RACHAEL ADE: A Fork Stuck in the Road

“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road/Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go/So make the best of this test, and don't ask why /It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time”  BJ Armstrong


As all of Cetacean Nation knows by now, our roster as always, will look different in the coming season. That is the nature of pro sports, and especially the nature of the NWHL at this point. And this offseason, there is another fork stick in the road, as there are many players choosing not to play as part of the #ForTheGame / PWHPA boycott. Our talented #7 Rachael Ade, oversatile forward/defender will be one of the players choosing not to don a Whale sweater this year, as part of that boycott. Cetacean Nation has stated on these pages that we are, by our own definition 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.And we’ve said that although we support the goals of the #ForTheGame movement, we do not support it’s means. The boycott, in our opinion, is not the only way to achieve the goals and future that the movement seeks. We believe players who choose to play this season, will also be doing so for the future of the game, as they always have.

Our opinion has not changed, but while we do not support the boycott as the best means to the end, we don’t think it should be demonized either. And we hope that both the players who choose to boycott and the players who chose to play in the NWHL this year, respect each other’s right to follow different paths. To take whichever fork they choose. These divergent paths will merge one day, and we will all skate on the same ice again. In that spirit, not only are we including Rachael’s replies to the on ice questions we presented, but also her reasoning behind her decision to join the boycott. But before we get to that, let‘s see what Rachael had to say about a net full of other topics we discussed.

Our young veteran Rachael was part of a group of six second year players on the Whale last season, And at first puck drop there were more first year players than returning players. We wondered how that effected the development of team chemistry, and the exciting style of play last season? Rachael replied: “It was much like the first year, except this past year I was on the opposite side of that line. In any situation with a lot of turn over it does create a lot of room for opportunity. I do think you saw some of the learning curve in which our first few games were not our strongest, but this year I think we capitalized on that better than the last, the opportunity piece. We had a great group of personalities, and in a way I think we were both lucky and well picked by Ryan (Equale) to get along so well, and it is why it developed so quickly.” She added “ I think this also carried over from the group of personalities we had in the locker room. Everyone was always supportive of one another, and when a team feels like there is room to make mistakes because the next teammate will have your back, it allows for more risks to be taken, and more confidence to be had when playing the game.”

A big part of the Whale’s exciting style of play last season was the play of our defenders while on the attack. And since Rachael was part of that before switching to forward, we asked her to comment: “Most of our defenders had always been or were offensive defensemen on other teams, and again with that ability to trust one another and take risks, it allowed for our defense to step up the play more. We also continued to have a strong D core with many a number of returners so when you feel comfortable playing with each other, you begin to play more like yourself.”  Rachael continued “ Ryan told me he liked my speed and size, and felt we needed a little more of that on offense during that point in the season. Being an offensive defenseman helped in the transition, and I am happy to play anywhere that it is felt I can best benefit my team. I do see myself returning to defense and that is my preference, but it was nice to face a new challenge, and no player is going to turn down an opportunity to be in one of the best positions to score. Each position has it pros and cons.”

Cetacean Nation had noted that the Pod seemed not necessarily bigger, but stronger this past season. It was evident in several games that tthey began to wear their opponents down, both with physical play and skating. To paraphrase the old Detroit Lions QB Bobby Layne, it wasn’t so much they lost, more like they just ran out of time. Rachael told us in her first article that “Off season is really when you get to build the most muscle instead of mostly maintaining, and fine tune some of the areas you may have neglected during the winter, when trying to stay as fresh as possible for each weekend of games.” We asked if the offseason prep contributed that, and Rachael offered: “I am sure it contributed, and I do think many of us came off hungry from the season before, between the returning whale, and the new players we had signed. The biggest challenge can be staying motivated when you are not always surrounded by the team, or striving for that next two points, but I do not think anyone had that trouble during that summer. I think everyone saw an opportunity, and was striving for it. Everyone had a little something to prove.” We also wondered if the fact that Rachael plays both forward and defense changed her own offseason routine? “No, not entirely. I have always been a player that trains total body after studying at Vermont. Plus, with striving to be an offensive defensemen, it is import to hone both sides of my game and keep skills that pertain to either side sharp in the offseason.”

There were a few aspects of Rachael’s pre-Pod career that we hadn’t touched on in our first interview, and we wanted to remedy that. For one, what led her to choose the University of Vermont to continue her hockey and education after her days with the Boston Shamrocks? Rachael explained “ I chose Vermont because of the hockey program they were looking to build, their interest in my play, and the education they offered. In talking with their current coach Jim Plumber, he said a lot of things that I agreed with and liked, and they had a lot of great STEM opportunities. The girls were also great when I visited, and the beauty of the campus really sold me on the whole thing.” It was a a fortuitous decision, as Rachael had a terrific career as a blue liner for the Catamounts. She was part of the winningest group of seniors ever to graduateVermont, and she finished ranked second in career games played. And with seven goals and seven assists in her senior campaign, she showed the type of offensive skills as a defender that has led her to the other end of the ice. Her fondest memory of those days? “My favorite moment at UVM was sweeping BU, which lead to one of the historic seasons, where we went to the Hockey East Quarter Finals” That weekend sweep of Boston University remains the only time in history Vermont has defeated that powerhouse Terriers in consecutive games. And in those quarter finals , Rachael scored a goal in Vermont’s triple overtime win against Maine.

We had also wondered if Rachael was still at Vermont when our “Once and Future Whale” Jessica Koizumi began coaching there.  Rachael clarified that sayong ”Actually Jess started coaching the year after, and it ended up being a big coincidence that I went to the Whale. It was a lot of fun to have the opportunity to play with her this year, and you could tell her hockey senses stayed sharp” We also inquired about Rachael’s academic major at Vermont and how that worked into her future. She revealed “I majored in Computer Science and minored in Mathematics. I currently work at Criterion HCM, a Human Capital Management Software company, that provides businesses with a single database solution to manage and maintain their employee data, run payroll, provide time keeping and much more. I have worked there for about a year and a half now as a Client Success Manager and Applications Engineer”

As you were reminded in the introductory graphic to this piece, Rachael was the recipient of the prestigious NWHL Foundation Award after her rookie season with the Whale, for her work in the community, It seemed to us, even from our own social media posts, that she hadn’t taken her foot off the pedal in this regard. She confirmed that, saying “Yes, I did continue that involvement, and volunteered for more events last year. I also stepped up a little more, and began coaching a girls U12 team out of the Danbury Ice Arena called the Lady Colonials. We had quite the break out year if I do say so myself, and I was honored to get the opportunity to mentor those girls. However, the most recent event that I was able to be a part of was the Renny Jam, with a few NHL players and the Jam Kancer in the Kan organization. The organization and the event raises money for families of children affected by Cancer.” And Cetacean Nation loved Rachael’s response to our question of how her personal service initiative got started. She said “I would probably have to contribute that to my mom, Pauline Ade. I have given my dad a lot of shout outs for starting me in hockey, so she really deserves one for getting me into doing things like this, and for providing me such a great role model. She is always one to give back, and she instilled that in all of us. I would also say my sisters, because growing up I would always being helping out with their teams, and just trying to teach them skills in general, as all big sisters try to do.”

Returning to some of what we opened this article wirh, we had originally asked Rachael a more NWHL specific question about the future of women’s hockey. And as always, we offer such questions as open-ended as possible. Rachael did chose to take her reply in a different direction. And since her words were so eloquent, heartfelt and lacked any malice, we wanted th share them with all of Cetacean Nation. Rachael commented that “Because of my stance in the boycott, I would prefer to answer on why I chose to do what I am doing, and a little about what is going on. Currently I stand with about 200 other players in our alliance to not play in any league that exists in North America. We are doing this to create a more sustainable league for our future, and to strive for an opportunity to train like the men do. When I was making this decision, one of the thoughts I had was, what would I say to my sisters if they later asked me why I made the decision I made? Which decision would I feel most proud of when I answered them, and what might the future look like when they were asking? To my sisters and all the other little girls who might ask me this question some day, I decided that I needed to support the cause that I thought would best create the opportunity they deserved, and would be around for them to ask about. They deserve a league in which players do not have to question if it will exist 5, 10, 20 years from now; a place where they cannot only train from youth in aspiration, but also train adequately while playing professionally. When expected to be the female equivalent of the NHL, they need to also be able to train and play 7 days a week.” Rachael continued “We have fought and won the first battle. Now, having had multiple paid professional leagues, it’s time to look forward to the second and third battles. It is a slight risk, as any boycott in history is, but in most cases there is no reward without a little risk. To the parents and players who have thanked me for taking part in this stand, I have been beyond humbled and appreciative. But all that said I would not like to minimize the history the NWHL has made, and the opportunities it has given me and many other players. History and progress is about building blocks, and people working together. I look forward to more history being made.”

Cetacean Nation thanks Rachael Ade for her unique insights and content throughout this interview, and what she has brought to the team, the league and the sport during her days in the white, green & blue. And as to this coming season, the fans of Cetacean Nation will not love our #7 any less, just from further away. Fins Up Forever Rachael, once a Whale always a Whale!