When U.S. national team defender Megan Bozek signed with the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays of the Russian-based Women's Hockey League in November, she met the team in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, for an away game. Bozek and fellow American teammate Alex Carpenter dropped off their equipment at the hotel's front desk.
The next day, before the game, Bozek asked Carpenter: "Do we have to grab our bags?"
"What do you mean?" Carpenter replied. "They're already at the rink."
Bozek was taken aback: "Are you serious?"
Sure enough, when they arrived at the arena, the players went to the visitors locker room where their jerseys were pressed and hung in the stalls; their pads, skates, helmets and gloves were neatly waiting. And the visitors locker room was available to the team two hours before the game, something Carpenter last saw in college.
"When I think of this league, I think of little things like that -- what is normal for a professional athlete," Carpenter says. "But nobody had done them for us in the past, so it doesn't seem normal."
In 2015, the KHL -- Russia's top men's hockey league -- began backing women's professional hockey. There are eight teams in the WHL -- seven in Russian cities and one in China, which was absorbed from the now-defunct CWHL.