Cetacean Nation recently crossed the river(s) to the Jersey side, and found the Garden State's favorite Whale. And while we are not sure she is heading to the carnival, to go on all the rides, it is safe to say she is celebrating. On July 10th Hanna re-upped with the Whale for the 2018-2019 season. New Jersey is not her current home base, but the story of our #16 Hanna Beattie began there, so let’s get her Jersey Fresh perspective on her life in hockey and her continuing career with the Pod. Hanna appeared in thirteen games for the Whale last year, seeing duty first on defense and then as a center. The addition of Emma Greco to the Whale in January afforded depth on the blue line and let the team utilize Hanna’s offensive skills as a forward. Hanna explained “Growing up, I played on both a boys and a girls team and I played defense with the boys and center with the girls. I always liked playing forward and being an offensive player, but I felt that I was stronger on defense, so stuck with that as I got older.” She added “The beauty about hockey compared to many other sports though, is that defenders still have the opportunity to contribute to scoring plays and can rush the puck. I was an offensive defenseman in college, which definitely helped my transition back to center midway through this past year on the Whale. As a center, I played the defensive zone just like another defender, but was also able to join the plays in the offensive zone and crash the net knowing our strong D were supporting on the blue line.” In fact in college, she once ranked second on her team in goals, assists and points, while playing defense.
So how did our two way hockey player get her start in the sport? Hanna replied “I got started in hockey primarily through my dad and older brother. I started skating at age 3 when my parents could find skates small enough and then started playing hockey about a year later. I grew up playing at an awesome outdoor hockey club called the Essex Hunt Club, which is still probably my favorite rink today.” We also asked Hanna about her thoughts on the current state of the hockey culture in New Jersey. She offered that “There is definitely a lot of interest in hockey and more high schools are starting to offer it to their students. However, when I was playing club hockey for the New Jersey Colonials, there was still a lot of travel involved, since there were not too many Tier 1 teams in the area. We would go to New England practically every other weekend and some girls would travel an hour and a half just for practices. It would be awesome to see more teams and organizations start to pop up in the tristate area at the younger levels to help foster and develop youth girls’ hockey. This will only be beneficial for the overall growth of the game since the teams will have stronger players, the level of play will be elevated, and the games will be more competitive.”
Hanna played hockey several years and at different levels for the Colonials club she mentioned, and made a lasting impact. This was acknowledged when Hanna first joined the NWHL with the Whale. On the club website, some of her accolades were that “She embodied what it meant to be a Colonial because of her natural leadership, character, commitment and team first attitude. Hanna possesses the gift of compassion for others not often seen, which as a young Colonial she often demonstrated toward teammates and new players”. It is a quality she has continued to display, and a really cool example of it is seen in this story she told us when we asked about her prep school career at the Pingry School in Basking Ridge, NJ. She recalled “I had a ton of fun playing for Pingry. The level of play was nowhere near my club level, but it provided new and interesting challenges that I had to face every day. Many of my teammates were just playing or even skating for the first time, so I was able to help coach them while improving aspects of my game. One of my favorite memories playing for Pingry was my last hockey game my senior year. Our goalie, having never played hockey before our freshman year, bravely stepped up and offered to play that position because no one else wanted to. She went on to play field hockey in college, so was a natural athlete, but did not necessarily love playing goalie. I remember her saying that all she wanted to do was score a goal and that opportunity presented itself in our very last game. I ended up dressing as goalie so she could skate out and sure enough, she was able to score our second goal of the game. I let up two goals and we tied, which I am still not quite over, but having her score after 4 years of wanting a goal, debatably meant even more to me than to her.”
As is the case with many of the highly skilled athletes that comprise our Whale, Hanna began as a multi sport athlete, and continued that alongside her hockey career. Lacrosse was one of those sports and Hanna told us “It was not until 4th or 5th grade that I started playing lacrosse and I fell in love with that too. My older brother also played lacrosse and I wanted to copy everything that he did. I played for my town team when I first got started, then played for my middle school team, high school team, and then a club in college. I also played soccer and field hockey growing up, which kept me busy during summers and falls leading up to hockey season.” We asked Hanna for her opinion on whether her multi sport participation has impacted her hockey career. She replied without hesitation “ I believe 100% that being a multi-sport athlete helped me with my hockey career. Not only was I able to stay in shape, it allowed me to more deeply appreciate the fun and unique aspects of hockey that you cannot find in other sports. Playing other sports throughout the year also made the start of hockey season that much more exciting and highly anticipated.” Hanna wrapped up her stellar prep career at Pingry, as captain of both the hockey and lacrosse squads. We asked what led her to the next stop on her journey, as an Eph at Williams College. Hanna recounted “I was originally looking to go the DI route and was talking to several schools. I was fixated on going to one of two DI schools and when neither worked out, I reassessed what I wanted in a college experience and was open to exploring some DIII options. Williams and a few other NESCAC schools approached me, so I was able to tour the schools and meet the coaches. I fell in love with Williams upon visiting it once and the academic rigor of the school was something that was extremely important to me. I also loved the coach and the team dynamic. It did not hurt that my cousin was already a sophomore on the team vouching for how great the school and team was.”
Cetacean Nation feels compelled to offer a bit of a sidebar here in regards to Williams’ team nickname, and the mascot. The most common nickname is the Ephs, in honor of Ephraim Williams, who funded the establishment of the school in 1793. After adopting the color purple to offset the Harvard Crimson in a baseball game some 70 years later, it became the Purple Cow early last century, ostensibly named after the school paper, and popularized somewhat by ESPN more recently. Hanna made her presence known immediately upon arriving at Williams, her play as a freshman earning her NESCAC Rookie of the Year and a selection as First Team All-American. She also was honored with a First Team All-NESCAC selection twice, and served as captain of the team her final two years. In 2014 Hanna became part of Williams history, helping the Ephs women capture their first New England Small College Athletic Conference Championship as well. We asked if she was able to continue her lacrosse career as well, and the answer was: sort of. She related to us that “During my first year, I highly considered joining the lacrosse team as well. I practiced with them in the fall, but decided against joining the team once hockey season was over. My body needed a break from extremely intensive activities and Williams offered a club team, which allowed me to still play, but at a less competitive level. I was able to play with a bunch of my hockey teammates and it provided a fun platform to stay in shape and cross-train.”
Somewhere out there is a little girl who will grow up with dream of becoming a professional hockey player. A dream that has been a goal as well, since the NWHL has existed all of her life. One day, she will be the first woman to enter the league with that backstory. Hanna’s step into the NWHL was a little different, as the league had not existed most of her life. So here’s what she reflected on when asked about how she became a Whale. “I truly thought my final game at Williams would be the last competitive game I would ever play, which made taking off my Williams jersey for the last time so much more difficult. When I moved to Stamford the August after graduating, I was looking to join a men’s league, but was taking my time adjusting to living in a new place and focusing on my full time job at Octagon.” (a sports focused marketing firm) She continued “ I also did not realize the Whale were based out of Stamford and that my former assistant coach at Williams, Sara Ugalde, was now helping coach the team. Come November, I went to see a game at Terry Conners Rink with a few Williams teammates and hung out with Sara after the game. She mentioned that they were in need of some players and before I knew it, I was out on the ice practicing with the team. A few days later, I signed a contract and played my first game early December against the Riveters.” That game was played in her home state of New Jersey in the Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark, just some 45 minutes from where she grew up.
We also discussed the expansion of the NWHL present and future, and solicited Hanna’s thoughts on the state of women's sports. In terms of expansion she thinks “It is awesome that the first league expansion was announced and what better state to acquire a team than Minnesota?! They already have a strong hockey fan base and I can only see that growing exponentially. Future expansion teams could include Pittsburgh, Detroit, and hopefully somewhere on the West Coast. (Fins Up from our #14 when she reads that) “Our game against the Beauts in Pittsburgh had an unbelievable turn out, so it is clear that those fans are ready for an NWHL team!” As to the growth of women’s sports, including the new Women’s Professional Lacrosse League, she added “It is definitely an exciting time for women’s sports as a whole especially after yet another sport has announced the creation of a women’s professional league. I think by having more and more women compete in sports beyond college, it fuels inspiration for younger female athletes to dream big and work hard to achieve their goals. It is also extremely rewarding to be a part of a league that did not exist when I was growing up. We have the humbling opportunity to make a positive impact on the next generation of women in sports and I am honored to be a part of the movement.”
Finally, we asked how things were going this offseason in general, aside from her return to the Whale. Hanna said “My offseason has been going really well. I’ve been doing mostly dryland training and have been able to coach Learn to Play at Chelsea Piers when my work schedule allows it. I am also playing on my company’s softball and beach volleyball teams, which has been a fun way to try new sports and to stay active outside of the gym. Next weekend, I will be back on the ice playing at Beantown and I’m really looking forward to that. I will be able to see both Williams and Whale teammates while I’m there, which is always a good time!” She concluded with these hopeful words “ I can’t wait for my second season on the Whale and I am excited to make a run for the Isobel Cup. The league will be entirely different with the Olympians back and the addition of Minnesota, but that makes the whole experience that much more challenging, entertaining, and rewarding.” Fins Up to the Whale’s Jersey Girl, our #16 Hanna Beattie for sharing some of her story with us, and her excitement for the coming season.