Buffalo, N.Y. – One day after unrestricted free agency commenced in the NWHL, the Buffalo Beauts have signed veteran defenseman Lisa Chesson to a 1-year, $15,000 contract.
After a somewhat quiet restricted free agency period, unrestricted free agency has been a frenzy of excitement. Chesson was the second of three undrafted free agents to sign, joining Amanda Kessel, who signed in New York, and Kaliya Johnson, who committed to the Connecticut Whale.
The increasing activity involving unfamiliar faces is something that was perhaps unexpected as the league traverses its first offseason, but the fact that the NWHL is drawing names like Kessel and Chesson seems to indicate that the players are confident in the league and believe in its mission, despite the shortcomings that have been brought to the forefront in recent weeks.
The left-handed stalwart defenseman was an integral part of Team USA’s silver medal performance at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. Chesson played 145 games for Ohio State, and was named defensive player of the team in back-to-back years.
Chesson once told the Ohio State media she started playing hockey, “[because of] my dad and older brother played and I wanted to be like them. My parents put me in figure skating and I cried all the time because I hated it and didn’t want to wear any of the ridiculous costumes.”
She’s now joined the ranks of many national team players and signed her first professional contract. Since her time with the US National Team came to an end, Chesson has been active within hockey, but has taken on a coaching role, which is something she says has helped her to develop her on-ice approach.
“It is a lot easier to break down the game,” she explained. “I have learned so much seeing everything from a different perspective, I feel as though being a coach will help me become a better player.”
Chesson says she’s been considering a return to the ice for a while now, but just recently made the decision to commit.
“I had been interested in playing for Buffalo all throughout last season. I went back and forth with my decision to continue playing and after speaking with some of the players and coach Seiling, the decision was easy for me.” She went on to say, “Everything about the program has been positive, and Buffalo has a lot to offer. I feel great about this decision and I cannot wait to start this journey with the Beauts.”
When asked about her feelings regarding her return, Chesson is quick to credit the quality of the Beauts organization as a big reason she’s decided to play again.
“Aside from getting to play at this high level again, I am most excited to be a part of such a great group. As I said before, everything has been positive about the program and I can’t wait to see what the season has in store for us.”
Chesson has been very active within the Columbus Blue Jackets organization. She worked closely with Blue Jackets Hockey School, training players that ranged from ages 8-15 years old.
In a 2013 interview, she told BlueJackets.com, “I remember the first women’s Olympic team in 1998 and seeing them win the gold, and how excited I was to know that there was girls’ hockey beyond college,” said Chesson. “For me to be able to pass that on to the younger girls is a great experience.”
Speaking with Today’s Slapshot, she added, “Growing up, I knew how important it was for me to look up to the women playing for the Olympic teams, so I hope I can be that inspiration for young girls playing now. I live in Columbus, Ohio, where the girls’ game is still growing. If I can be that person that motivates young players to keep getting better every day and see that there are opportunities to continue playing after high school and college – that would be the ultimate goal.”
Seiling, a former NHL forward, has seemingly prioritized the back end of the ice and has begun building the team from the blue line. Chesson joins defenseman Paige Harrington and former Minnesota Golden Gopher and NCAA National Champion Amanda Leveille, who was the first goaltender to sign in the NWHL for the 2016-17 season.
Certainly, Seiling has a lot of work to do in the coming weeks, but for now, the Beauts’ roster is beginning to take shape upon a defensive foundation.