Part of an accomplished group of talented women to have appeared in the first two NWHL All-Star Games, Madison Packer is in a remarkable class. As one of the veteran leaders for the New York Riveters, Packer’s presence has proven to be most welcome to a club that has now laid roots in New Jersey, subsequently welcoming more new faces than any other club during the previous off-season.
Among the new faces with the Riveters, five have gained the distinction of All-Star status. This includes the likes of Courtney Burke, former Connecticut Whale blueliner Kaleigh Fratkin, who also played in the first All-Star Game, along with rookie phenoms Katie Fitzgerald, Amanda Kessel and Rebecca Russo.
In addition to fellow two-time All-Star Fratkin, Packer also shares a unique connection with another member of the Riveters’ All-Star class. Russo, a former Boston University Terriers alum, experienced the same journey to the All-Star Game as Packer. Earlier in the season, the two also combined to make history. Packer would assist on a pair of goals scored by Russo in a 4-0 win against Connecticut, which was the first shutout ever recorded by a Riveters goaltender. Coincidentally, said goaltender was fellow All-Star Fitzgerald.
Both Russo and Packer were among a foursome of competitors that punched their ticket to Pittsburgh, site of this year’s Game, via an online vote. The other top vote-getters included Boston’s Gigi Marvin, also a member of Team USA, along with Buffalo’s Harrison Browne, whose courageous revelation as a transgender athlete was met with admirable dignity by the league.
As Packer recounts, the All-Star privilege extended beyond the support of the fan base. Loving support from proud family defined a remarkable sense of teamwork, providing her with the cherished opportunity to showcase her skills in one of the premier events in professional women’s hockey,
“I was a little surprised to be honest, just because I wasn’t super active in promoting the fan vote like I did last season. Yet, my family is super supportive, and pretty big, so I really have to credit them. My parents, siblings, and all my extended family got to voting and sent the link out to everyone they knew. My grandparents actually sent it out to their entire community down in Naples, Florida, which was pretty cute of them, so it was surprising, and a huge credit to the efforts of my family.”
With members of her family having made the trek to Pittsburgh, such sense of family also extended to the ice, as Packer proved why she is one of the most admired teammates in hockey. Employing determination and perseverance, Packer not only embodied the sense of professionalism that defines the wondrous women that grace NWHL ice, her efforts provided her team with a competitive edge.
Suiting up for Team Kessel, she was joined on the roster by Burke and All-Star captain Kessel, while Fitzgerald, Fratkin and Russo did their best to contribute for Team Steadman, named in honor of Buffalo’s Kelley Steadman, the first All-Star MVP. With Kessel logged the first hat trick in NWHL All-Star history, garnering this year’s MVP honors, Packer was also effective in the 11-10 victory. With the game consisting of a four-on-four format, she scored twice, part of a productive offensive output.
“It was pretty cool to put a few points up. This year the game was a lot more competitive and it was a lot of fun to be a part of. Obviously all those girls are great players, so they move the puck well and created opportunities.
Plus, the 4v4 format makes everything move faster and opens up a lot of time and space on the ice. It really was a fun event and atmosphere to be a part of.”
With a hockey background that includes her Midwestern roots in Michigan and Wisconsin, where she won a Frozen Four title in 2011, Packer’s career has taken on new life in the Northeast. Whether it is the inaugural Riveters season in Brooklyn, or the new fan base in New Jersey, Packer made her mark in Pittsburgh, endearing her to a group of enthusiastic hockey fans.
“I had a blast. The fans were great, the facilities were obviously top of the line, and we were able to get out and enjoy the city a bit and had a great time. I think the league did a great job tapping in to that market and exposing women’s hockey to a market that doesn’t necessarily get to see us as often. It was great to get out in front of some new fans, and they were awesome!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from Facebook