As last season wound down, the Whale made some moves to strengthen their position and roster heading into the Isobel Cup Play-Offs. On February 27th, the Whale inked draft pick forward our #32 Samantha Donovan, who became the newest member of the Pod. Upon arrival she played the final two games of the regular season plus the Isobel Cup game against the Riveters in Newark. Cetacean Nation especially liked the way she quickly grew into her role, finishing with a veteran type performance in the Riveters game. Sam had concluded her productive and award winning collegiate career for Brown on February 17th against Ivy League foe Princeton. Less than one month later she scored her first NWHL point, recording an assist against the Buffalo Beauts. Arriving as suddenly as she did, Sam was given sweater #2, but we’ll likely see her skating as #32, her uni number since high school, moving forward.
Cetacean Nation was able to catch up with Sam just as she finished up her finals at Brown, after what had to be a pretty hectic winter/spring. The high scoring forward should supply additional firepower to the Whale attack going forward. But she is also noted for her back checking ability, and very importantly her durability, as she played every game in her four year career at Brown. We asked Sam to share some thoughts of how she handles her off-season, and what goals she has for the summer. She replied: “In regards to off season training: I believe that it’s one of the most important times of the year. Whether it’s taking some time off to recover from the strenuous season or getting stronger in preparation for the following season. Women’s hockey has developed a lot over the past decade, and it’s no longer enough to be fast because at the higher levels everyone is fast. The off season is a time where people can get stronger, quicker, and faster which ultimately separates good and great players”
Following up on Sam’s comments, Cetacean Nation recognizes how attrition of players increases at each level.of a sport. Generally the best of the youth athletes continue to play in high school, and only the very best of those continue to compete in college. College athletes who were the best player on their team, or in their county, state or province find themselves on teams where most everyone else was as well. And the jump to the professional ranks puts you among the best of the best in your sport. This is part of what makes Sam’s rapid transition from the college game into the NWHL so impressive. And exciting for Whale fans.
Not unexpectedly, Sam has played other sports as well, most notably soccer and lacrosse at Irondale High School near Minneapolis, MN. Therefore it was natural that Cetacean Nation would solicit her thoughts on that aspect of her career. Here is what Sam had to say: “In regards to being a multi sport athlete- I think it has been so beneficial for both my mind and body. Of course hockey has always been my favorite sport, but it’s nice to play other sports with different teammates. It would have been difficult to channel all of my time and energy into just one sport. Soccer and lacrosse were (in my opinion) really good cross-training sports for hockey. Both involved running, sprinting, agility, anticipation, and teamwork - all of which helped with hockey. Some of those skills could be worked on individually during the off season, but it’s definitely more fun doing those things with friends and still keeping that competitive spirit.”
Cetacean Nation thinks that the success of the NWHL and our sisters on the hardwood, the WNBA, are a sign of more of the same to come. For example, professional women’s lacrosse is a reality, with the inaugural season of competitive play getting underway this summer in the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League (WPLL). We asked Sam for some input on this, and the growth of women’s sports in general and she offered the following. “I don’t know much about the WPLL, but I’m sure it’s similar to the hockey league. It’s a great way to promote women’s sports and inspire young girls to play at the highest level. It’s awesome to see fans responding to the development of the women’s hockey league. I love seeing parents say things like, “my 11 year old daughter will be so excited,” or “where will they expand next?” This league has inspired younger girls to play at the highest level which will increase the pool of talent because so many players will want to play.”
Sam further added: “Prior to the CWHL and NWHL, college was considered our “pro league” There was no other option after college. unless you were offered a spot on the Olympic team, of which only a select few got that opportunity. Now players have something to aspire to post-college.” They certainly do, and as we have seen with the arrival of Sam Donovan, that aspiration can sometimes be realized quite quickly. Cetacean Nation fans are so obsessed with their Whale because they are so impressed with our Whale. We think we have added an important piece in he type of player and person Sam is, and the fans of Cetacean Nation are excited to have #32 Samantha Donovan to cheer for!