Hockey: Nana Fujimoto and the new NYR

In the early months of 2014, I made a colossal, no good, very bad mistake.

I made the baffling decision not to watch the Olympics. This is universally regarded as a terrible idea, and will never be repeated again. In my defence, my family doesn’t own a TV, I wasn’t a huge hockey fan then (HOW??!?!?), and the nearest bars that might be playing hockey were rather long, cold walks from my house (we went so far as to call ahead one really cold, dark night to our favourite sports-showing diner to find out if they were going to be playing the Canada/USA game, they were…but it was a 30 minute walk, so we chickened out). On the other hand, Carey Price, Sidney Crosby, Mike Babcock, and the best and brightest against the world… Why I didn’t try to find other means of watching the games, I cannot say. I can only plead complete and utter stupidity.

Though I did not watch any of the games, I certainly did hear about them on Twitter and elsewhere. As you might be able to guess from my name, I’m part Japanese, and it was with great delight that I understood that a Japanese player had been named top goalie of the tournament in women’s hockey. However, as previously mentioned, I wasn’t a crazy hockey fan yet, so beyond a general feeling of gladness, and a hope that she and the Japanese team would continue to do well, I didn’t really think much more of it.

Fujimoto at the 2014 Olympics

The goalie’s name was Nana Fujimoto, and I was to hear of her again rather soon.

Flash forward about a year, and now entirely hockey obsessed, I followed the conception and launch of the NWHL with great interest. Because of my New York roots, I nominally considered myself a New York Riveters fan, why not, after all. They are the team within easy distance of my childhood home, and there was no way I was gonna root for a Boston team, no matter how awesome they were. Every New Yorker and Habs fan fibre in my body would surely revolt (you cannot imagine how conflicted I am over Hilary Knight and Patrice Bergeron, on the one hand superb hockey players, on the other hand, Boston). I was super excited, though also a little grumpy… shortly after I decide to try to move my life to Canada, not one, but two pro hockey teams move within easy distance of my family’s apartment? Couldn’t they have done that a year — or three — sooner?

But then it came out that Nana Fujimoto was going to sign with an NWHL team, and my nominal Riveters fan status became very nominal indeed. Wherever Fujimoto signed, I would root for that team (I hoped very hard she wouldn’t go to Boston). Imagine my utter delight when she signed with the Riveters. I definitely became a hardcore fan at that point.

A women’s hockey league, a team not just in my state, but in my borough, and Fujimoto on that team. Hat Trick! Hank may be the King, but I’m gonna watch the Queen conquer.

And also be adorable.

Well that’s really unexpected. Sitting down and writing this post has made me discover that my home team signing a Japanese player means a lot more to me then I realized.

I’ve long understood, from an intellectual point of view, the huge importance of representation of different races, genders, religions, etc… in sports, media, and life in general. But for whatever reason, Fujimoto signing with the Riveters is what brought the enormity of the importance of representation home to me. It’s made me stop and really think, because if there being a Japanese hockey player playing in North America is this important to me, a person doesn’t usually identify very closely her Japanese heritage, how much more important is representation for other people in other areas?

That went in a direction I wasn’t anticipating. I guess that’s one of the great things about blogging about hockey for me. Thinking about just about anything feels more manageable when encountered in relation to hockey, and blogging about hockey means i have to carefully put words to a lot of these ideas that I might otherwise leave vague. And that got more personal than I was expecting. Well then.

Back to the Riveters, though, Jenny Scrivens also signed with the team (making history in her own right, as she and her husband Ben Scrivens, are now the first married couple to play pro hockey at the same time).

First Japanese hockey player in the NWHL, first married pro hockey players, the first four pro hockey women’s teams, history’s being written, and there’s gonna be an awful lot more of it made after the puck drops on October 11th.

I currently can’t afford to buy gear, but you’d best believe that once I can, I’m going to be acquiring all the Fujimoto Riveters merchandise I can get my hands on, so I can be as visually obnoxious as I’m going to be vocally about my team loyalties.

And when the olympics come around again, you won’t catch me missing men’s OR women’s hockey.

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