BROOKLYN, NY – “Hockey is a huge part of who I am, and the sense of camaraderie that you develop being part of a women’s hockey team is what I’ve missed most,” said Erika Lawler, the three-time NCAA champion at Wisconsin and a member of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team.
Deciding at the still-young age of 30 that she desired to be part of a team again and had more to give to the game, Lawler today announced her return. She has signed to play the 2017-18 NWHL season with the Riveters and will wear her customary No. 2.
“I’ve heard through the grapevine that there could be some roasting from teammates on social media,” Lawler said with a laugh. “Bring it on! I’m just really, really happy to be back on the ice and contributing to a team’s locker room dynamic again. I’ll gladly embrace any role [Coach] Chad Wiseman assigns me. I want to help the Riveters win the Isobel Cup.”
She has won plenty before. While Lawler was at Wisconsin between 2005 and 2009, the Badgers won the NCAA title in her freshman, sophomore and senior years and made it to the NCAA championship game in her junior year. She is third in scoring in school history, with 55 goals and 119 assists for 174 points in 163 games. Her collegiate career ended as captain of the championship-winning Badgers in 2008-09, along with being a Top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award.
In addition to being a member of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team, the 5-0 forward represented the U.S. at the IIHF World Championships in 2007 (silver), 2008 and 2009 (both golds) and 2012 (silver). Lawler also played in five Four Nations Cup tournaments and three Under-22 Series against Canada.
“We are thrilled to have Erika joining our organization,” said Wiseman. “She is a world-class athlete who brings a wealth of experience and leadership. We expect Erika will fill the void up the middle created by the loss of [Boston free agent signing] Janine Weber.”
The native of Fitchburg, Mass. spent the 2011-12 season with the CWHL’s Boston Blades, going 11-22-33 in 26 games to finish eighth in league scoring. Her passion for the game dimmed for a while at age 25, after she was informed that she was no longer part of the U.S. National Team’s long-term plans. “My body and mind needed some serious TLC,” she said.
Over the last six months, she accelerated her training on and off the ice and decided she was ready to respond positively to Wiseman’s invitation to return to the game.
“Quickness was my wheelhouse on the ice, so it will be interesting to see how I measure up after a few years away,” said Lawler. “There’s going to be an adjustment period, no doubt. I expect to be rusty throughout preseason, but over time I hope to get my legs under me so I feel more like myself on the ice.”
For the last two years, Lawler had been a frequent attendee of NWHL games. She was the director of the NWHL Players’ Association in the league’s inaugural season.
“I was honored to lead the Players’ Association for the time that I did, before my business career stole my focus,” said Lawler, who lives in Brooklyn and is a medical device sales consultant for Johnson & Johnson. “The reality was that the players deserved better than me – someone who had ample time to contribute. I’m glad the PA is in great hands, thanks to Anya Battaglino’s leadership.
“I’m really grateful for this opportunity and proud to stand among all NWHL players at this incredible time of growth in the women’s game. Regardless of how the season plays out, what’s most important to me is enjoying each step in the process. Until then, please excuse me while I go searching for my legs…”