Janine Weber at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A in Aalborg. Photo: Jan Korsgaard
Austrian NWHL pioneer looking for more
Janine Weber became the first European player to score the championship-clinching goal in the CWHL and to get a professional contract in the NWHL.
Weber began playing hockey when she was six years old, spending most of her time playing with and against the boys of her age, being the only young girl with an interest in hockey in her hometown. This was the beginning of what is a fairy tale hockey career and life for a small girl from Innsbruck, Austria.
As Weber grew older she couldn’t deny her love for the game of hockey and took the opportunity to move to Vienna to get her undergraduate degree in elementary school education. During that time she played for the Sabres Vienna as part of the Austria-based cross-border European Women’s Hockey League. That’s where she met many of her Austrian teammates.
Her time in Vienna and playing for the Sabres, where she scored an incredible 182 points in just 81 games, was when she decided to take her hockey seriously, realizing just how much hockey was ingrained in her. However, this epiphany happened not under the usual circumstances. It was actually in the face of adversity when Weber realized how much joy hockey gave to her. In 2010, she tore her medial collateral ligament and was away from the game for approximately six months making her heart grow fonder for the sport.
“That is when I realized how much I missed playing hockey,” Janine Weber told IIHF.com. “I started to work out a lot more because I wanted to come back stronger. That’s when I realized hockey brought me so much joy. Not having it for a while made me realize that.”
“It made me know how much I loved the game and wanted to be the best that I could be.”
Weber came back from her injury stronger than she ever was and with a new fire for the game which impressed, not only in Vienna, but all the way over in Providence, USA. One of Weber’s teammates in Vienna, Kiira Dosdall, from Stamford, USA, who made the move to Austria after college, created a European team to train at the camp and play in the Beantown Classic, an annual prospect development camp. This tournament, and her friendship with Dosdall, is what began the unfamiliar territory.
Weber was scouted from the tournament and was given the chance to receive a full scholarship to Providence College where she got to live out her dream spending one year playing NCAA women’s hockey while getting her master’s degree in 2013/14. Weber began to make a name for herself when she scored the game-winning goal in the 19th Annual Mayors Cup, played between the two Providence-based NCAA programs, Providence College and the Brown University.
She then created history. After being drafted by CWHL team Boston Blades in 2014 where she scored the championship-clinching overtime goal in the 2015 Clarkson Cup to defeat the Montreal Stars 3-2. Weber was the first European player to score the game-winner in a Clarkson Cup final allowing her the honour of donating her stick to the Hockey Hall of Fame. An achievement that only a special few can say they have done.
“It really just came out of nowhere. When you go into a game like that you don’t think about scoring, you just want to win as a team. When we scored, I just happened to be the one that scored.”
“At that moment I didn’t even realize, I just saw the puck go in to the back of the net and I was just so happy about it. A lot of things happened after that, with my stick going to the Hall of Fame, it just kind of developed. It was crazy.”
In the summer of 2015, Weber continued to write her name in the record books after being the first player to sign for new National Women’s Hockey League team New York Riveters. If that wasn’t a feat in itself, this signing was recorded as the first ever in NWHL history. To make her move from Boston to New York even sweeter, Weber was reunited as teammates and roomies with old friend Kiira Dosdall.
“It was pretty surreal. When I signed with the New York Riverters nobody else had signed yet, so for a little bit I was their only player,” explained Weber. “You didn’t know exactly who was going to sign. Thank God, that a lot of American national team players made the move too, which is good for the league because you need the best players in the world to be a credible league.”
The media attention didn’t stop after her historic moment. Weber explained that the fuss continued throughout the whole Inaugural season, not only for her but for many of the other players in the league as well.
“Throughout the whole year we had a lot of media at our games. I think a lot of players that weren’t in the spotlight before where suddenly in the spotlight.”
Weber believes that the creation of the NWHL has been a big success in lifting the identity of women’s hockey with the media publicising the league all over the world, even back home in Austria.
“I think there is so much more media in Austria, since then, on women’s hockey in general. I think it is good for women’s hockey all around the world.”
In their short existence, the New York Riverters have already made a trip to their goaltender Nana Fujimoto’s home country of Japan to play a three-game series and promote the women’s game. When asked if the next stop on the Riverters world tour was Austria, Weber laughed saying: “We were joking about it. I’ll have to ask.”
Weber’s hockey career has already been a magical one and she knows that it was her hard work and bravery to make decisions that has made all of this possible. She encourages everybody that has similar dreams that she had all the way back in Innsbruck to take a leap of faith and grab hold of their chances.
“It doesn’t matter what country you are from, you might be from a small country where hockey is not huge, but just work hard and always do you best because you never know what might happen, and then you get a chance,” says a positive Janine Weber.