Back in the year 1915, women in the US were denied suffrage, the right to vote, and were lumped legislatively, with felons and lunatics in that regard. Moving forward over the next century that issue and many but certainly not all other issues of gender equality were resolved to some degree. And exactly hundred years later, the NWHL was born, conceived by Dani Rylan, nurtured in part by the pool of players finally given an opportunity via Title IX, and by the all too slow reckoning that is being brought about by the women’s rights movements. That the Future is Female is certainly true. But increasingly, in some still imperfect form, the Future is Now. Nowhere is this more true than in the NWHL. It was Emerson who wrote that the most powerful of natural forces is an idea whose time has come. Clearly, as we sit perched on the brink of what is shaping up to be the biggest and best version of itself to date, the NWHL has arrived. It’s time has come. The 2019 graduating senior women’s hockey players will be first to have spent all four of their college years with a knowledge that the NWHL exists, and a professional post collegiate career was now possible.
Cetacean Nation recently shared some thoughts on season one from our #5 Kate Buesser, an original Whale. But as you know we have been fortunate enough to have a few of those original trend setting, history making athletes remain Whale in subsequent seasons. Cetacean Nation thought it would be cool to get some of their thoughts on that initial season as well. You have read some of the story of our #6 Shannon Doyle, and #28 Sam Faber in their articles here earlier this offseason (see Menu) Both Sam and Shannon again graciously agreed to provide their thoughts, this time looking back to season one and what it meant to be a Whale in the first season, the first game. We stated things off by asking both how they originall found out about the Whale and joined the inaugural Pod. Shannon replied “That is a really cool note about this graduating class being able to know Pro hockey is available to them following their NCAA career ending! I didn't think about the NWHL till about March of my senior year. The NWHL was just an elusive rumor at that point and so the CWHL was a focus for me most of my senior year. However, after the NWHL started forming and it aligned with my teaching career, I jumped at the opportunity to play for the Whale.” Sam told us “I found out about the NWHL a few months prior to the league starting. I was lucky enough to go to the launch party in NYC. Being there was such an unbelievable experience, realizing that my career wasn’t quite over yet and this was a huge step in the sport of women’s hockey.” Sam continued “I was asked to go to the Identification skate held at Chelsea Piers, CT and I happen to be working there at the time so it wasn’t out of the way at all for me. I signed the contract to play for the Whale as soon as I could.”
Cetacean Nation was interested in the specific memories of that historic season that our two long time Whale recalled. Shannon answered “I think my favorite season and favorite memory belong to season one. Everything was so exciting about year one, the players, the fans, the endless possibilities- the energy was electric! I also had the chance to play with some teammates that I hadn't played with (but played against!) in a long time. My favorite memory was the first time that we stepped on the ice for the first ever game of the NWHL. The arena was sold out, we had our uniforms on for the first time and it was an amazing game- winning helped make it even better!” Sam concurred, explaining “I honestly have chills thinking about that first game. The stands were filled and the environment was incredible. You couldn’t even find a place to stand along the glass. Standing on that blue line for the national anthem next to 15 other girls that we barely knew at the time; however we were all there for the same reason. We loved playing hockey and we were making history in that moment doing what we love together as a team. It brought to light how truly special the NWHL is and it was one of the best moments of my career.” Sam continued “To me the players in the inaugural season of the NWHL are women that didn’t want to give up the sport that has given us so much to be thankful for in life. We were given an opportunity to be able to continue to play and become pioneers. It’s extremely special looking back on it and I am sure in 20 years it will feel just as special and rewarding as it does now.”
When we asked about what she envisioned for the league as season one came to it’s conclusion, Sam answered “Of course I felt confident moving forward! I believe expansion was always in the back of my everyone’s minds but we knew it couldn’t be rushed. We knew we had to focus on being great hockey players and ambassadors and if we did our job then expansion was in the near future.” As the NWHL was starting play in 2015, our sisters on the hardwood and the WNBA were a well established entity. Cetacean Nation wondered if their success proved inspirational to the players in their early efforts of the NWHL. “Absolutely” said Sam, “the WNBA is an inspiration. Those ladies deserve all the recognition they have gotten and it’s inspiring to think about what the NWHL will look like in 20 years. It’s pretty cool to have watched some of the WNBA players in college and now get to see them on TVplaying in the WNBA! Shout out to my favorite player Skylar Diggins!”
Shannon gave us an interesting insight on how not only the NWHL has grown, but suggested that it has grown the individual players as well. Shannon explained “Playing with people like Sam, the big players you only had the chance to imagine as players because of the records they broke and the ones they still hold, is one of the best parts of the NWHL. Young players come in with such energy and excitement each year and after being around leaders like Sam, Nicole Stock and Jess Koizumi, I have started to try and help guide players through their first season and offer support when I can while also being an example on the ice!” That kind of chemistry is good news for our young Whale defenders currently patrolling the blue line with Shannon.
Sam agreed adding “I believe the chemistry has grown more and more every season on the whale and a lot of that is because of the returners. We have not only grown closer to each other as teammates and friends but we have also experienced the good and not so good together. It’s good to have veterans to show the young ones the ropes a bit.” Sam also commented on the changes she has seen in the NWHL during these fledgling years. She said “The biggest is change is attention and awareness. The more people hear about the league the more we are covered by the media. The hockey is skilled, fast and physical and that will continue to be the case each year as the league grows.” Sam also added “I will stick with my word in saying we have the best colors and jerseys in the league. I liked each jersey for different reasons.” Cetacean Nation concurs. Whale gear from every season can be seen at our home games, and increasingly on the road as well.
We also wanted to get a little input about the CWHL, since many of the NWHL players had experience there (still true) and since Sam had played there prior to season one, Cetacean Nation asked about that. Sam told us “I played for the Boston Blades in their inaugural season of the CWHL. I have nothing but great things to say about the Blades and them being my first pro organization. I also can’t say enough about the CWHL and thank everyone involved for having this league and giving so many people hope for pro women’s hockey even though I only played one year there. It’s hard for me to compare the leagues as I played in the CWHL many years ago, but all I can say is that both leagues have people that fight for our sport and love our sport and I am very grateful to all of the people involved”
Cetacean Nation is grateful too, for this look back at some early NWHL history, and offers a big Fins Up to our icons Shannon Doyle and Samantha Faber for turning back the pages a little with us and sharing their perspectives with the fans.