The Isobel Cup, the championship trophy of the National Women’s Hockey League made its way to central New Jersey and Raritan Valley Community College this past Saturday, July 15, for the MeiGray Group Game Worn Jersey Expo.
Almost 250 jersey collectors and hockey fans packed the conference center of RVCC to snap photographs with the trophy named for the daughter of Lord Stanley of Preston, as well as meet two New York Riveters stars, Rebecca Russo and Courtney Burke. Russo and Burke made sure not to touch the prized trophy, so as not to jinx their chances of bringing it home to New York and New Jersey.
In pretty much the same way Isobel Gathorne-Hardy helped to pioneer the game, as one of the first woman hockey players in Canada, almost a millennium ago, Russo and Burke helped provide energy to the room, as they helped promote the NWHL and the game within the Northeastern United States.
The two Riveter players were joined at the Expo, former National Hockey League star and New Jersey Devils assistant coach, Adam Oates and “Keeper of the Stanley Cup” hockey Hall of Fame curator, Phil Pritchard. Russo and Burke signed autographs and met with the fans, providing many heartwarming moments for the young female fans, that now have some role models to look up to in the game of hockey.
Russo said, “I think when I first got introduced on Saturday I was totally taken aback with the number of people and the room itself. I have a blast interacting with the fans. The entire league and the fans know I am bubbly, outgoing and personable. I just love interacting with people in general, I will never say no to a picture or autograph. It is humbling to think they want my autograph or photo.”
Burke agreed as she added, “The energy was awesome. You could tell everyone was super excited to be there. I did not know what I was going to be walking into.”
In addition to the Isobel Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy, for Most Valuable Player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as well as a few of the other trophies from the Hockey Hall of Fame. Russo gleefully put, 2015 NHL First Overall draft pick, Connor McDavid’s 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs game-worn jersey on, while holding the Art Ross Trophy for NHL scoring leader.
The two Riveters answered their questions about their hockey careers just steps away from the trophy they hope to take home one day. Russo added, “I did not pay much attention to the trophy at all. I was closest to it, and had my first look at it. I have never seen it up close. My first reaction was to look at it and see my name was not on it yet, but my main focus was on the fans and the people there.”
She continued, “When we walked up for the panel I was excited. [MeiGray President] Barry [Meisel] introduced us and I was excited to tell our story, some people have no idea about the league. They were so happy that we were there sharing our story.”
Burke added, “It is really important to show we are personable people. We are no different from everyone else. We work day jobs and just do this for fun and the love of the game.”
The two stars stressed that the events like this as well as their social media presence helps to add to the growth of the game. The two of them added that seeing the Isobel Cup helped fuel their motivation to winning it.
Burke said, “We definitely do have some unfinished business. We thought we would be in that last game last year and we want to come back better than last year. Definitely seeing the Isobel Cup made it stick out more in my mind that I want to win it.”
Russo added, “I think the New York Riveters all have the same goal. We were the most tight-knit group over the course of last season and I think we all stuck together. We have that winning attitude, and that is what I love about the Riveters.”