winning jerseys will be the league’s teams for 2015-16.

In a release Wednesday, the league announced that jerseys designed by Tabitha Hummel, Emily Scherer, Brooks Freeman and Gabrielle Schofield have been selected. The original pool of jerseys, which the NWHL said was over 1,000, was whittled down to eight choices for the fan vote in mid July.

“We started this jersey design contest in order to give the fans a chance to have a say in our historical inaugural season. The response we received was far and beyond what we ever expected,” said NWHL commissioner and New York Riveters GM Dani Rylan in a release. “There was a lot of love put into these jersey designs and we appreciated seeing every design that was submitted.” Read more

Elite Prospects begins building women’s hockey stats database

Erika Grahm was the first women's player to have full statistics added by Elite Prospects. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Women’s hockey is continually growing in popularity, thanks in large part to league’s such as the CWHL and the upstart NWHL, and Elite Prospects is keeping up with the addition of more than 700 women’s players to its database.

The hockey statistics website announced Tuesday that they are undertaking a massive project to add women’s players throughout the world, which began with Swedish winger and Olympian Erika Grahm, who plays club hockey for MODO in Riksserien, Sweden’s women’s elite league.

In an interview with Sweden’s Expressen, Grahm said it was a great honor being the first women’s player to have all her stats added .

“There are many who asked why we are not with (the men) and (I would have) really have liked to answer it,” Grahm told Expressen. “I wondered, too. But it is a step in the right direction.” Read more

NWHL season to begin Oct. 11, All-Star Game set for Jan. 24

Jared Clinton
NWHL Flag

The NWHL’s first promotional video ended with the tagline, “History Begins.” With the release of the NWHL’s schedule, we now know what day we can expect the upstart league to make it’s first piece of history.

Tuesday evening, the NWHL officially released the schedule for the inaugural campaign, with Sunday, Oct. 11, marking the official start date of North America’s first paid women’s professional league.

On Oct. 11, all four of the league’s teams will be in action with the New York Riveters and Connecticut Whale kicking off the NWHL season at Chelsea Piers Connecticut at 1:30 p.m. ET. Two hours later, the league’s second game will begin, with the Buffalo Beauts and Boston Pride facing off at Buffalo’s HarborCenter. Read more

Former NHLer Brent Sopel makes all-girls hockey camp free of charge

Jared Clinton
Brent Sopel (Francois Lacasse/Getty Images)

Brent Sopel’s journey to the NHL really began in Saskatoon, where he played his major junior with the WHL’s Blades. Sopel is hoping he can help spark some other major league dreams by giving back to his community.

Sopel held a hockey camp in Saskatoon this past week that carried a fee of $950 per player. However, Sopel surprised the families of the 30 girls participating in the camp by waiving the registration fee and refunding it to the families. His hope, he told CBC, was that his gesture could help him promote future camps.

“Essentially, what I want is them to go back and build this camp little by little, year by year, just by the word of mouth, that they had a great time,” Sopel told CBC. Read more

Amanda Kessel’s final NCAA season claimed by concussion

Jared Clinton
Amanda Kessel (Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Amanda Kessel has the potential to be one of the greatest women’s players in the world, but concussion issues that will force her to miss a second straight season and end her NCAA career.

According to the Grand Forks Herald, Kessel, 23, will skip her senior season with the NCAA’s University of Minnesota Gophers. Gophers coach Brad Frost confirmed that Kessel will skip the season to the Herald, saying, “It’s just not worth it for her and her health.”

Kessel has not suited up since playing for Team USA at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but she hasn’t participated in any of the national team’s events since sustaining the injury. The concussion occurred before the Olympics began, but was cleared to play and posted three goals and six points in five games to finish in a tie for third in tournament scoring. Read more