As the first player in the history of the NWHL, Janine Weber carries an element of prestige that also brings with it a certain degree of attention. In this offseason, such attention continued as Weber, who is also one of the cornerstones of the Austrian national team, headlined a group of notable free agents.
Having spent the first two NWHL seasons with the New York Riveters, where Weber was one of the most popular players in the league’s biggest market, she will be donning the Boston Pride’s colors for the 2017-18 season. This newest chapter in her hockey career also involves a sense of homecoming.
From the outset, joining the Pride allows Weber the chance to add to her amazing body of work in New England. At the NCAA level, she spent one season with the Providence Friars, skating alongside future Isobel Cup champion Corinne Buie.
The two would also continue their careers together at the professional level. In their only season with the Boston Blades, both would have their names etched on the Clarkson Cup as Weber became the first European-born player to score the Cup winning goal. Coincidentally, Buie would have one of the assists.
Returning to New England allows Weber the chance to experience a homecoming in another unique facet. Of note, former NHL blueliner, and fellow Austrian, Thomas Poeck, shall take the helm as the Pride’s head coach, replacing Bobby Jay. Akin to Weber, Poeck also played his NCAA hockey in New England, competing with UMass-Amherst. Considering that the Pride have competed in the first two Isobel Cup finals, Weber is hoping to make it three in a row.
Taking into account that the Pride shall suffer the losses of competitors such as Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight to the US national team training camp (in advance of the 2018 Winter Games), Weber is poised to fill a huge gap. Along with Kaliya Johnson, formerly of the Connecticut Whale, and Paige Savage, a graduate from Northeastern, join Weber among the new faces for the club.
“The Pride have been a very successful team the last two years and the team and fans have high expectations. I have played with some of the girls before and I am excited to be teammates with them again.”
During Weber’s two seasons with the Riveters, she was one of its franchise players. Skating in the inaugural NWHL All-Star Game, she made history as the first European competitor to participate. With such strong momentum, Weber built on the successes of her first season, experiencing a statistical breakthrough in 2016-17.
Of note, Weber was a revelation during the Riveters’ second season. Assembling a team-high 22 points, on the strength of 12 assists, she was part of a high powered offense on the club that included super rookies Amanda Kessel and Rebecca Russo. Ranking fourth in league scoring, and fifth overall in assists, she currently sits among the top 10 all-time scorers in the league’s nascent history.
Although Weber leaves the New York-New Jersey fan base with a heavy heart, there were many proud moments with the franchise that signify a series of proud moments in a memorable chapter of her hockey odyssey. Off the ice, the sense of friendship and family that existed, from going to NHL games together, proudly adorned in their Riveters jerseys, to the feeling of mutual respect that helped define the team’s proud culture, these are all hallmarks of Weber’s time
On the ice, Weber’s finest hour took place on February 19, 2017 against the Connecticut Whale. Facing a 4-0 deficit against the visiting Whale, she would score timely goals in the first and third period, keeping the team alive. With the Riveters tying the game at 5-apiece in the third period (which saw Weber record two points), Weber would log the assist in the overtime frame, as Courtney Burke capitalized on a power play goal for the 6-5 win. For her efforts, she was recognized as the NWHL’s Player of the Week.
“I will always cherish the great team spirit we had and the friends I made during those two years. And definitely the comeback win at home against the Whale last year.”
Having enjoyed such a strong second season, it reflects the type of offensive production that will be expected of such a scoring sensation with the Pride. Although the Pride shall retain a significant amount of notable talent, there is no question that Weber comes to the Black and Gold with strong leadership qualities.
While Weber is quick to acknowledge that there are several other members of the Pride that are charter members of the league, akin to her own exceptional standing, it is her humble demeanor and strong work ethic that truly stand out among her abilities as a leader. Displaying her dedication to the game through example, it shall certainly provide the template for the rookies on this year’s edition of the Pride to follow, ensuring that another opportunity at the Isobel Cup may be a strong probability.
“The team has some girls who have been in the league since the beginning and hopefully us veterans can make it an easy transition for the younger players.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: http://www.excellesports.com/