Nana Fujimoto (Martin Rose/Getty Images)
Team Japan goaltender Nana Fujimoto is getting her shot at the NWHL and says it could give hope to Japanese players everywhere. The New York Riveters announced Monday they have signed Fujimoto. The 26-year-old netminder was the goaltender of the tournament at the 2015 Women’s World Championships.
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."
Prior to her outstanding World Championship, Fujimoto was the netminder for Team Japan at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. In five games, Fujimoto allowed fifteen goals and posted a 3.31 GAA and .885 SP. Even still, she and her teammates were one of the best stories of the women’s tournament.
Before the camp began, Fujimoto had said she believed she had the opportunity to become a role model for young players in Japan were she to make it to the NWHL and continue to develop her skills. Following her signing, she reiterated just how much her presence in the women's pro league could help hockey grow in Japan.
"Being able to play in such a competitive league means a lot to me in regards to personal development, but also means a lot to the hockey world in Japan," Fujimoto said. "Ice hockey is still a minor sports in my home country, but I hope that my success in the NWHL will give hope to the young players back in Japan."
Prior to coming to the NWHL, Fujimoto suited up for Vortex Sapporo, a Japanese women’s club. However, the competition she faces in the NWHL will be of a much higher caliber.
"I am very happy and honored," Fujimoto said. "I will do my best to contribute to the team, and we want to be the first ever Isobel Cup Champions!"