“There were a lot of reasons to sign in Buffalo,” Beauts forward Emily Janiga says, “but most importantly was that it was home.
The 2017 Isobel Cup champion returns to her native city after spending a season as a hockey ambassador with the CWHL’s Vanke Rays. The league recently announced that it would be contracting Vanke in preparation for its twelfth season, and Janiga stated she’d been home since mid-June trying to decide what to do.
“I’ve known [about contraction] basically since I came home. For the past few weeks, I’ve been negotiating with the Beauts.”
Despite its brief nature, her time in China is something Janiga holds dear. “It was an incredible experience - everything was new. I played in a different country, with women that didn’t speak my language. I got to travel the world and bring my sport to different communities. They know very little about the sport, so I taught them about the rules of hockey, and even the equipment of hockey.
“It was a chance to give back to the sport in a unique way. The women on China’s national team were very skilled and very hard-working, but lacked the experience that a lifetime of training offers. I got to show them the path of a professional athlete; how to train, and how to prepare their bodies.”
Looking back at their travels, the young forward said that it was fun to introduce the women to North America. She said that it was an important piece of the puzzle for the women of the international team, and they learned a lot about the diet and training facilities that would help them build an organization.
With her time in China behind her, Janiga is excited for another new experience. Her two seasons as a professional have been rife with instability - first the salary slash in the NWHL and then the contraction of her team after one season. The stability offered in Buffalo was something that she considered when deciding to return to the team she won a Cup with.
Beyond that, though, the players were a key factor (even if they didn’t intend to be.) Janiga intimated that conversations with long-time friend and teammate Hayley Scamurra made coming home that much better. “She was one of the first people I spoke to when I was trying to decide. She wasn’t going to push me one way or another, but you could tell she wanted me to come back. I could see the excitement in her face when I told her I signed. It made the decision a little more special. I can’t wait to take the ice with Hayley and the Beauts I played with before.”
Janiga is also eager to take the ice with some of the first-year players that have come aboard the Buffalo train. “The girls that have signed are unbelievable athletes. It will be fun to play alongside them.”
She said there is a different feel to this team. “Working with Nik [Fattey, Beauts general manager] has been great. From a professional standpoint, I think it’s good to have someone in that role, where the GM can focus on managing the team...Nik’s obviously done a great job scouting and drawing some of the world’s best players.”
As the interview came to a close, Janiga seemed awed by the growth that has taken place in Buffalo since she left the team last offseason. “I’ve been able to follow the team, and I can’t believe how big the crowds have gotten. Even the response I’ve seen since the signing was announced - Beauts hockey is a big deal now.
“I’m excited to have some fun in front of the HaborCenter crowd.”