At the recent Riveters free agent camp, when asked about by me about how she would draw from her past teams to her philosophy in approaching being GM of the Riveters, Anya Packer had a long answer and there’s a lot to unpack.
“For me, I always had the most fun on a team that was a moral team that I could believe in and that I was proud of. We always find that in sports, [recorder ate this sentence, she said it was sports is divisive] People are fanatics, they are extreme about everything related to sport. What I want to create with the Riveters is a brand that I would be a fanatic for, that I would be extreme about…”
The first part is interesting because while we might expect a GM to want fans to be hardcore about their team, the priority on fun and morality is not necessarily seen in a lot of franchises. Instead we often see the “win at all costs” model, where morality and fun both can not be seen as necessary. Thus a GM preferring fun and morals is welcome. She continued:
“That starts with signing players I believe in. Signing players that have the ties…that believe in the community. That are willing to work hard. That understand the intricacies of the world that we live in right now and know as we shift our dynamic to fit…
Whereas Coach Mocek separately stated he is looking for players to fit in with his goals for team culture as one would expect these are certainly extra conditions. While it doesn’t seem unreasonable to want players who would want to contribute to the community, the intricacies of the world comment is especially fascinating. In a sport that is seen as conservative and insular, and has certainly had to reckon with that in the past few years, this would seem to confront that when making personnel decisions. Packer further went on:
”I take actually a lot out of the New Jersey/New York Gotham’s book, because I think they’ve done a great job of being inclusive. So building inclusive spaces, having better conversations, having easier to access shops, and things like that are very important. So when I build the ethos of the Riveters this year, it’s that with more morality…there are certainly going to be hurdles. I’m not saying that I could never get away from them in the beginning. I want to try to get a point where we are very proud of the Riveters brand and we’re trending in that direction.”
Indeed NJ/NY Gotham does have a lot to show for it, in no small part due to Cloud 9, the Supporters Group. It is great that Packer is choosing to look to the soccer club for inspiration. Inclusivity and accessibility are of course goals that every NWHL team should embrace, to have them put out there as part of a team’s philosophy is a big deal. Now of course comes looking for the tangible results. It should be noted that as Director of the NWHLPA, Packer also worked on these issues.
The acknowledgment that there are going to be hurdles is realistic, though we can always push and keep on things to make sure we see what the hurdles are ourselves. Still at least facing hurdles means one is trying, as opposed to not trying which is far worse.
It should be welcome news. Especially when one considers the past few months in the NWHL have been rough with regard to inclusivity and morality. Barstool’s trolling and attacks, including the baffling support of NWHL players including several on the Riveters at the time like Kelly Babstock and Rebecca Russo was an unwelcome development. Though it should be noted that two players participating in free agent camp, Kayla Meneghin and Sonjia Shelly recently attended a Barstool hockey event.
Then Digit Murphy of the Toronto Six’s involvement with a transphobic group and the Six’s baffling response to criticism that goes on to this day continues to generate even more criticism of the team and Murphy. The league also responded slowly as well compounding the issue and only the other team’s themselves responded in an appropriate fashion.
We will all get to see how Packer’s philosophy plays out as the Riveters team is constructed.