A Perfect Connection: Riveters' PHF Foundation Award Winner Reagan Rust on Social Media as a Bridge
For better or worse, social media is a huge part of our lives in the year 2023. Equal parts information base, entertainment hub, and communication marvel, each app that hits our mobile stores innovates and reshapes the way we look at and interact with the world around us.
Metropolitan Riveters defender Reagan Rust understands that more than most, having gotten into the current cultural phenomenon TikTok during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What many people use as a timesuck, Rust ended up turning into an outlet for her life and pro hockey career. On just a quick scroll of her feed, you can find equipment reviews, tips for recovery, finding the right fit with a team, and even drills to help with your stick handling or your shot, all nestled within the usual content one would come to expect on their For You page.
That unique outlook has translated into a career with the PHF this past season, where she used her talents not just for her own team but for the whole league during the All-Star Showcase back in January.
She's also earned a PHF Foundation Award for her efforts to improve outreach to younger players in all aspects of the sport, both on and off the ice.
But despite an aptitude for it, social media wasn't something Rust says she was keen to take on immediately, having never been on it much during or even after graduating college.
"I saw everybody on TikTok, and I held out for like, six months on it because I was like, 'I don't want to scroll, I don't want to waste this time,'" she said. "And then I got into it in July 2020, and I started making all these different videos just seeing if I could find a niche that fit, and hockey was clearly my niche, so I stuck with that."
That was where the Rivs came in, offering her a contract and free reign over the team's socials. Rust had obvious fun with the role, leaning on teammates like Kelly Babstock and Eveliina Mäkinen for the humor or Emilie Harley as a partner for the ubiquitous dance trends.
But for her, social media transcends a simple funny voiceover meme or trendy song; it can also build an important bridge between pro women's hockey and those looking to learn more about it.
"There's so much that can be done, and I always have so many ideas -- but one of the things is just showing who we are as people," she said. "A lot of times we just focus on our athletic ability and not so much the personalities that we have... there's a lot of us that are hilarious, or that have crazy background stories, or are in school and living double lives.
"I've had a lot of girls come up to me and say, 'I don't know if I want to be a professional hockey player because I like this too.' And I was like, well, you can do both."
That duality is something Rust has leaned on not just in the PHF but in her time overseas, where she not only played for AIK in Sweden but did social media for Men's Worlds in Finland with the IIHF. In between behind-the-scenes looks at bus rides and locker room hijinks are real-talk moments, such as how much she made in a season and recruitment tips for prospective college players.
She's also been open about experiences that didn't go well, as well as her struggles with mental health and how she copes -- an important side of being an athlete and a human being that can sometimes be overshadowed. All of this together provides the full picture of an athlete who knows to cherish every day she can do what she loves and who wants to impart the wisdom she's gathered to the next crop of athletes coming up.
"There's obviously a lot of people who are trying to [help the next generation], but it's more people focusing on just who they are," she said. "But I like to focus on what I can give. And I think even on the boys' side too, there's not a lot of people putting out those resources, and there's not a lot of coaches that are posting, and so if we can help them, it makes the sport better for everybody."