As fans of the NWHL, our roots lie in the collegiate, high school, prep school and youth programs that produce the remarkable young women that make up the rosters on our six teams. The gardeners who nurture and tend these young athletes as they grow, are the parents, coaches, administrators, teammates and opponents, and yes, the fans,who all contribute to the finished product we sign or re-sign, into the league. Cetacean Nation has suggested in the past that we all should support these young women and girls by attending their games. We suggested it in the past as perhaps a New Year’s resolution one might make And wethink it is still a good idea. After Season Six, we discussed with one player the oddity of playing in an empty rink in Lake Placid. She chuckled and said, “As a female hockey player, most of us are used to playing in front of small crowds, so not that different.” Pretty funny, but serious at the core. Our female athletes in general, deserve more support than they get. It’s improving, and it can be helped on a grass roots level. Go watch, cheer, buy something from the concession stand. Buy a beanie or toque or scarf or pennant. Show up, in any way you can.
The NWHL Season Seven Opening Weekend is November 6th and 7th. As you are making your plans to attend these, and numerous other Whale games, maybe also pre-plan a few visits to some local games, from rec league to DI, your choice. There is probably a program nearby that you already know of. Or how about going to see some of our Whale that you cheered for as players, in action as coaches? Celeste Brown at RIT, Melissa Samoskevich at Penn State, Jessica Koizumi at Vermont, Sam Faber at New Hampshir, Molly Engstrom at Saint Cloud, Zoe Hickel at Ohio State or Lindsay Berman at Northeastern, or Nina Rodgers at Dartmouth to name a few at the D1 collegiate level. Or how about Nicole Stock at Lawrenceville, Sam Walther at the Hill School, Elena Gualtieri at Kent, or Jamie Goldsmith at The Gunnery, among others at the prep or high school level? Or Kayla Meneghin, Alexa Arumburo, Sophia Agostinelli, Dana Trivigno, Elena Orlando and others at the club level? Check the website of your local school or organization, and see who might coaching near you. And just think how cool it will feel when someday that young women or little Future Draft Pick being coached by one of the Pod signs her first pro contract. And you, in some small way, helped her on her quest with your support. Fins Up to that, no?
Those players who were there when the NWHL dropped that first puck in Sason One have become fewer as active players each year since. And entering into Season Seven, downright scarce. We found out last month that our Amazing #14 Elena Orlando is hanging them up after six years of being one of the most well known and loved players in the league, ever since that first puck drop. And one of the best. A defender who always spelled that word with a capital D. Elena was popular with the fans, her teammates and the media for her selfless and, relentless style of play. An All Star & Assistant Captain, Elena played the way you hoped you would have played, if you had both her skill and courage. Few do. We will remember her for sacrificing her body to block shots, before the league even kept that stat. We will remember her for always having her teammate’s back, and never leaving a goalie or defensive partner exposed for the sake of personal stats. Even if it came to blows, which it did once. And if you ever had the good fortune of meeting her after a game, regardless of the score, you will always remember her winning smile, grace and kindness.
And if you are here reading this, you probably know something of the other side of the coin, her off ice career as a nurse. Her teammate and eventual defensive coach Laura Brennan told us this about that aspect of Elena’s life.
“We were on a plane going to Minnesota and someone, I’m not really sure what was going on in the plane, hit the call button. Then over the intercom it was like:Hey, someone’s having a medical emergency, is there any medical professional on board? And right away, Elena Orlando hits her call button, pops up, and she goes and helps this person. At that point, I’m kind of sleepy, it’s a late flight, and this was happening pretty much right behind me, basically in the last row of the plane. But I was like: Wow! I guess I knew she was a nurse, but I never really thought about it, because you’re usually only seeing them at hockey. So on the plane, she was that person that immediately pushed her button, went right into action, and helped a fellow passenger. Definitely came through when duty called.. And I was amazed in that moment. That’s not something I would ever think of happening. And she would never say: “I’m awesome, we were on a plane and I helped this women” But she is and she did.”
We often repeat that even if most our Amazings had never laced up a pair of skates, they would still be great role models. And a few, like Elena Orlando, would also be heroes. It feels like a tragedy that we didn’t have her here for another year or two or more. But the real tragedy maybe, would be if the medical profession didn’t still have her, for many years to come. Fins Up Forever Elena!