WHALE’S TALES 7/5/19: A Voice in the Crowd

As we write this, we are in the middle of the Fourth of July weekend. The first preseason game, vs UConn on 9/28 was just announced today. And as the season grows ever closer, anticipation of what the 2019-2020 edition of our Whale will look like grows proportionately. It was this weekend last year that the Pod made it’s first couple of signings, but this year our new GM Bray Ketchum has us ahead of the curve. With six players in the fold as this is written, a quarter of the team has been set. It’s a talented group, with veteran defenders Shannon Doyle, Taylor Marchin, Elena Orlando and Jordan Brickner all returning, joined by rookie forwards Kendra Broad, returning from her early career in Europe, and Jane Morrisette joining out of college. We are all waiting with great anticipation and excitement for the next additions to Bray’s Bunch. As we have mentioned, turnover is inevitable on NWHL rosters, for a number of reasons. Since the end of the 2017-2018 season, we find some twenty members of the Pod, are no longer active with us. The coming weeks will reveal a mixing of the old and the new, as it always does. And we are always ready to welcome a Once and Future Whale!

In the last edition of Whale’s Tales, we presented some thoughts from fans whose lives have been touched by our players, the Whale, and the NWHL. As we mentioned, our players truly appreciate the love and support of their fans. And they have given us a lot to love and be appreciative, in their actions both on and off the ice. We have more great thoughts from another of our loyal fans in this addition. And we think you will like what she has to say. Here’s what @sabrinsesch told Cetacean Nation about what the Whale mean to her and her daughter, with a special shout-out that we loved

People. To me the NWHL and The Connecticut Whale are all about people. The NWHL and the Connecticut Whale were founded at the perfect time. My daughter (honorary captain in the photo beelow) had just started playing hockey and the Connecticut Whale appeared right under our nose! We were able to attend the first Whale game and from that moment forward our love for Women’s Hockey and the Connecticut Whale have only grown. We have been fortunate to not only watch the Whale play at several venues, but also have had the honor of getting to know many of the players on the Whale and several other goalies from the league (my daughter is a goalie). Every player, no matter what team or venue or outcome of the game, has been nothing but friendly and professional in every sense of the word. They respect their fans and take a keen interest in the young women who come to see them.”

Sabrina continued ”The players are never in a rush to leave and always seem to be aware of the incredible opportunity and responsibility that they have being Professional Women’s Hockey Players and part of the NWHL. The majority of the Whale players and staff know my daughter by name and without fail make her feel to be part of the family every time we see them play. There is one person in the NWHL who has made a particularly impact on and will always be special to my daughter and that is Laura Brennan. Laura exemplifies the best the NWHL has to offer. She is not only a fine goalie and coach but also an excellent role model for female hockey players everywhere. She finds the good in every situation and in every person whether they be a player, coach, fan or student. She is one of the most genuine people I have had the pleasure to meet and is an asset to the league. I wish the NWHL and The Connecticut Whale years of continued success”

We wholeheartedly agree with those sentiments, especially the sincere admiration for our #33 Laura Brennan. Fins Up to Sabrina for sharing her thoughts, and Fins Up to our amazing Laura as well. We will continue to share these expressions of support and love from our fans on the other side of the glass periodically in future Whale Tale’s.

 

WHALE’S TALES 6/4/19: The Other Side of the Glass

Being a fan of the Connecticut Whale and the NWHL is a special experience. It is certainly not unusual for fans to love the sport(s) they follow. But few fan bases are more passionate than the fans of the NWHL. And yet even within that ardent assemblage, the fans that comprise Cetacean Nation, the fans of the Connecticut Whale, are simply over the moon about the Pod. The players are unwavering in their appreciation of this, as you have probably experienced in person, or read in their own words. So we thought it a good time to get some insight into what exactly the NWHL and the Connecticut Whale mean to their fans. So, we asked them. We received some heartfelt responses, which we will share here in Whale’s Tales. Here then are the first couple of responses from our amazings in the stands! Here are some thoughts from Ashley @NYR_2014, who stated:

“I’ve been following the NWHL since day one. When I was deciding what team to root for, I told myself anyone but Boston (I followed the Blades in the CWHL). Right before the season started I decided on the Connecticut Whale. Mostly because I thought their logo was cute! Fast forward four years later: Women’s Hockey basically consumes my entire life, well, my spare time anyway. The Connecticut Whale and the NWHL hold a very special place in my heart. I have a large scrapbook to prove it. I’m so unbelievably grateful to have met my favorite players over the last four seasons. Before the NWHL I didn’t know who they were. Specifically from the Pod: Chelsea Laden, Anya Battaglino, Sam Faber, and Shannon Doyle. Getting to meet each of them was nothing short of amazing and I will forever love and appreciate them. Season 5 can’t come soon enough. I was already a fan of Bray Ketchum, the 2018 Isobel Cup Champion, but I’m an even bigger fan of Bray Ketchum the General Manager. I can’t wait to see the rosterBray puts together for 2019-20, if history tells us anything, it’s Connecticut’s year. Let’s bring Isobel home where she belongs! Go Whale!”

And Jennifer @nhljennifer, offered us these comments to share:

“The NWHL has done more for me than I could have ever imagined. When I went to my first game, New York Riveters vs. Buffalo Beauts at Aviator Sports and Events Center on Valentine’s Day back in 2016, I immediately felt like there was a place for me in this community. Every single player I’ve met has been extremely appreciative to their fans and to the league itself for giving them the opportunity to play. I’ve developed unique relationships with more players than I can count, and it means everything to me. To see the same faces every week and have them recognize me and thank me for all that I do (when I feel like I should be thanking them, honestly) is such a surreal experience. Before I knew it, the Metropolitan Riveters became my home. With every hug from Miye D’oench, every compliment from Kim Sass, every selfie from Harrison Browne and every quick laugh with Alexa Gruschow, I felt more and more like I had a place somewhere. The NWHL started to mean even more to me when I began travelling to Connecticut for Whale games. The team does seem like a group of underdogs; they’re the only team out of the “founding four” and the current five teams not to win a championship and they don’t always have the best of luck with winning. However, the closer you get to the team, the more you see how much heart they have.

“My friendship with Sophia Agostinelli is something I’ll treasure forever; she makes every single person she interacts with feel special and gives her all to everything she does. And since this is a website for Whale fans, I know I don’t have to tell you all how amazing Anya Battaglino is. I quite literally consider her and Madison Packer my “hockey parents”, and it’s nice to have them as two familiar faces whether I’m in Newark or Stamford. As the years have gone on, there has been a myriad of obstacles for these players and many more, from pay cuts, to failing partnerships, and, now, to 200+ players vowing not to play in any North American league this year. What has amazed me about the NWHL since its conception is how positive every single player has managed to stay. Although they have different ways of going about it, I firmly believe that every single one of these players is doing what they believe is right and best for the state of women’s hockey in North America right now. This league has become a place where I feel at home, and it’s not the buildings that made me feel like that; it’s the players. So, in a time where many women’s hockey fans feel conflicted or like they have to pick a side, I hope that my mushy ramble about how much this sport means to me helps you realize that you don’t have to do either of those things. Everyone has the same common goal when it comes to this; to preserve and further the amazing impact that this sport has had on its fans (like me, hi!). I’m hoping my story can help the community focus on that, because when all is said and done, growing the game is what this is all about.”

Fins Up to these two charter members of Cetacean Nation for sharing their thoughtful comments and feellings about the Pod!

 

WHALE’S TALES 5/26/19: SEE WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS

Turnovers are generally bad in hockey, good on a brunch menu and inevitable on NWHL rosters. If you are like us, you have shirseys and jerseys hanging on your closet of Whale who do not play here any longer. We do not love them any less, just from further away. Last offseason, we learned Amanda Boulier, Sydney Rossman, Kelly Babstock, Emma Greco, Anya Battaglino Sam Faber, Paige Savage, Stephanie Mock, Meghan Huertas, Keira Goin Sophia AgostinellI, Grace Klienbach & Cassie Dunne would not be on our roster for the 2018-2019 season, And during last season, Sam Walther, Sam Donovan, Erin Brand, Randi Griffin, Mariya Sorokina and even Meeri Raisanen at some point left the roster. The reasons for these departures were legion. Just as they have been every season. Hard choices are made in sports every day. Hidecki Matsui was a World Series MVP for the Yankees and was gone before the next spring training.

And this year will be no different. We already know that some of our Pod will be back, some won’t. As Aristotle once postulated, nature abhors a vacuum..Rosters will fill. At present, we have learned that our OW #6 Shannon Doyle has signed again with the Whale. We have also  learned that #92 Katka Mrazova has left and will play professionally on Sweden. More of those who return, and who will not, will follow. And in the end, we will have a blend of the old and the new. As we have had, to one degree or another every year. So over the next few months, we will have to bid an unwanted farewell to some more of our Whale, but also welcome new sets of fins into the Pod.

And over the past four seasons, Cetacean Nation has come to realize a singular fact about our Whale. And it is this: The culture of the Whale is unique, and what the players here are doing for the sport of hockey is something special, and historic. No Whale will ever doubt how much the fans of Cetacean Nation appreciate their efforts both on and off the ice. That is true regardless of whose sweater they may be wearing (or not) at some other point in time. Even very soon. Every Whale player who has taken the ice over the past four seasons, and in the future, will always be a Whale. You might take a player out of the Pod, but you’ll never take the Whale out of the player. Or keep the players, those we know and those we will come to know, out of our hearts. Fins Up to that! 

Update 5/30/19: The NWHL relaeased a statement which clearly laid out and reiterated their plans and commitment to their players & fans going into the 2019-20 season and beyond. And it is a good plan! Please check it out! "We'll Always Do What's Best for the Game": A message from the NWHL: buff.ly/2YQOJoC

Update 6/3/19: Signing News! Our  #4, defender Taylor Marchin has re-signed with the Pod, and is back for a second season! Read the happy news and some statements from Taylor in the NWHL story here: 📝 buff.ly/2Ko1Auz

WHALE’S TALES 5/11/19: FINS UP TO OUR WHALE

Cetacean Nation by our own definition is a supporter not only of the Whale but of the NWHL. “We love our Pod and the amazing league they play in, the National Women’s Hockey League” It says that right in our introduction. So, although we support the goals of the #ForTheGame movement, we do not support it’s means. The planned boycott, in our opinion, is not the way to achieve the goals and future that the movement seeks. We believe players who choose to play this season, will be doing so for the future of the game, as they always have. Their slogan, “It’s why we do what we do,” continues to be the rallying cry of the NWHL players.

The Whale are a team of remarkable players, past and present, and surely in the future. Women who would be great role models for our little Future Draft Picks, even if they never laced up a pair of skates. But each year they do lace up the skates and pull on the pads and pick up sticks and gloves and do remarkable things. And they will again this year. And they have earned the affection, respect and support of their fan base. A fan base called Cetacean Nation.

One of the mottos you’ve read here is that “once a Whale, always a Whale.* The Whale songs of all who have worn the sweater of our Pod, will be sung on our platforms. No one here will ignore or forget what each of those players have done for the sport of women’s hockey, and hockey in general. The expected boycott does not have to be seen as a chasm, just a divergence of paths that can, and we are sure will, reconnect. Maybe sooner than later. We have seen the first of the Once and Future Whale this past season, and we think they won’t be the last.

Right now the Whale are a women’s hockey team, with a couple of former female player/coaches, a former female player as General Manager, all in a league founded and run by a women. Women who in fact, were players themselves. So that while we hope that the goals of the #ForTheGame are realized, we think that can and will be accomplished through the NWHL. Fins Up, forever!

 

Statements from NWHL:

www.nwhl.zone/news_article/show/1017797

www.nwhl.zone/news_article/show/1019423 

Update 5/20/19: With the Free Agenct Signing Period less than a week old, one of our favorite frenemies Madison Packer (Riveters) and former Whale Kaleigh Fratkin, {Pride) have re-signed with their NWHL squads!

Update 5/22/19: Our amazing #6, OW defender Shannon Doyle is the first member of the Pod to re-sign for the ’19-‘20 season! More on Shannon’s signing here: https://www.nwhl.zone/news_article/show/1022986

 

WHALE’S TALES 5/1/19: LAYING A COURSE

Cetacean Nation has now been sailing upon the waters of women’s hockey for a full year now. And as of today over 29,000 different people have stopped by to check out our Pod, as presented in the player’s own words in their stories. All of these players are part of a unique group that has worn the Whale sweater over the first four seasons, as part of an equally unique and historic league. The NWHL set sail on uncharted waters, secure only in the certainty of the remarkable crew that signed aboard for the voyage. After having learned more about these women through their fascinating journeys, we too are secure in the certainty of their remarkable destination.

It has been a changing seascape to be sure, for the NWHL and women’s hockey in general. There have dealt, with varying degrees of success, with some rough patches that have taken some down. But the players, who are the soul of the ships of this sport, have stayed true to their course. They play not just for themselves, but for those who will come after, into what they are helping to be both a better sport and a better world.

Today’s players will look back at what this league will become over the coming decades and smile. We owe a debt of gratitude to these athletes, who one day in the future, will reflect upon their sport and say “ Yeah, we really did that”. In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare wrote

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”

Insert the word women instead of man, and this is pretty much what is happening right before our eyes in the NWHL. The bitterness and disappointment of the fans and players who have been a part of the CWHL will heal. The worst case scenarios are still followed by a morning after. The likelihood of one league seems to be almost beyond a certainty when play opens in the fall. There is a lot still to be done over the next few months, but just like the filling out of the rosters each season, it will get done. And one of the most exciting news stories concerning the NWHL is the re-institution of team GM’s. Kate Whitman Annis will hold that post for the Riveters, and our Whale welcome the amazing Bray Ketchum to the food as our General Manager!

Free Agency is almost upon us. And there looks to be enough drama and plot twists to give Game of Thrones a run for it’s money. Cetacean Nation always views the re-shuffling of the rosters as a bittersweet experience at best. There are always players that depart which we wished didn’t (read: ALL of them). But we also realize there are many different forces at work here, in both the players decision and the decisions of each team. And, 50 or 60 player rosters aren’t a thing. So we get fully behind each year’s amazing new edition of our Whale. That is largely possible because “Once a Whale, always a Whale” is not just our slogan. It is the soul of the culture of the Pod. We never forget, because to Whale fans, every last one of our Pod, is simply unforgettable.

As a side note, the recent news from our sisters on the hardwood should be seen as both an overdue reckoning, and as a portent of things to come. The NWHL was founded with the benefit of the knowledge that another women’s sports league, the WNBA, was flourishing and growing. And we learned from both their successes and mistakes. And now with the deal struck between the WNBA and CBS to televise forty games this summer, things continue to head in the right direction. With the growth of women’s hockey both here and abroad, the day will come when TV coverage is a potent force that expands the league fan base, and there we go. You may recall that in her interview with us, our former goalie #69 Mariya Sorokina told us that the KHL, the Russian men’s pro league actually broadcasts the professional women’s games. Maybe someday the NHL Network might carry NWHL games as well.

Even so, the gender pay gap in both sports is enormous, and although WNBA Stars can make ten times their salary by playing a second season overseas, there is a cost. Arguably the best female player in the world, Seattle’s Breanna Stewart, went down with an Achilles’ tendon tear while playing for her Russian squad. Maybe at some point down the line, someone will blink, and two non-conflicting hockey seasons could be established. Far from a perfect solution, but the women have to be paid full time salaries, and that opportunity would be a start. Fins Up Cetacean Nation, your passion for our Whale is both unprecedented and unwavering in its constancy.

5/2/19: Today approximately 200 mostly CWHL players announced their intentions to boycott any professional hockey league until a sustInable league can be created. There are also some three or four dozen NWHL pLayers or draft picks, including some Whale, on the list at this point. The NWHL has responded that plans as formulated for next season, expansion to Montreal and Toronto, and a 50% increase in the schedule and increased player compensation, remain in place. The NWHLPA, thtrough a statement by our former #4 Anya Battaglino, do not support the movement, and think it’s the wrong move. Even more to follow this summer than we thought a few days ago. Fins Up and Chins Up!

WHALE’S TALES 3/23/19: SOMETHING ABOUT SCIENCE AND ART

 

The offseason is officially here, the third in the four year history of our Whale and the NWHL. It is a time of speculation, review, and predictions, same as any pro league. But in the waters of the NWHL where the Whale swim, it’s complicated. Dr William Osler, founder of the medical school at Johns Hopkins, and widely considered to be the founder of modern medicine, once said this about his profession. He said “Medicine is the science of uncertainty, and the art of probability.” Perhaps the same can be said about developing the amazing sport of women’s hockey. A few weeks ago Kristina Rutherford wrote a thought provoking article about the state of women’s hockey,. If you haven’t read it, you should.

You can find it here: https://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/inside-cwhl-nwhl-mess-big-read/.

Another view of the state of women’s hockey that is worth your time, was written for ESPN by Emily Kaplan. It features features input from our former #4 Anya Battaglino , Director of the NWHLPA..

Take a look at that here: http://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/article/26237756/one-league-faq-nwhl-cwhl-players-want-nhl-awaits

You may agree or disagree with some or all of the content of these articles, but what you cannot ignore one fact. The world of professional hockey in 2019, which obviously includes our league and our Whale, is an extremely complicated, multi dimensional and evolving matrix. And this is seen nowhere more clearly, than in the year to year construction from scratch, of our roster. Any of the scenarios laid out in these articles will impact the way the upcoming Free Agency Period plays out, and our team takes form in preparation for the 2019-2020 season. And if you think about it, so will just maintaining the status quo.

Over the next few months, we will hear announcements, rumors, suggestions, hopes and fears leading up to Free Agency. And as we did last offseason, and even in season, we may have to bid an unwanted farewell to some of our Whale, and welcome new sets of fins into the Pod. The science of uncertainty, and the art of probability. But over the past four seasons, Cetacean Nation has come to realize a singular fact about our Whale. The culture of the Whale is unique, and what they are doing for the sport of hockey is something special, and historic.

No Whale will ever doubt how much the fans of Cetacean Nation appreciate their efforts, regardless of whose sweater they may be wearing at some other point in time. I think every Whale player who has taken the ice over the past four seasons, and in the future, knows this fact beyond a certainty: will always be a Whale. Once a Whale, always a Whale, we will try to keep you abreast of things as they develop.

Also, Cetacean Nation has added an Instagram page to it’s social media Pod. You can find us on Instagram at cetacean_nation_ hockey, as well as on Facebook: Cetacean Nation Hockey and of course Twitter: @nation_cetacean. Fins Up to mote ways to spread the Word of the Whale.

WHALE’S TALES 3/14/19: TURN THE PAGE

Turn The Page Our Whale have now completed their fourth season of play in the NWHL And although we finished at the bottom of the short list that makes up the standings, we also finished as the most exciting team in hockey. We are a team with awesome All Stars, players who have been there since season one, savvy veterans, reliable rookies, International Stars, and Once and Future Whale. In a league as new and evolving as the NWHL, there is a great connection between the then and now. But also to the future. Each season has sprung from the efforts of those who skated for the Whale in previous campaigns, interacted with the fans and community, and nurtured our little Future Draft Picks. Cetacean Nation was hoping to witness a growth in the fan base for the Pod, and that has occurred, and will continue on an upward arc.

But something else has started to to grow too, and it is what sets the Connecticut Whale apart. All teams have a culture, and a certain atmosphere around them, and that has been developing each season for the Whale. It means something different to be a New York Yankee or a Montreal Canadian, not just because of their success, but because of their culture. The Dallas Cowboys have a unique culture, decades after their biggest successes, and the Patriots culture will be palpable if/when they come back to the pack. There is a Celtic way of doing things, a Manchester United way,a Norte Dame way, and the Original Six are still the NHL's top markets. It means something different to play for and root for or against these teams. Sports are a huge part of modern culture and squads with unique, palpable cultures are huge part of sports.

So as the Isobel Playoffs conclude, and we move from post season to off season, cherish our budding culture. There will be the inevitable re-shuffling of rosters that is part and parcel of the NWHL at this point, talk of expansion, mergers, sponsorships and more as the weeks, then months go by. But when you have a developing culture, as the Whale do, you do not close the book on any one season. You merely turn the page, and gaze at the narrative of our Pod being played out there in the lines right before your eyes. And Cetacean Nation is pretty sure that the next chapter in the book will be “The Season of the Whale”. Fins Up!

3/19/19: Terrific news for our blue chip rookie #24 Sarah Hughson who was named a recipient of the prestigious NWHL Foundation Award honoring “those most actively applying the core values of hockey to her community, as well as growing the game and improving hockey culture.” After winning her Foundation Award, Sarah told us “I am so honored to even be a part of a league that supports girls hockey as much as the NWHL does, and to be able to rep the Whale for this is just surreal”

3/20/19: All of Cetacean Nation is delighted for, & proud of, our #92 Katerina Mrazove who was selected by the fans as one of their three Star of the Season. Katka told us “It is a great honor... I didn’t expect that at all...”

WHALE’S TALES 3/1/19: A TALE OF TWO CITIES

Starting tomorrow, the NWHL kicks off an amazing final slate for the last regular season weekend. All four games on the schedule have playoff implications, and when the final horns sound, we should know who is going where and why as the chase for the Isobel Trophy begins. The Whitecaps, Beauts and Pride have all clinched semi-final berths but are vying for seeding and home ice in their games. Since we play Buffalo and Minnesota, we will have a hand in that outcome as well. But our immediate concern is securing a home ice playoff game for ourselves, which would be the first since March 6th, 2016, when we called Chelsea Piers home. That is why this weekend is a Tale Of Two Cities for the Whale. We will play the Riveters in the first round of the playoffs, that much is known. Stamford and Newark are the two cities in this Whale’s Tale. But where we play them is TBD, hence the importance of this weekend's match-ups.

 

We enter play tied with the Riveters In points with six. The Rivs have three wins, we have two, and we have earned points in two overtime losses. We have the edge in head to head play. But the only way to be certain of clinching home ice advantage, is to win. Even though we have won on the road at Barnabas this year and in our not so much a “home game” against the Rivs in Pirrsburgh, there are a lot of reasons to want to play that game in Connecticut, at Terry Conners Rink. And the Pod, and surely the Riveters as well, want the game at home as much as the fans of both teams do. A tale of two cities which will have it’s first chapter written this weekend, and it’s final chapter in the play-offs. And our road to the Isobel Cup has to pass through a least one of the two teams we face this weekend. So in addition to fighting for home ice advantage, the Pod will be seeking to send a simple message to the Whitecaps, Beauts and Pride. That message is that we’ll see you again real soon, albeit in your barn, so you best be ready!

And to fine tune the Pod for the playoff push, some significant moves were made last week. Jessica Koizumi, the woman who scored the first goal in NWHL history while skating for the Pod, rejoined the Whale last weekend, becoming our third Once and Future Whale. Jess had a strong game and was credited with three shots on goal, although we thought it might have been more like five. Jessica still has coaching commitments with the University of Vermont, so the longer we play, the more likely we are to see more of Jess. Shenae Lundherg, our second Once and Future Whale, was signed to a full contract also. So along with our first Once and Future Whale, Laura Brennan, and the signing of former Boston University netminder Erin O’Neil, we have re-fortified our goalie position. Our other two signings, Vanessa Gagnon former Quinnipiac center, and Tess Adams, a high scoring forward who just completed her senior season at Suffolk, give us some additional depth, line options and three zone play that our Whale are noted for. It will be very interesting to see what line-ups Coach Equale will utilize this weekend, as we open the book on our tale of two cities.

 

There are a.couple of more time sensitive items we’ll mention here and on social media. A combo ticket for this weekend two games at Terry Conners Rink are available for the discounted price of $30.00. And the fan voting for the three Stars of the Season is now open, and will remain so until March 6th. Our Whale have always been well supported in the fan voting for this award, and previous winners from the Pod were Sophia Agistinelli and Anya Battaglino. Your ballots to vote and tickets for this weekends action are available at www.nwhl.zone. Fins Up! a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I'm a great place for you to tell your story and let your visitors know a little more about you.

WHALE’S TALES 2/13/19: PUCK LUCK PARADIGM

Our amazing Czech star Katka Mrazova said recently “ Stats are like bikinis: they show a lot, but not everything”. Amusing thought, but actually very pertinent to our Whale’s season to date, and the individual players performances as well. The NWHL is a professional sports league, and the players are paid to win. So yes, there is the won-lost record to consider. But consider this as well: The Whale are the most exciting team in hockey! You do not need a stat sheet to see that, you just have to watch. And if you have been watching, you’ve seen not only exciting hockey, but something called puck luck. And not very much of it has slid towards our Whale’s end of the rink.

 

If you are reading this, you are probably familiar with the term puck luck, and understand how it applies to our Pod. If not, a generic enough definition of the idiom would be along the lines of those factors which influence the outcome of a hockey game that do not involve the strategy and skill of the players. For example: deflections, bounces, ice conditions, losing an edge, dead or lively spots on the boards, pretty much anything unplanned or unintentional that effects the outcome of a game. There is a lot of it in hockey, and it usually evens out over time. But, there are times such as now, that it can be vexing. So, while you are watching the 2018-2019 edition of the Whale, entertaining, exciting and talented, you are not seeing much Pod Puck Luck. We are not jinxed, cursed or under a spell, but have thus far encountered a disproportionate amount of negative randomness. Bad puck luck.

 

Cetacean Nation knows that one of the ways that sports mirror life is this: you can do sometimes do everything right, and still lose. The most graphic example is the saga of one Harvey Haddix, pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sixty years ago this coming May, he pitched a perfect game against a Braves team with HOFers Aaron and Matthews in the line-up. A 12 inning perfect game. He lost the game by finally yielding a run the following inning. A form of puck luck exists in baseball, but it did not sit in the Pirate’s dugout next to Mr. Haddix that night.

 

It has kind of felt that way for the Whale this year. They have proved they can skate with anyone, but puck luck has not been the seventh player on the ice. At least not so far. And that is important to note, especially as the play-offs grow closer. Puck luck is random and fickle, and can change sweaters faster than Kendall Coyne can circle a rink. The most exciting team in hockey may have a more level ice to play on as they pursue the Isobel Cup. All things then being equal, we love our Whale’s chances! Or to paraphrase Dr. Malcolm’s Chaos Theory explanation in Jurassic Park: we think “Whale finds a way”. Fins Up to that!

 

In only its fourth season, our fledgling but fantastic NWHL is still a child in terms of a professional sports league. And, like a human child, it is a developing work in progress. A kid under construction, if you will. In its infancy, in year one, we were amazed, delighted and overjoyed by the simple existence of it, the reckoning had begun. Then came the “terrible twos”, familiar enough to any parent, and the NWHL certainly has some drama to overcome in season two. It did so, coming out a little bloodied but unbowed, only to have a slew of stars depart to pursue Olympic glory, which they did. But as a three year old, something else amazing happened. Despite the departure of legendary Olympians, we found a league that was brimming over with talent. More than could be contained in just the Founding Four franchises, so we had our first expansion.

 

And as play continues in our fourth season, the talent pool gets deeper, more growth seems imminent, and the NWHL has taken on a very unique, individual, and interactive personality. Not unlike a four year old child. And no where was this evolution more spectacularly on display than last weekend in Nashville. With a record crowd for a professional women’s hockey game in the US, and (based upon consultation with a data scientist we know,) probably one million online viewers, a lot more people know what we already did. The NWHL has arrived, and is taking its place on the world stage of sport and culture. And our Whale, with exciting Future Draft Picks, Once and Future Whale, an International Pod, amazing rookies and iconic veterans, is right in the thick of things. Just like every time they take to the ice.

OUR ALL STARS MICHELLE, SHANNON, EMILY & KATERINA!

WHALE’S TALES 2/4/19: A ONCE AND FUTURE WHALE

Author T.H. White (The Sorcerer’s Stone) also wrote a book “The Once and Future King”, the first of his Arthurian tales, coining that phrase. Cetacean Nation modified the moniker to “A Once and Future Whale”. It is the manifestation of our hope and belief that some Whale who have swam on to different waters, may one day return to their original Pod. Our reasoning was based on several observations. As the league expands, the NWHL will add on more teams, and more players. Statistically this wil make movement to and and hopefully back, from any given team more likely. And there is also the statistical turnover rate, which will always be a factor due not only to ability, but to the reality of balancing dual careers. This will remain so until players can rely on their hockey earnings alone to keep the lights on. And, the large majority of women who have played in the league are still in their prime playing days, and many remain in the sport in some capacity. So there is a “pool” of available talent available if and when something goes wrong.

 

In the case of our Whale, what went “wrong” was that a stacked house of goaltending talent suddenly became depleted. Mariya Sorokina was dealt to the Riveters, Sam Walther left the team because of other career priorities, and our All Star Meeri Raisanen suffered an injury (we do expect her back shortly). So who do you call? Well, not Ghostbusters, as it turns out! You actualize the “Once and Future Whale”, which is exactly what the Pod did.

 

Fortunately, the amazing and versatile #33 Laura Brennan had never really gone anywhere. From game one this season, Laura was behind the bench in a coaching capacity, and more. So it was a pleasant, but not unexpected event, when Laura pulled on the sweater again and was skating around as Meeri’s backup during warm-ups on January 13. And when Meeri went down with a calf injury out in Minnesota against the Whitecaps, it was Laura back between the pipes again, a “Once and Future Whale”. But with Meeri hurt, Laura was the only other goalie left on the roster after Sam’s departure. So the Pod turned to our second “Once and Future Whale”, and brought back goaltender Shenae Lundberg, who wore #1 for the team in seasons one and two. And last Saturday against the Boston Pride, wearing #31, Shenae not only got the start, but played an exceptional game. She made acrobatic stops against some of the best snipers in the league, and was locked on to the puck and tracking every shot all night. No official word yet, but it seems likely that based on her performance, Shenae will remain with the team for the duration. We certainly hope so! And the next time your favorite Whale departs, forwhatever reason, take heart. She just may be the next “Once and Future Whale”. Fins Up!

 

Update 2/11/19: Great weekend of hockey at the 4th NWHL All Star Game on the 9th & 10th. Record crowd, and terrific performances by our four All Stars: Shannon Doyle, Emily Fluke, Michelle Lowenhielm and Katka Mrázová. Fins Up all around!

WHALE’S TALES 1/22/19: THIS IS US

We are three quarters of the way through the 2018-2019 NWHL season. With so many new players on the rosters most years, how quickly chemistry and team personality develop are important factors. But eventually, each team reveals itself, in this fascinating league where the Isobel Cup Champion one year can be fighting for home ice in the play-in game the next. Our Whale have answered their identity question in their relentless, three zone, non-stop, whirlwind style of play. This is us: the most exciting team in hockey.

 

Our Whale have four more games remaining, with home & home vs the Pride last game before and first game after the All-Star Game (which will feature five of our Pod) and a final weekend doubleheader against the Beauts and the Whitecaps to close the regular season the first week in March. All of the games are critical to our positioning for the play-offs, and we have the opportunity to host a first round Isobel Cup game at Terry Conners Rink. A chance to be proud, loud and a crowd! Three seasons of NWHL playoffs and three different Isobel Cup Champions. The only two teams that have not won it yet are our Whale and the talented newbies from Minnesota. That last game of the regular season could be a preview of the Isobel Cup final.

 

There have been some roster changes and tweaks as the season has prgressed, and the Whale have developed their exciting style of play. We added two experienced blueliners, #4 Taylor Marchin and #8 Colleen Murphy and their offensive skills have melded well into the attacking style our defenders play, and the aggressive transitions out of our own end. And we have activated our #33 Laura Brennan, from behind the bench, and she has already played significant minutes out in Minnesota. This has helped to offset and balance out the squad in light of our having dealt goalie #69 Mariya Sorokina, and having “lost” #21 Sydney Roesler from the blueline to our coaching staff for most of the season (she is still on the roster though)

 

Also, the difficult life choices and the realities of gainful employment have factored in, and forward Randi Griffin #37 was unable to join the team as planned, and young veteran #32 Samantha Donovan’s season was shortened for the same reasons. And, our All-Star goaltender #18 Meeri Raisanen suffered lower body injury (calf reportedly) and her status going forward is uncertain. This, is also us. The Whale have two weeks to see how Meeri Raisanen’s injury heals before they play again, and both #70 Sam Walther, and as mentioned, #33 Laura Brennan have logged minutes on the ice this season. Every coach will tell you that they put a lineup out on the ice that gives them their best chance to win, But every coach will also tell you that lineup is not the only one that can win, just the one that gives the best chance.

 

So in preparing for the stretch run to the playoffs,our Pod could potentially make a signing at any position, as we have roster space available. And intestingly, we have future considerations owed by the Riveters from the Mariya Sorokina trade.Will that be explored? So there may be a liitle tweak to the roster or lineup as the playoffs come near. In any case our Pod will take the ice for the duration, as the most exciting team in hockey because: This is us.

 

UPDATE 1/28: Our #70 Samantha Walther has left the Whale to concentrate on her other career commitments.

 

UPDATE 2/2: The Whale announced today that they have signed OW goalie #1 Shenae Lundberg to a PTO. Shenae had played with the Pod in seasons one & two, and has therefore now become a “Once & Future Whale”! The team also finalized and formalized the paperwork for our #8 Colleen Murphy, who will stay with the team for the duration, as planned.

WHALE’S TALES 1/1/19: THE NEW ICE AGE

Our Whale are moving into the second half of their fourth season in the New Ice Age. The Age of Professional Women’s Hockey, as conceived and presented and nurtured by by Dani Rylan as the NWHL. And just as geological ice ages change the landscape of our planet, the New Ice Age of Hockey is changing the landscape of the sport we love. The rise of women’s hockey has begun to flow like a glacier, slowly but inexorably, unstoppable, inevitable, a reckoning both of nature and society. Ice ages do not come and go, they are multi millennium events. Once begun, they last forever, in human terms. So will women’s hockey.

 

If you need another metaphor to nudge you in the direction the cosmos are pointing, try this. Thousands of young girls, our Future Draft Picks, will be skating this winter on frozen ponds and lakes, all of yhem part of hockey’s New Ice Age. And those frozen lakes and ponds were carved out by the massive glaciation that occurred in the previous Ice Age during the Pleistocene Era a couple of million years ago. And we now believe, that some 14,000 years ago, the first humans began to appear in North America. It is not hard to imagine, that at some point while crossing a frozen stretch of water, one of those early humans may have kicked at a chunk of ice and watched it skitter across the frozen surface. What wonder did she experience, watching that, and how much of that moment was imprinted on her DNA. We will never know for sure, but we are glad we inherited that it from her.

 

And it keeps us returning to frozen surfaces in greater numbers each year, to watch pucks skitter and blades flash. Cetacean Nation has noted the importance of our little Future Draft Picks on numerous occasions. The NWHL and the players have done an amazing job of encouraging. emboldening and empowering them by their acknowledgement and interaction. It is unique in its scope and scale in the annals of sport. So when thinking about New Year’s Resolutions, Cetacean Nation came up with a pretty good one. This winter, make it a point to attend a local girl’s high school or women’s college hockey game. They are not hard to find.

 

These venues are where our little Future Draft picks play before they can perhaps reach the NWHL. Third grade girls have had the NWHL as a reality, and the players as role models, since Kindergarten. This year’s class of graduating college and high school seniors have had this their entire four years at their institutions. Women’s hockey is not just a phenomenon, it is part of of our culture. And like any cultural entity in any society, it deserves to be supported and nurtured. So among your resolutions to see more Whale games, purchase more Whale gear, and talk more Whale talk in 2019, add taking in some high school or college hockey to the list as well. Fins Up!