Anya in action with the Pod! Photo courtesy of the NWHL

ANYA PACKER: A VOICE FOR WOMEN’S HOCKEY

 

Cetacean Nation recently connected with Anya Pscker, our former #4, and the head of the NWHL Players’ Association. Anya is married to NWHL icon Madison Packer of the Riveters. When she played for the Pod, Anya was still Anya Battaglino. And Madison was that ball of fire coming down the wing. We asked Anya what her favorite and least favorite memory of playing against Madison was? She replied

“Can I say all of them? She is such a force to be reckoned with, and every moment against her was rough. She is a goal scorer and she pushes the level of play on the ice. She is tough but restrained so its really hard to get her off her game. I just loved every moment of the league, EXCEPT when she would beat me outside and put a puck in the back of the net!” We congratulated Anya on their little bundle of joy that’s on the way, and asked how things were going, with the pandemic. All of the fans in CetaceanNation will be happy with Anya’s reply “We are staying strong!! Getting ready for season six AND a little baby boy :)”

We had a lot of questions for Anya, but we wanted to get a little more background on her hockey roots. So we asked her to take a little stroll down memory lane and tell us how she first got interested in hockey. Anya told us

“Hockey all started for me the day I watched my brother in the rink! I have and will always look up to my brother, and to have him jump full speed into this sport made me 100% invested. I started zipping around the ice when I was a little girl and then it was set, this was my new thing. I played a mix of local Waltham Youth Hockey with the boys, and some high tier girls teams growing up, and then went on to be a recruited walk on at Boston University! From there, I began the fight to equalize women's hockey and create a career, winning the Clarkson Cup with the Boston Blades, and then going on to play in the inagural season of the NWHL with the CT Whale.“

Cetacean Nation knew that Anya had played golf as well as hockey in high school. So we asked her exactly what other sports she participated in growing up. Anya revealed

“I played Golf, Hockey, Track and Field, Basketball and Lacrosse. I think playing multiple sports is of the utmost importance, because there are so many different skills you learn both in and out of the game. I went from Golf, a game of respect honor and patience, to hockey which was tactical, fast, and required so much intensity, to the track and I just remember learning how to know what to give. I really appreciated my parents giving me the opportunities to learn so many skills.” Fins Up to that!

 Anya had a very successful career on the ice with the Waltham High Hawks. We asked what she remembers most from her high school days, and if she always skated on D? Anya responded

“I loved playing at Waltham High School, I was always a defender, but at times, we did not have enough players to field a full bench so I was playing the entire game. The only time I was allowed off the ice was if I had taken a penalty. That was definitely something haha... one of my fondest memories was siniging on the bus on the way to away games. I learned pretty quickly that hockey was not the play on the ice, it was the family that you build. It was the funny things we did in the locker room. That is what foundationally supported my role player mentality. I learned that some of the fondest memorys dont have to be a pass or a goal, but instead the team around you and what that means. It has driven me to succeed in my career and play the right roles at the right time.”


When it was time for college, Anya chose Boston University, and a major in Marine Biology, and we asked how that came about. She said

“BU was always my dream school, they had hosted a USWNT game when I was a kid and I got to go to see women actually play this sport. From that day onward, I had a terrier burned in my brain. As for marine biology, I grew up going to the beach with my family in Cape Cod, and you could always find me in the water looking at something, harvesting something to show my mom. I love the ocean, and I always had a deep love for the research done to make the world a better place. Boston University is one of the top Marine Biology programs in the country, and I knew that would both excite me as well as challenge me.”

 Similar to the question we asked Anya about high school, we wondered what her favorite memory was from her days as a Terrier, and we loved her reply

“My favorite memory in college was the mood in the locker room RIGHT before puck drop in the National Championship. There is NO way to describe it, we were so proud so excited so happy and just so unified. I have never been more connected with any group of people than I was in that exact moment.”  Anya did not get to skate off with college hockey’s biggest trophy, thanks to Minnesota and Noora Raty. However, she did win the Clarkson Cup with the Boston Blades, when she joined the CWHL. We asked Anya how she came to be a member of that championship team, and Anya explained

“I was living in Boston, and still so in love with hockey, I wanted to continue to play, and there was a team in Somerville, MA. I think I called Digit Murphy (the Blade’s Coach) 20 times before I finally heard back that I was on the team. I really wanted to work hard and learn more, and with a team of that caliber, I absolutely did. I was playing hockey with the best players from every other NCAA team and I was working hard every time I got on the ice. I really couldn't have asked for a better transition from the NCAA game.”

Cetacean Nation recently interviewed Digit Murphy (check out her interview,  (Digit-izing the Pod) the coach Anya just mentioned. Now of course, Digit is also going to be in the NWHL with Toronto. When we talked with Digit, she told us this about Anya 

“Anya has passion and moxie! She’s the kind of person that has a drive to get what she wants and needs. Hats off to her. If she’s was here right now I’d give her a huge hug. She’s a firecracker!"  Therefore we were curious about Digit from a player’s perspective, and asked Anya about her.

“I couldn't have played for a more powerful, passionate, and motivating coach. I always say that Digit is just wild enough to make the best things happen. She is the kind of person that you just get on board with, because you know that she has your back through the end, and she will get where no one else has gotten to. She is the definition of a changemaker, and you can see clearly, any path she touches is left forever changed for the BETTER. I honestly thank the hockey gods that they rerouted her on a path pioneering with me. I am empowered that I get to walk beside her in the NWHL!”

Anya played three seasons for the Pod, and dealt with some injury problems during that time, and she was always a favorite amongst the fans. In fact, both her hockey skills and engaging personality led to her being selected for a Fans Three Stars of the Season in 2016-2017 campaign! Cetacean Nation asked what led Anya to the Whale in the first place?

“I decided to come down to CT and play with the Whale because I wanted something new for myself, and my roomate Kaleigh Fratkin had signed to play in CT. There was so much love for Boston and what it gave me, but I needed a new place. I needed to plant my flag. I went down to the open tryouts in CT and was offered a contract to play. And without even thinking about other clubs or franchises I signed. I was going to be a part of something so much bigger than myself, and that decision set of a chain reaction of good in my life! I could not imagine what my life would have looked like if I had not made that decision. My first game I remember skating through a huge line of little girls screaming for us, in a fully packed stadium, and just when the anthem started, I made eye contact with my mom and we were both crying. There is nothing in the world that could take that from me.”

Anya has done an incredible job at the head of the NWHLPA. We asked her when and why she first become involved. She replied

“Thank you :) I became a part of it in season two, I was the elected rep for CT and I knew that I wanted to continue to drive actionable changes that made our league better. I saw so much potential in the women in the locker room around me, and I knew we deserved so much respect. I wanted to be a part of the team that drove real sustainable change, and now by some twist of good fate and hard work, I lead this group of strong powerful women, and we will change the world.” No one familiar with Anya and what she has accomplished to date will double that last part. She is amazing, and seems to have boundless energy. Cetacean Nation especially loves the way she gives continual shout outs the NWHL sponsors and partners. No one comes near her in that regard. To wrap up our interview with Anya we asked her about that aspect of her advocacy. Anya stated “The imporantce of leaning in to the companies that believe in us is one of the most important parts of growing this business, in my opinon. In the past it was just recognizing a brand that recognizes me, but now it is beyond that... These brands are increasing the revenue that goes directly to our players, they are changing the landscape of womens hockey and infusing it with visibility and support. They support my wildest dreams, and I could not possibly support them more!”

Cetacean Nation thanks our #4 Anya Packer for her timely input. And we wish her and Madison all the best as they welcome their son into the world. Anya has been here since day one, and  we look forward to watching her continue to be a voice for women's hockey. And continue to help grow the sport, and the NWHL through her work with the NWHLPA in the coming years! Fins Up Forever, Anya!

Anya irushing the puck, photo courtesy of Michelle Jay.