NWHL Icon Ashley “Stretch” Johnston Says Goodbye
An original NWHLer and captain of the Isobel Cup champion Metropolitan Riveters, Ashley Johnston has announced her retirement from playing. She will go down as one of the most important players in the early history of the NWHL. A fierce advocate for women’s hockey and an outstanding defender, Johnston has left an indelible mark on the Riveters and NWHL. She will forever serve as a role model for generations of players.
The following is Stretch’s personal farewell letter.
I can confidently say over the past three years I have felt every emotion possible on the feelings scale of life – from the absolute best of winning the Cup to the absolute worst of having the fourth surgery in three years and everything in between. The past three years have been a roller coaster of a ride that I couldn’t be happier to have been a part of. Unfortunately though, it is time for my ride to stop and I will be retiring from the NWHL.
I frequently have been asked for the past three years, “Why do you do it?” The first year, at Aviator, it would take me four hours one way to get to the rink. I would turn around at 1am and drive back to Albany, to then go into work at 8am (I learned there’s always traffic in NYC regardless of the time!). The second year, I would stay overnight in Jersey City, with the best roomies around – Fitz, Meats, and Tat – then leave the house at 4:30am to arrive at work for 8am. The third year, I was lucky. Wash and I would drive down and back together, getting in around 1:30am then I’d go into work for 7am. Most of the time I would fall asleep on the way back and she’d autopilot us back to Albany. Wash helped me power through during the ugly times: the over-tired, stressed beyond belief. Thank you, Wash.
Why do I do it? Because I believe the NWHL offers the highest level of hockey available to female athletes. The league offers a platform for females to be valued as professional athletes. It provides a different narrative, not the one that dominates news outlets where a female athlete is identified for who they’re dating or married to, for what they’re wearing or what they ate for breakfast. Instead the NWHL provides the space and opportunity for female athletes to not only tell their own narrative, but set the foundation for what the narrative surrounding female professional hockey will be. Every day we get to shape the future of women’s hockey. This opportunity is why, for the past three years, I dedicated myself to the NWHL and the Riveters organization.
I couldn’t be more proud of it, but now it is time to hang the skates up. Thank you to my employers during that three-year period – Precision Valve and Automation as well as CH2M / Jacobs for allowing me to balance work and hockey. Thank you to all the fans for your unwavering support of me, the Riveters and the NWHL. I can’t wait to see it continue throughout season four when the Riveters defend the Cup. To the volunteers and league staff, thank you for all your behind the scenes work – I know it isn’t always noticed, but please know, without you, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
To the Riveters, both past and present, thank you – you helped me fall in love with hockey again and will forever be one big family to me. To the coaching staff, thank you for teaching me more than I ever thought possible about hockey, life, and myself. Lastly, to my friends (especially the Albany Sirens!), my girlfriend and family, thank you for following me around from rink to rink cheering me on and being the best support network I could ever ask for.
Ashley “Stretch” Johnston