August 9, 2017

Princeton Native Herr Living Out a Dream, Returning for 2nd Year With NWHL’s Riveters

RIVETING EXPERIENCE: Julia “Cheeky” Herr flies up the ice during her career with the Trinity College women’s hockey team. Princeton native Herr skated with New York Riveters of the NWHL last year and recently signed a contract to comeback for another season with the club. (Photo Courtesy of Trinity College Sports Communications)

After enjoying a superb career for the Trinity College women’s hockey team, Julia “Cheeky” Herr was thrilled to get a tryout with the New York Riveters of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) last spring.

But after hitting the ice to show her skills to the Riveters coaching staff, Herr didn’t get any feedback from the team for weeks.

“I hadn’t heard anything, I thought it was over,” recalled Herr, a Princeton native who starred at forward for Choate Rosemary Hall (Conn.) before heading to Division III Trinity where she graduated in 2016 as the program’s second all-time leading scorer with 91 points on 43 goals and 48 assists. “I needed to find a new hobby, which was terrifying.”

The Riveters finally reached out to Herr in the summer, offering her a place on the team’s practice squad. Herr, who lives in New York City and works full-time in the banking world specializing in equity institutional sales, jumped at the chance to stay in the game.

Fitting in the two practices a week with team-required workouts around her intense day job had Herr on the run.

“I was the energizer bunny, it was a lot of caffeine,” said Herr, who typically got to her desk at work by 6:45 a.m. and rushed out the door in the evening on practice days to get on the ice at the Barnabas Health Hockey Center at the Prudential Center in Newark by 7 p.m.

“I went to every practice that I could. There were a couple that I missed; things hit the wire right at close where I wasn’t able to go to practice and that stunk, especially because hockey practice is my solace, it is my safe haven, and that was always really awesome. I was lucky that I have people at work who are incredibility supportive of me being a professional athlete and helped make it happen.”

The diligent practice paid off as Herr got into two games last winter for the Riveters.

“It was phenomenal, there are no words to describe it,” said Herr. “Getting to be a professional athlete wasn’t a dream that was afforded to any of the women in this league growing up. It was just college hockey or being an Olympian. Getting to realize that dream and getting to do it for real is amazing. I can never and will never be able to quantify or describe that moment. It was amazing. My family was all home for it and they came.”

Being on the ice in a pro game required Herr to show growth in her game.

“It was a much higher level, it was a lot faster, all but three of us were Division I players,” said the 5’3 Herr.

“It was just a faster game; the women were a heck of a lot bigger too. It was just a faster pace across the boards in terms of having to get used to each other and used to systems and then actually doing it in the game.”

For Herr, signing autographs for youthful fans after the games took some getting used to.

“In my mind, I am not anything of any importance but to those little girls I am something special and someone to look up to,” said Herr.

“It is terrifying that anybody would give me that responsibility. We looked up to college players and I have no doubt they felt as silly as I do signing autographs. But it is pretty rewarding to see those girls walk around and say, ‘When I grow up, I am going to be a Riveter or a Buffalo Beaut or a Boston Pride or a Connecticut Whale.’ Getting to actually hear that is pretty awesome.”

Having recently re-signed with the Riveters for a second season, Herr is working hard this summer to achieve her goal of seeing more game action.

“I need to work on being faster, stronger, smarter, better, and more attentive,” said Herr.

“I want to work as hard as I can and hopefully that means that I will get to play more. But at the end of the day, it is about the team being successful and if that means I take a different role, I will take that role any day because it is worth it.”