Finland’s number one female hockey player, 24-year-old Noora Räty, is to play in the men’s Mestis league next season. Räty had announced her retirement from hockey after the winter Olympics, blaming the difficulty women players face in earning a proper living.
Now she will play for Kiekko Vantaa in the 2014-2015 season, after a signing a one-year deal with the Mestis club. She follows in the footsteps of Hayley Wickenheiser, who played ten games in Mestis for Kirkkonummi Salama in the 2003-04 season.
Räty won two NCAA championships with Minnesota during her time in the US college system, but following graduation she has struggled to patch together an income from coaching.
After the Olympics she announced on Twitter that she was unable to commit to maintaining her high standards, and could not continue to function as an elite athlete while working a day job.
She has been an outspoken critic of the way Finland’s ice hockey association treats women players, demanding improved facilities and training conditions. She says that she will not be a big star for Kiekko Vantaa, but is likely to play a few minutes here and there to allow the number one goalie to take a breather.
”Even though the contract has been signed, that doesn’t guarantee anything,” said Räty. “The challenge will be big. Now I need to work hard and change words into deeds.”