Olympic bronze medalist Noora Raty starred as she became the first Finnish woman to play in a men’s professional hockey league Saturday. Raty saved 30 of 31 shots in her debut, a 5-1 victory.
Raty joins other Olympians — including American Angela Ruggiero and Canadian skater Hayley Wickenheiser and goalies Manon Rheaume and Shannon Szabados — to play in men’s leagues around the world.
Neither Rheaume — according to this stat log — nor Szabados earned professional shutouts, though. Szabados, who won gold at the last two Olympics, re-signed with the Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League for the upcoming season after playing two games with the club last season.
Szabados’ season starts Oct. 24, giving Raty more than a month-long head start to notch that first shutout.
Raty, 25, said at the Sochi Olympics that she was ready to retire from the sport if she couldn’t find a suitable, competitive league. She starred at the University of Minnesota, helping the team to a 41-0 record and NCAA Championship in her senior year in 2012-13.
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A second Olympic women’s goalie has signed with a men’s pro team in less than a week.
Finland’s Noora Raty signed a one-year deal with a club in Finland, according to Finnish reports. Last week, Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados signed with the American minor-league club Columbus Cottonmouths after practicing with the Edmonton Oilers.
Raty, 24, said at the Olympics that she was ready to retire from the sport if she couldn’t find a suitable, competitive league. She starred at the University of Minnesota, helping the team to a 41-0 record and NCAA Championship in her senior year in 2012-13.
Though Raty seems to have found a landing spot, she only expects to serve as a backup for the Finnish team Kiekko Vantaa in the nation’s second highest division, according to broadcaster YLE.
”Even though the contract has been signed, that doesn’t guarantee anything,” Raty said. “The challenge will be big. Now I need to work hard and change words into deeds.”
Raty follows in the path of Canadian stalwart Hayley Wickenheiser, who played for a Finnish club team 10 years ago.
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Standout Finnish women’s hockey goalie Noora Raty (pictured right) openly admitted that this hasn’t been a standout Olympics for her, but it still sounds like it will be her last. If it stays that way, at least she’ll go out a winner, as Finland beat Russia 4-0 in the fifth place game on Tuesday.
Yes, she ended it with a shutout, as Raty stopped all 18 shots.
Raty, 24, elaborated on why she decided to retire on Twitter, decrying a lack of many opportunities for women’s hockey players beyond the college level. She explains that the demands of managing training and a job simply are too much for many athletes in her position.
To an extent, it sounds like the competitive fire is still burning, but for now it seems like she’s ready to hang up her pads.
Here’s her full retirement announcement from Feb. 15: