When you have attended a Connecticut Whale home game over the last few years, you may have crossed paths with two cheerful and dedicated siblings, Danny and Tiffany Melillo. Working off the ice at our hip one games, their pleasant demeanor, enthusiasm and positivity make them the perfect ambassadors for our game. Cetacean Nation thought you might like to get to know them a little better, and they have graciously agreed to share some of the story of their love for hockey and the NWHL.
Tiffany told us, “ We grew up in Morris Park, The Bronx. When I was a kid, my parents put me in ballet but I quit that as soon as I was able to join the Morris Park Roller Hockey League when I was 6. I remember walking by the park and saw kids playing and knew I wanted to join in. When we were older, we started playing ice hockey with the Mt. Vernon Hockey Club.” Danny added “My old man is a big Ranger fan, so we were always watching them on TV. The earliest living memory I can vividly recall is watching Wayne Gretzky’s last game. He took my sister and I to our first Rangers game when I was 4 years old, and have been hooked ever since. It's always been the singular thing I cared most about, but beyond that it developed into a family thing”
Danny continued “Growing up we lived four blocks away from a roller hockey rink, so whenever there was free time, my sister Tiffany and I would be out there just messing around. We played in the Morris Park Roller Hockey League for years, I started when I was 4” Tiffany added “I played ice hockey with the boys until I was 14. Then I joined different girls teams in Westchester, NY, then I played for the Quarry Cats U19 team in Montclair, NJ. I went to Fordham University, which unfortunately did not have a women’s team. While in college, I joined the North Jersey Phoenix. At the time, the Phoenix was a member of the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference,(http://www.westchesterhockey.org, so it was pretty cool to play against other colleges even though my college did not have a women’s team.”
Tiffany told us “Dan and I coach Learn-to-Play with the Westchester Hockey Organization (WHO), which is part of the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone program. The other coaches are some of our teammates and coaches from the Mt Vernon Hockey Club (where we first got involved with ice hockey) so it’s pretty fulfilling to come full circle” Danny recalled “?I started playing ice hockey at 8 years old, and played travel hockey for several organizations across Westchester/NYC. I played my high school puck with Fordham Prep. I still play beer league with a team called the Pelham Bay Shamrocks. I'm on the ice 4-5 days a week, as I coach with a youth program, the New York City Cyclones. I love every second of it”
As to other sports, Tiffany said “In high school, I was the captain of the varsity volleyball team.” Dan related his sports background as well, saying “I played baseball as a kid and am a big Yankees. As a Bronx guy, that's mandatory. I watch a lot of soccer as well, namely Manchester City. That would be my secondary sport at this point, in terms of how frequently I watch. But still, it’s well beneath hockey for me”.
We also asked both Tiffany and Dan how they first get involved with the NWHL and the Whale.Dan explained “The only thing I ever wanted to do was work in hockey. I majored in Sports Management, and after graduation, actively sought out any opportunities involving Hockey Operations. I saw a listing for a related internship with the NWHL and went from there. My sister had actually played for Mark DeSimone, who was an assistant coach with the Riveters. I reached out to him to explain what I wanted to do career-wise, and how interested I was in working with the league. He spoke with the league and got me an interview. Initially I had preferred to work with the league itself or the Riveters, as they were a closer local option, but at the time the Whale needed more staff-help. That's how I wound up in Connecticut. No regrets” Tiffany revealed “I was very excited when the league was first announced. I got chills at the first NWHL game I went to because a professional women’s league was something that I only could dream about as a kid. I never thought that it would be reality. When Dan got a job with the CT Whale, I volunteered to do the scoreboard”
Tiffany continued, explaining “For home games I get to the rink early and help set up the March table and during the game I do the scoreboard and scoresheet”. Dan added “My responsibilities have fluctuated a bit over my time with the team. This is my third season being involved. This season my focus was almost exclusively on running the home games. Though a big part of the job is taking care of the necessary prep work, game days are still quite hectic. Starts with getting the merchandise tables and box office set up, distributing time sheets, getting the pre-game introductions/honorary captain in order, arranging the intermission activities, and breaking everything down at the games' conclusion. I usually arrive 2 1/2 hours before puck drop, and leave around an hour after the game.” Dan told us “The accessibility of the players. There's not a professional league of any sort out there where fans have as much access to the players as they do with us. My favorite part of any game is seeing the little girls in the stands and realizing how much they look up to and idolize the women playing. That's what it's all about. Building off that, whenever we have honorary captains and youth intermission teams, seeing the way everyone interacts with them from the players to the coaching staff, really making it special and a lifetime memory for them, is one of my favorite things about the league.”
And lastly, we asked them a few fun questions:
Tell us something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
Tiffany: I had a picture of Henrik Lundqvist on my 13th birthday cake.
Dan : I have a role in Scorsese's "The Irishman" Favorite Dunkin’ beverage?
Favorite Dunkn' Donuts beverage?
Tiffany:Hot black tea with milk and sugar - I get it almost every day!
Dan: Caramel Cappuccino, iced or hot.
Favorite Chipwich, original or peanut butter Both: Original!
Fins Up to Dan and Tiffany, and we look firwardbto seeing them enchance the Whale Expeience around the rink for years to come!