To everything There is a season And a time to every purpose, under heaven... A time to build up, a time to break down... A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together… A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing... A time to gain, a time to lose…Turn! Turn! Turn! The Byrds
Each line can be reimagined, accurately, as an allegorical the process by which a team is constructed in the offseason. And for the Most Exciting Team in Hockey, A little less time is now left (hopefully) before the first Whale puck drop. And our GM, the amazing Bray Ketchum Peel has now, with the addition of #1 Pick Kayla Friesen, and the signing of OW veteran Alyssa Wohlfeiler, assembled sixteen pieces in the construction of Bray’s Bunch 2020-2021. Also sixteen members of the Pod who were on the roster at seasons end, remain free agents at this point. Doubting the likelihood of a thirty-one player roster, at least some of them will not be returning to the Pod. That’s just the math. The larger picture can be stated quite simply. Even with the expansion to Toronto, there are more pro quality players than there are roster spots for them. Women’s hockey is growing, the NWHL is thriving. The women want to play, the fans want to watch. There is an ever growing player pool. Growing faster in fact, than the league, which is the historical model. The gradations between the levels of players, those who earn spots, those who don’t, is minimal.
Our former #12 Jamie Goldsmith pointed this out to us a couple of years ago. “The margin of talent at this level is so much closer together than any level I have played before. There is not a huge huge difference between the Olympians, and the players that just miss the cut for their respected national teams, and the players just below that.” And as the NWHL stands poised for Season Six, there will be players league wide who do not find a slot on a team, and those who want to join, but are unable to. And not solely based on comparative talent. As we saw in our recent interview with Colleen Murphy, geography is a huge part. So to everything there is a season, and once again we confront the conundrum. The larger player pool reflects the sport moving in the right direction. It also the reason, along with the financial reality of the league at this point, that things secondary to talent are a factor in construction of rosters.
As pro sports start gearing up, Covid is already impacting some teams, and every league. It seems everyday, there are reports of new Covid cases detected among players and staff in the various sports. All the other leagues have protocols in place I in sure the health of the players, but not all seem to be working. And several players are opting out of coming back at this point. And although the setbacks are vexing and have ruinous potential, things are, and will be learned. To put it bluntly, the NWHL, with a later projected start date, we will benefit from their mistakes, oversights or flawed protocols. And hopefully have a Covid-Free environment to skate back to. But until there is a vaccine, the jeopardy will remain. It is roughly four months since things came to a halt, a blink of an eye in a lifetime. There will be a new normal that we embrace, but it too might be wearing a mask.
Most things on the plus side of the Covid equation are not much of a comfort, But there have been some, and some relate to our sport. With gyms, and other exercise related facilities remain closed in many areas, and our Pod has had to get creative in their early offseason workouts. Home gyms were constructed or enhanced, and several,of the players and coaches, continue to share conditioning tips and hockey drills, including Laurel Hill, and Katelynn Russ. We’ve seen driveways, backyards and basements turned into mini training facilities, we’ve seen duffle bags filled with books as weights for squats and lunges, and bleach and detergent bottles doubling as dumbbells. And Melissa Samoskevich spoke in her interview about chasing chickens back into their coop, ala Rocky! But things are coming around at this point. Allie LaCombe has the Hockey Lab up and running now in Nashville, and Grace Klienbach has been on the ice with 14/94 Hockey in Philadelphia. And a trio of Amazings, Shannon Doyle, Brooke Wolejko and Sarah Hughson will be hosting a clinic back at our old digs, Terry Conners Rink in Stamford. And, our former #33 Assistant Coach Laura Brennan has geared uo her new enterprise The Goalie Pad. So, if we can mask both ourselves and our skepticism, and maintain social distancing, perhaps this trend towards normalcy will continue. And normalcy, for The Most Exciting Team in Hockey, means just one thing right now: beginning the push towards Isobel, and bringing her to Danbury where she belongs. Fins Up to that!