NWHL free agency is off to an exciting start with the announcement of the league’s first signing. The Buffalo Beauts announced via NWHL.zone that the team had inked a deal with 2017-18 Rookie of the Year and goal scoring leader Hayley Scamurra.
It wasn’t much of a surprise - Scamurra had indicated in an interview earlier in the week that she was excited to return for a sophomore turn. What was incredibly surprising is that the announcement cited general manager Nik Fattey, which served as the only notice that the organization had changed management.
Die By The Blade spoke with the freshman GM, who said the transition began almost six months ago. “It’s pretty cool; when the organization [Pegula Sports and Entertainment] took over the team in December, I took over kind of guiding the team, and stepped in as sort of a director role.” Fattey said he worked with the players and coaches in that time, and he’s proud to have done his part in the incredible 11-game winning streak that brought them within one goal of consecutive championships.
“Now I’ve jumped in with both feet and I’m going to do everything I can to make it the best situation possible,” he reported.
As a former amateur and professional scout for the Buffalo Sabres, Fattey’s title as director of hockey at HarborCenter had him poised to step into his new role with the Beauts. “After working in the Sabres’ front office, I came on at HarborCenter to do some fun things to help grow the market. We’ve brought in the World Junior Championships and the NHL scouting combine is happening right now. The Beauts were one of those cool things,” he continued, “and in working with the league, I had an idea of what it took to run a team from the league side of things.”
Fattey said it was his early work with the NWHL that helped to usher in the transition. “As the Pegula’s travelled down the road toward buying the team, I had the most background with it, and being around the rink, I had a good feel for the players.”
After learning about the change in management, many wondered if a third coaching change was in the works for the three-time Isobel Cup contender. “The coaches went 11-1 to end the season, and Ric [Seiling] and Craig [Muni] have been in it for a few years - Ric from the beginning,” Fattey explained. “To me, the team played well, and we have a good relationship; it seemed to be a good fit.”
Fattey will have little time to settle into his full-time role, as the team is one week away from holding its third annual Prospects Camp. “Registration is going well. The free agency side is going very well...it’s something we’re looking forward to. There are a lot of good prospects coming in, and there are some players that have reached out to us that want to get in front of us at camp.”
The rookie manager indicated the Scamurra signing is indicative of the type of player he’s looking for when composing this fourth iteration. “Hayley works incredibly hard, she’s extremely skilled with a really good finish, and at the same time, she’s a good teammate.” Fattey says she’s the perfect candidate; “If I could have a team that competes very hard, is skilled, can think the game, and is full of good teammates, I can’t think of anything better. Those are the components I’ll be looking for - it makes the most sense to me.”
The league saw massive growth in a year when the biggest names were away serving Team USA in preparation for the Olympics. After expanding to a new market for the first time, it’s easy to get amped up for the upcoming season. Perhaps no one is as ready as Fattey, who is prepared to establish his legacy early in his career. “As the season came to an end, the games were amazing. I had so many people come up to me and say how exciting it was - and it got the players excited, too,” he said. “I think this season is going to be awesome. With a full season of some of the tweaks that we made and the confidence the players got, I am very optimistic about this season.
“I think it’s going to be awesome.”