For many, the holidays are a time to slow down, relax with family, and enjoy the spoils of the season. For Buffalo Beauts forward Tatiana Rafter, this past week has been about so much more.
While many of the NWHL players went home to take a break from the ice, Rafter and her brother Maverick organized a charity hockey event in their hometown of Winnipeg. When Rafter did return to the ice following the break, she found herself slated as a defenseman – a position she hasn’t played in years. Through all of this chaos, the huge-hearted Canadian found the time to talk about the “Play for Petty” event, her work for the community in her new town, and her time with the Beauts.
Over the holiday break, you and your brother organized a charity game to benefit an injured MJHL player. Do you know Braden Pettinger? How did you come to be involved with the fundraising effort?
I have watched Braden play hockey against my brother Maverick over the years. In Winnipeg, the hockey community is so tight knit that even if you don’t know someone personally, you will know of them. I read about Braden’s life altering injury online while in Buffalo and I spearheaded a charity game shortly after. It was put together in two and a half weeks – my brother Maverick helped me organize the rosters and prizes. We raised just over $5,000 with 75 percent of funds going toward a wheel chair and some other medical equipment that Braden currently needs.
The other 25 percent of the funds we’d raised went to the Christmas Cheer Board of Winnipeg. My brother and I combined efforts to ask local hockey players in the WHL, MJHL, CIS and MJHL and created 2 teams of 17 skaters with goaltenders. The charity event was centered around a shinny game with these players on December 22nd at our local community club – Sturgeon Heights. It was a really fantastic group of people to bring together and I was so impressed by the community’s support.
Happy to announce the 1st Annual Rafter's Christmas Cheer Board Classic raised $5,000! #play4petty #charitygame pic.twitter.com/zDZyCGxrG1
— Tatiana Rafter (@tatianarafter) December 23, 2015
One thing that has defined the NWHL so far is their commitment to charitable organizations, and the Beauts have played a huge role in that. How important is it to be involved in the community?
Before I moved out to Buffalo I knew I wanted to give back to the community for blessing me with the wonderful opportunity to play professional hockey. I volunteer quite a bit of my time to the community here in Buffalo, and it has really enriched my life. The biggest thing I have learned while being a part of the Buffalo Beauts organization is the impact you can have on the people around you. When I help out with the U10, U12, U14 and U16 female Bisons teams, I am in a position where these girls look up to us. It’s an honor and a privilege to represent the dreams these young girls have to play professional hockey in the future.
I also volunteer every week at the Buffalo Women and Children’s Hospital with the book nook program, and in the pediatric intensive care unit. The hospital has a library with an assortment of donated reading material. I pick books out and put them onto a cart to bring around to families and patients within the hospital. It’s an interactive role, and I look forward to volunteering every Wednesday! My team had our teddy bear toss game on December 27 and those teddy bears are all going to be donated to the hospital next week.
How are you enjoying your time in Buffalo?
I am enjoying every minute of my life in Buffalo. I currently live with (fellow Beauts) Paige Harrington, Hannah McGowan, Hayley Williams, and Devon Skeats. These girls are an absolute riot and I’m grateful to share this experience with them. Buffalo is similar to Winnipeg in many ways so it feels like home to me.
In Sunday’s game, you played defense for the first time in a long time. Was it strange to be on the blue line again?
It may sound strange but I felt completely comfortable on the blue line on Sunday. I played with a smile and had fun with it. My teammates were extremely supportive and trusted me on the point which helped me to ease into a different role.
Did you have a regular D-partner through the game? How was the communication between the new defenders, their partners, and the goalies?
I played with Paige Harrington and Lindsay Griggs. Communication was a key asset – especially during the first period. The talk was amped up on and off the ice for sure, and it was a really great bench atmosphere.
Are you looking forward to jumping back up to forward, or did you miss playing defense?
I have played both defense and forward and I like both positions equally. I would be happy to fill any position my coaches place me.
With a fluctuating roster, is it difficult to develop chemistry within lines, or is the team getting used to each other as a whole?
As a team, we have faced a lot of adversity and it’s only making us stronger. I have no doubt we will transform into a championship team as long as we learn from our past experiences and trust in the process.