After making news when her agent announced that she would not be returning to the Connecticut Whale, Kaleigh Fratkin made another splash when she, along with Jaimie Leonoff, were the first players to sign with a new team in NWHL free agency. Fratkin, one of the Whale’s most reliable defenders, signed a one-year, $19,500 contract with the New York Riveters. Along the Boards was able to talk to Fratkin about what she’s been doing this offseason, what led to her decision to leave the Whale and join the Riveters, and whether she’s been keeping up with some of the NWHL’s news this offseason.
It wasn’t New York who came to Fratkin and asked her to play, she said–instead, it was her who approached the Riveters. After taking time off after the Whale were knocked out of the first round of the Isobel Cup playoffs, Fratkin started thinking about where she wanted to play next year, and everything just started to fall into place.
“I was kind of reassessing my life, and going back to grad school and thinking about where I wanted to be situated for the next bit,” said Fratkin. “I reached out to them and we got to chit-chatting, and they presented me with a pretty good setup and situation and I went for it.”
New York seems like a perfect fit for Fratkin. It’s obvious that she’ll make an immediate difference on the ice, which she said was something she considered when looking at teams to go to. After scoring 17 points (5G, 12A) with the Whale last season, Fratkin will be joining a Riveters team that struggled both with scoring and locking down their defense. It gives her the opportunity to keep playing top-line minutes and help bolster New York’s blue line–and now with Leonoff in net, New York looks like a much more formidable opponent.
But New York makes the most sense for Fratkin off the ice too. She has family nearby to help her get on her feet and look for a place to stay, something she’s still working on, and she’s a self-described “city kid” at heart. Originally from Vancouver, she’s used to the big city, and with family in the area and the possibility of playing on a team that needs her, it was a no-brainer.
“All the pieces fit together for something that I think would be a good fit for me for the next couple of years,” said Fratkin.
Though her team experienced heartbreak in the playoffs in addition to some abrupt staff changes in the middle of the season, Fratkin says she always wanted to come back to the NWHL and continue playing in the new league.
“I had a really great first year, I loved playing for the Whale, I loved my teammates and got along really well with everyone. I knew I wanted to stay in the league,” said Fratkin. “I was very happy with how things went for the first year of the league, where there’s a lot to cover and a lot to get done, and…I was patient and satisfied where the way things were going, but I didn’t ever think I was going anywhere else with the NW[HL].”
That said, there’s still the $650,00 elephant in the room, also known as the lawsuit recently filed by Mike Moran against Dani Rylan and the NWHL that has been capturing everyone’s attention this offseason. Though she usually tries to stay away from social media during the offseason, she found out about the lawsuit and is up-to-date with what’s going on with it.
“When it comes to the offseason, I just try not to invest myself in anything hockey-related. I try to step away from all the Twitter and social media where all the information is…[but] “I was on Twitter, reading through, and that’s when I first saw one of the articles abot the lawsuit, and one of my roommates [and I] didn’t even know, so we were reading through that…”
“When you see those things as a player, it’s one of those things that… it saddens me to see that,” said Fratkin, struggling a little to find the right words to describe the situation.
“As of right now, I am anticipating that there’ll be another year, I’m anticipating that I’ll be playing in New York…I hope things are going to look the same as they were this year so that’s what I’m looking at. [I’m] just training and prepare myself for the upcoming season, and that’s really all you can do. I try not to pay attention too much to that stuff… obviously you do pay attention to it, but just getting ready for next season.”
It’s certainly been a whirlwind of an offseason for Fratkin, but for now…