MOUNT CLEMENS >> Madison Packer had no idea she’d be getting paid to play the game she loved after college.
“Five years ago, being a female hockey player, I would have never dreamed I’d be getting paid to play this sport,” Packer said.
But that’s just what the Marian High School grad is going to be getting paid to do soon.
Packer has signed to play with the New York Riveters in the inaugural season of the National Women’s Hockey League.
“I think it’s going to go well,” Packer said. “Starting with four teams is perfect. We get paid a little bit, not a ton. It’s baby steps.”
The NWHL will consist of four teams all on the east coast – Boston (Pride), Buffalo (Beauts), Connecticut (Whale) and New York.
“They’re being cautious to not expand too quickly,” Packer said. “I think they’ll stick with four teams until it’s good competitive hockey and then slowly add more teams.”
The only other professional women’s hockey league in North America is the Canadian Women’s Hockey League which consists of five teams.
“I’m really excited,” said Packer, who graduated in December from the University of Wisconsin where she played four seasons. “I never thought a day like this would come where I’d be getting paid to play hockey.
“I’m not an NHL player making millions of dollars a year, but it’s a good opportunity, a start,” Packer added. “Probably people my age won’t make enough out of it to make a living without having to have another job. I think the hope is the longer it’s around and the bigger name you build the more opportunities it’ll create and that’s what it’s all about.”
The league conducted a draft of only college players that will be seniors this year back in June so Packer had to tryout to make a team.
“There is still such a big gap in women’s hockey,” Packer said. “I think college hockey is getting better.
“Tryouts weren’t great, but they weren’t horrible,” Packer added. “I was impressed with the number of people confident enough to show up.”
Immediately after tryouts Packer met with league executives and was offered a contract.
“That was pretty cool, something totally unexpected,” Packer said. “I was going there thinking there was going to be a process afterwards and I’d have to wait it out.”
Packer, who also was a keeper on Marian’s lacrosse team, is home for the summer and is participating in the four-team women’s division of the Eastside Elite Hockey League, run by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Steve Oleksy.
It’s the fourth year Oleksy, a L’Anse Creuse North grad, has had a women’s division and it continues to grow.
“I skate anywhere I can basically,” said Packer, who’s participating in her first season in the EEHL. “I think it’s good for the high school kids out there, a challenge to play against college kids. For some of us college kids it probably would be better to get a few more of us out there.
I’m sure if you look at where this league was two or three years ago I’m sure it’s way different. It’s a process. Everything in women’s hockey is a process. As long as it’s around that’s what matters.”
Packer reports to training camp in September with games beginning in October.
In four seasons with the Badgers, Packer is tied for eighth for single season shots with 184 (2012-13) and is one of 19 players in school history to record 100 points. She also ranks third in school history in penalty minutes (217) and penalties (103).
In 146 games at Wisconsin, Packer had 46 goals, 58 assists and a plus-60. She also had 16 power play goals.
Packer competed for the girls U19 AAA Little Caesars hockey team in Detroit where she was a four-time Michigan State champion. She also won a silver medal in 2008 and bronze in 2007 at the USA Hockey National Tournament and tallied a career-high 98 goals and had 53 assists in 60 games in 2010.
Packer was also a member of the U.S. Women’s U-18 World Championships in 2008 and 2009, serving as alternate captain in 2009, along with being a two-time International Ice Hockey Federation World Women’s U18 Championship participant those same years.