With the arrival of autumn comes the anticipation for football on the sporting calendar. For sporting fans in Western New York, that means the arrival of another season involving their beloved Buffalo Bills. With members of the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts on-hand during a day of Bills training camp, it encompassed a pair of crucial themes. In addition to the theme of women making their presence felt in the gridiron game, quickly becoming an important legacy in Bills football, it emphasizes the sense that all athletes who compete in Buffalo are part of a greater team, enjoying a proud sense of community.
Among the women of the Beauts on-hand during training camp included Maddie Elia, Jacquie Greco, Emily Janiga and Hayley Scamurra. Happily signing autographs for fans while raising awareness about Beauts hockey, there was definitely a feeling of hometown pride for the players.
Hailing from Williamsville, New York, Scamurra’s place in NWHL history is assured as the inaugural recipient of the league’s rookie of the year award. Spending the 2017-18 in Shenzhen, China, Janiga returned to the Beauts, the first professional team she had ever known. Signing on July 20, 2018, it held profound emotion for the product of East Aurora, NY, as an online movement has transformed the date into #716 day (the area code for Buffalo).
Raised in the Queen City, Greco, a member of the Beauts’ Isobel Cup championship team in 2017, admirably balanced playing duties with public relations work for the franchise in season’s past. Elia, a native of Lewiston, New York and alum of Boston University averaged a point per game during her rookie season (2017-18).
With the presence of such local stars, a highly eventful day for Beauts hockey during an already exicting offseason was one that included the National Lacrosse League’s Buffalo Bandits, who are also among the sporting properties owned by the Pegula Sports Entertainment (PSE). Highlighted on social media with the hashtag #OneBuffalo Day, it is indicative of the feeling of family that envelops the city.
The One Buffalo concept was spearheaded by Kim Pegula, the CEO/President of PSE following the purchase of the Bills. Commendably geared with the objective of gathering all of Western New York’s sporting teams in one innovative platform, championing the cause of community through sport, the results speak volumes about her dedication.
Of note, Kim Pegula, along with her husband Terry are the key principals in the PSE Group, whose assets include the Bills, Beauts, Bandits, plus the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League, is one of the most respected women in sport.
Serving as an alternate governor to the NHL, she has also set an empowering time in the modern history of the NFL. Of note, women such as Samantha Rapoport in the front office, referee Sarah Thomas and coach Dr. Jen Welter bringing the gridiron game to unprecedented importance, simultaneously becoming role models while emphasizing the growing impact of women in a traditionally male-dominated field.
A key note speaker at the Women’s Careers in Football seminars, which takes place during the same week as the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl, Pegula is certainly an inspiration, like the women who grace the ice for the Beauts. Worth noting, she is not the only woman who has made her presence felt with the Bills organization. In 2016, the Bills named Kathryn Smith their special teams quality control coach, making her the first-ever full-time female coach in NFL history. During the 2017 preseason, the Bills welcomed Phoebe Schecter into the fold. A member of Great Britain’s national women’s tackle football team, she served as a coaching intern, one of four recipients of the Bill Walsh coaching fellowship.
From a women’s hockey perspective, Kim and her husband Terry, are the first private owners of an NWHL team. Their presence has served to positively enhance the culture of Beauts hockey, cultivating a major league feeling. Providing the team with a more robust management group, freeing the demands on a highly dedicated, yet sometimes, overworked group of individuals.
Certainly, the presence of the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts at Bills training camp brings with it a sense of unity. Not only have numerous Beauts players attended Bills contests in seasons past, braving the occasional gusts of winter weather at New Era Field to cheer on their favorite team, a great display of team bonding while showing their support for another segment of the sporting community in Western New York.
Both clubs enter their upcoming seasons with a combination of momentum and optimism for the future. Starting with the Bills, a major breakthrough was experienced by qualifying for the postseason last January, their first appearance in 18 years. Meanwhile, the Beauts reached their second-straight Isobel Cup Finals. While the Bills selected highly touted quarterback Josh Allen with the fifth pick overall in the NFL Draft. As a side note, Allen would also gain the opportunity to meet the Beauts’ players in attendance.
Heading into the 2018-19 season, which shall be the first full season to have Kim and Terry Pegula as owners, the Beauts have definitely made significant upgrades to their roster. Among the biggest included the signing of All-World goaltender Shannon Szabados, a two-time Winter Games gold medalist, along with Minnesota Golden Gophers great Dani Cameranesi, plus All-American goaltender Nicole Hensley, both members of the USA’s gold medal winning team at the 2018 Winter Games.
Coincidentally, Hensley, a key figure for the Beauts’ goaltending future, along with Cameranesi, who is poised to become a key component of the Beauts’ offensive attack, and a favorite in the 2019 NWHL Rookie of the Year race, already holds a unique connection to Bills football. As the US team was honored at this year’s ESPY Awards for Best Game, an emotional 2-1 shootout victory against Team Canada for their first gold medal in 20 years, a member of the Bills also garnered some significant recognition on the EPSY’s stage.
A Hall of Fame quarterback whose number 12 was retired by the Bills, Jim Kelly was honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. A three-time cancer survivor, whose tireless work for charity also involves the admirable “Hunter’s Hope” foundation, in memory of his late son, his acceptance speech was among the highlights of the event, one that understandably moved many in the audience, including members of the US team, to tears.
As a side note, Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, who joined their US teammates on the red carpet at the ESPY Awards had their own unique NFL experience during the month of August. Head coach Doug Peterson, along with quarterback Carson Wentz, both members of the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, welcomed the Lamoureux twins, who proudly brought along their gold medals.
Undoubtedly, Pegula’s empowering impact with the Beauts is destined to reach the same vaunted heights as in football. Among the key aspects of this upcoming season, testament to her commitment to the organization, will involve a unique hockey doubleheader during the holiday season that shall involve teams from the NHL and the NWHL. Buffalo’s KeyBank Center shall serve as the backdrop to what promises to be an exciting season highlight on December 29, 2018, as the Beauts host the Minnesota Whitecaps, the newest entry into the NWHL, while the second game involves the Sabres hosting their archrivals, the Boston Bruins.
The chance for the women of the Beauts to skate on NHL ice only adds to the feeling of being regarded as major league athletes. Last season, the Metropolitan Riveters and Boston Pride became the first NWHL teams to participate in a regular season game at an NHL venue, competing at New Jersey’s Prudential Centre. Getting the chance to stand shoulder-to-shoulder alongside their sporting counterparts on the Bills, the Beauts have experienced a significant momentum, emphasizing their status as important players in the Buffalo sporting community.
To learn more about One Buffalo, please visit: http://www.onebuffalo.com/
Images obtained from: https://twitter.com/One_Buffalo/status/1026835700975656962 and https://www.facebook.com/BuffaloBeauts/