Like most hockey players with New York roots, Miye D’Oench traces her love of the sport to the Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup victory.
However, D’Oench was only 6 months old when the Blueshirts ended their 54-year hex. Instead, it was her older brother, inspired by that magical June night, who got her involved with the game. Now, as D’Oench begins her second season as a pro, with the opening of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) campaign this Saturday, she credits her sibling with motivating her to be one of the pioneers of the women’s game.
“I wanted to everything my brother did, but better, especially in sports,” said D’Oench, who grew up on the Upper West Side and in Battery Park City, where she still lives now.
When D’Oench was old enough to begin youth hockey, there weren’t many opportunities for young girls to play. She joined boys teams until her teens, when her mother drove her first to Connecticut and then New Jersey for girls programs. The travel paid off as D’Oench was recruited by Harvard, where she helped the women’s team to three NCAA Tournament berths (including a Frozen Four appearance in 2015). She was drafted by the NWHL’s Boston Pride and played one season with them before a trade brought her closer to home.
Now, she and her Metropolitan Riveters teammates may be heralding a new era for the women’s game. A first-of-its-kind partnership with the New Jersey Devils means the Riveters will play at Newark’s Prudential Center on Saturday as part of a day-night doubleheader with the NHL team — another first. Most Riveters games are scheduled for the Devils’ practice rink, also in Newark. Similar deals for NWHL franchises in Buffalo and Boston are reportedly in the works.
“The league has done a great job growing the sport,” D’Oench said.
Although the Devils affiliation is a positive sign, the league is still in the growth stage. Player salaries are less than $20,000 per season. Most players work full-time. D’Oench is an analyst in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
“Nobody is playing because it’s going to make us rich,” D’Oench said. “We’re all playing because we all share this tremendous love for the game. We’re all competitors, but everybody also recognizes that we’re ambassadors for the league and for women’s sports in general.”