Today it was announced that Noora Räty, the spectacular and outspoken goaltender for the Finnish National Hockey team, signed a contract to play with Kiekko-Vantaa, a men’s professional team within the Mestis League, the second tier of Finnish ice hockey located in Vantaa, Finland.
Räty has signed a one-year contract with the team for the 2014-2015 season, however she is not the only female to play in the Mestis league. In 2003-04 season Hayley Wickenheiser played 10 games for HCK Salamat.
In mid February Agence France-Presse had reported that Räty announced her retirement from women’s hockey, and she had released the news that she had a tryout with a men’s professional team in Finland.
“If I get to play in the men’s league I will continue but I won’t continue with women’s hockey,” Räty said.
In Räty’s February 15th statement via her Twitter account, she explained her situation:
“[…] before the season started, I made a decision that my national team career will end here in Sochi. Also, I will hang up my skates for good if I can’t play professional hockey IN A COMPETITIVE LEAGUE next season. […] I would love to take on the challenge and try playing with men since I can’t play college hockey anymore and there’s no professional league for females in North America.
This being said, as much as I would love to just play the game I love and that has given me so much, I have to choose a work career (unless I can make a living from playing). Why? Because who would then pay my rent, car loan and insurance, and other bills? I’m 24-years-old, out of college, single, and the money doesn’t grow on trees, so yes you are right, the right answer is no one. I’m done living from hand to mouth and now it’s time to start building wealth and think about my future. And I’m not the only player having this problem … the majority of female players have the same problem.
But these Olympics have already showed what a great product we have! I hope that all this positive TV and press coverage our sport is getting will lead to some great things in the future. Every player here is a tremendous athlete and deserves better opportunities.”
Four days ago the Canadian National Hockey team’s two-time gold medalist goaltender Shannon Szabados and the Columbus Cottonmouths announced that she would join the team, which is part of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL).
“I am very excited to get a world-class athlete that has competed and has faced, high pressured situations. Shannon has won at every level she has played, in women’s hockey or men’s hockey,” head coach Jerome Bechard said. “She won a championship with NATI last year alongside Andy Willigar and Jordan Draper so I know she can compete at this level. We are working on her immigration, and we are looking to sign her officially Thursday, where she will be backing up Loewen. She will play when she feels comfortable and situated.”
“There’s three guys that I played college with that play on this team in Columbus and they’ve been bugging me for a couple of years to go there,” Shannon explained. “I had never talked to their head coach and he called me yesterday. Honestly, I thought he was calling to ask me if I would want to go there next year. It happened a little fast, but I’m excited.”
A press conference is scheduled to introduce Szabados on Thursday the 13th in Columbus, Georgia.
All the best, ladies! I greatly look forward to following your next adventures!