Erin in her Holy Cross Days (L) and the CWHL (top right) and Dexter Southfield Prep (bottom right) Photos: Holy Cross Athletics & CWHL,

ERIN HALL: THE PEMBROKE PERSUADER

Cetacean Nation recently had a chance to chat with the only rookie defender signed so far this offseason by the Whale. That would be the Pembroke Persauder, our #8 Erin Hall, a two year CWHL veteran out of Holy Cross. With a sweep check or a poke check, Erin can “persuade” a puck carrier to give up the biscuit. Or persuade a particular set of parents (hers) to let their daughter play hockey. Add to that, her degree in psychology, and the black belt she earned in karate, and you don’t ever bet againstt her ability to control a situation. Pretty cool tool for a hockey player we’d reckon. Erin hails from Pembroke Massachusetts, in the historic hockey country that is Greater Boston, down along the South Shore. Erin said about Pembroke, “It’s  about 25 minutes from Boston, but everyone knows Boston traffic is horrendous. Actually, Jane Morrisette was friend from way back in Pembroke, and we played hockey and softball together. I am glad to be playing together with her again.” We asked about Sarah Schwenzfier who hails from nearby, and Erin said, “I do not know Sarah Schwenzfier well, but I do I remember playing against her.” More on that later.

So Cetacean Nation was interested in how little Erin got started in hockey in Pembroke, and she had this amusing story to tell. As alluded to above neither Mom or Dad were on board in the beginningbut Erin revealed “So this is funny. .I remember watching Boston Bruin NHL games with my Dad and obviously wanting to play. Mom and Dad they were worried about the contact and injuries, and I wasn’t allowed to play hockey. But I had a friend in second grade who played hockey, and we would talk about hockey every day. I would go home and tell my parents, I want to play hockey!!! Finally, my parents gave in (were persuaded) and they took me to the rink for Learn to Skate” and then to hockey. And the rest is history” We told Erin she did a good job of persuading Mom and Dad. She replied “Haha, I think that they are totally on boardI now! I think that with hockey parents that’s what it has to be, between the practice schedule and game schedule the travel, the cost. You have to be 110% committed, so kudos to to them because they definitely bought into my plea.”

Erin attended Dexter Southfield School in Brookline, MA. That’s more than an hour north of her home in Pembroke, but Erin commuted each day. If you guessed that , those “persuaded parents” were key to making that work, Erin says you are correct. She explained “Dexter Southfield is unique in that it is a day school, so boarding was not an option. But around here, if you’re going to do it you do it. The drive just becomes part of your day, so we made it work. So usually my Mom would drive me like 45 minutes, and we would meet a bus.They have different buses that can pick up their students, and so my Mom would drive me to the bus and drop me off, and I would take the bus into school. It’s funny because ultimately, being on the bus became some of the most fun times that we had. It’s where all the jokes would happen, and that’s where most of your friends come from, because you are all doing the same thing. You’re making the commute together and it is just one of those things that if it’s worth doing you just do it. Definitely no regrets there. It will be rewarding in the end and that was certainly the case for me. So it was good.”

We also asked Erin how the return trip worked, since she was not coming back home right after the bell rang. She was competing in a different sport each season She explained  “I was lucky because my dad works in Boston for the most part, and he was able to come right over to school after I was done with whatever practice, and scoop me up. And then we would make the journey home, and I’d usually do my homework in the car, And by time I got home, just eat and go to bed. It’s a grind but it kind of a good thing because you are in your routine and you know what you have to do and you just get it done.” Cetacean Nation thought that the mental toughness she developed adhering to this strict academic and athletic schedule and routine was something she would have the rest of her life. Erin said “I would definitely agree.”

 We knew Erin had attended a USA development camp at the conclusion of her high school years, and we asked her about that “That was the most amazing experience ever That was the summer I was like 15 or so The was my first real experience with Everyone else around me being really good too, so that was definitely eye-opening It was just so fun to be away for a week, and all you were doing was just playing hockey. Two times a day on the ice, they brought you into the weight room and we even had an experience with yoga.I now love yoga, so that was great. Overall, the camp is something I will remember forever, because not everybody gets to do that stuff. And so it’ts nice to look at it and you say Gee, hard work really does pay off! But it’s also like, everyone else is working hard too, so you gotta keep up your game. Because the people I saw out there were extremely talented and I was like- Inwas amazed that this many girls were this good at this sport. I just think that was awesome. I loved it I, loved every second”

Cetacean Nation has noted that athletes often reach a certain point when they realize that they can be more than they ever thought they could be.The USA Hockey Development Camp seems to have validated Erin’s own talent and provided a hockey epiphany. She offered “I think that sometimes your confidence in those kind of situations can be can be a little bit shaken. That’s because you are going up against everybody else who is really talented and wants the same type of thing that you do.But I think when you step back from situations like that, and realize that you were selected to go to that camp for a reason, It contributes to building your confidence. And it was kind of a good time for me, with the whole college process coming up. It was a good time to experience it because I felt that afterwards I would elevate my game even more.”

We also asked Erin how long she had been playing along the blue line, and she told us “This is another funny story! I wasn’t always a defensema. Actually, when I first started playing and up until I went to prep school I was a forward? I loved scoring goals! I went to my first tryout at Dexter Southfield as a seventh grader ready to make the varsity, and the coach flipped me a black jersey. That meant you were going to play D, and she said I want you to take a lap around the rink skating backwards. And I was like, this is weird. So I did it, and she goes all right, you going to play defense for me, ha ha! So ever since then I’ve been on D. I definitely try not to be a stay at home defenseman although I can be, I do like to skate the puck if I can :).” Erin had a great career on the ice at Dexter Southfield. She was a member of the varsity ice hockey team for six years, and served as Captain in 2012 and 2013. And she earned a NEPSAC first team All-Star selection and a spot on the Boston Globe All-Prep team in both 2012 and 2013.

 Erin was active all three seasons as we mentioned earlier. In addition to hockey, she was a six year member and two-year captain of the varsity softball team and a three year member of the varsity soccer team. She reflected “I played soccer and softball and that was pretty much it besides hockey. I did do gymnastics way back when I was was a little kid, and my Mom had me in dance. I took dance lessons as well until I put the kibosh on that because I didn’t like the costumes very much. So I said listen Mom, no more of that, so she gave it on that. (was persuaded, to put it another way) So it was mostly soccer and softball, but I did do karate for a while and I earned my black belt. But there was just not enough time in the day to put all these other sports in. So I got the black belt but that was it for karate. It’s not too bad (on a resume) but don’t ask me to produce any of the moves, because I can’t even remember them:) But it was a good experience. So soccer and softball ! played probably since I was five years old onward - softball as a right handed hitting and throwing shortstop and and left fielder, and soccer pretty much anywhere. I even had a stint where I just wanted to be goalie for awhile. So I played both of those throughout high school, and I wanted to see if I could take softball into Holy Cross, and play softball and hockey. But it would’ve been too hard because pretty much both teams are active throughout the entire year. So I would be kind of missing out on one team’s activities if I was at the other. So that’s why I decided just to stick with hockey But I definitely did love softball it was a lot of fun, a lot of great memories. And when I was younger, going back to Jane Morrisette again, her dad was our coach for town youth softball probably three or four years. So just a lot of good fun times with that.”

When we discussed the process that led Erin to Holy Cross, she explained “I had looked at Holy Cross in the spring of my junior year, along with a few others and I liked it. I loved the campus, it was small and I did not want to go to a really huge school. I’m used to a small school because my high school graduating class at DExter Southfield had twenty kids in it. I’m used to the small numbers and I didn’t want be too far far away from home, but a good distance. So that was another factor. And I just feel like I had developed a pretty decent relationship between myself and the coaching staff at Holy Cross. I knew that they were telling me that they wanted me to come play there, so that’s kind of what sealed the deal for me. I had all of those pieces I wanted: I had hockey! I had the academics and I had the location. The location played a pretty big part in it. And I also think that I had the opportunity to do early decision which was 100% what I wanted to do, because at that point in senior year you just want to figure out what you’re doing. So I did that and pretty much the rest is history. I knew I got in and that was it. Also, here’s another interesting thing, my older sister went to Assumption College which is nearby, and she played tennis. So I feel that was another factor. I wanted to go to Holy Cross because I knew she was going to be right down the road for another couple of years.It was just kind of that comfort factor you know, so if you need anything you’ve got somebody nearby. And we were both able to catch each other’s events, I’d go to her matches and she’d come to my games. That was just another part that played into it, and it. actually worked out really well.” 

The Holy Cross women’s ice hockey program enjoyed great success during Erin’s tenure there, winning ECAC and NEHC Championships,  including an amazing senior year when her Crusaders went 24-3. She had great personal success as well, garnering New England Hockey Conference All Academic Honors, and compiling forty six points, including fourteen goals. We asked Erin if she could identify a favorite moment on the collegiate ice, and she said “I think my favorite moment was probably, and this is tough, there were very many, was anything that had to do with our hockey team. As any college athlete knows, your team is basically your family during those four years. You’re wiith each other every day. I think I would probably point to my senior year when we played against Norwich and we beat them. That was tremendous, nobody thought we were going to beat them. They are usually a great team, and we usually got smoked by them, to be honest. But I don’t know, there was just something about that day, that game. That was my favorite moment, getting that win with that team. It is just nice when the team feels like your family.” Cetacean Nation notes that two other future Whale were on the ice that afternoon at the Hart Center in that 2-1 win. Both Kim Tiberi and Sarah Schwenzfier played for the Cadets that day.

 Erin also had an impressive career off ice at Holy Cross, and was a member of the Holy Cross Leadership Academy. We asked about her major and current interest in nursing, and she told us “I was a psychology major at Holy Cross, So a little behind that, for the past two years I have been teaching pre-K at Dexter Southfield. Funny enough, I went back there and I was teaching and coaching hockey and softball. And sthen this summe, although actually I had been thinking about it for a while, I decidedto try nursing school. I think it’s a great opportunity and there’s a huge job market out there which is always important, So right now I am taking classes to get my prerequisites out of the way, so I can apply to nursing school in January, so that’ll be my plan for that. I’m excited for a new adventure, and I am not going to study to be a psych nurse, rather a regular RN. I chose psych as my major because it was the thing I was most interested in. I actually went into Holy Cross thinking about doing pre-med. But they never tell you about the schedule an athlete keeps, so it was kind of like well, this might not work out:) But I am fortunate enough now to kind of get back into it and really figure out what I want to do. I am currently taking my classes online, so it’s nice and convenient and opens up enough time to keep playing hockey which is ideal.”

As we mentioned, after graduation Erin became a pro in the CWHL She explained “So I played for the Boston Blades in 2017 right after I got out of Holy Cross, and that was kind of like a starstruck moment for me. I was like Wow! I am playing professional hockey, this is amazing! I am still playing while other people are, done, it was awesome. It was a really great feeling that but my first season with the Blades was very challenging, the record speaks for itself. Obviously there was a lot of adversity our team had faced that year, so the summer after that we got word that the team had relocated to Worcester. I was excited about that, I was going back to my old stomping grounds! That was good, but at the same time though, I was dealing with a knee injury. So I only played two games for Worcester because I was trying to get my knee back in order. I had surgery and it was just a kind of a year that was going to be more about rehab than actual competition. It is not ideal and it is hard, but I’m thankful that I can still play now because I put in all that work last year” Erin added “I also played against Taylor Marchin  in the my first season in the CWHL and it will be good playing on the ice with her instead of against her.. The demise of the CWHL definitely caught me by surprise. I just feel like we were headed in the right direction, with the inclusion of the Chinese teams. I felt like that was a step in the right direction in terms of expansion, but I guess you don’t know what you don’t know. So if things weren’t going well (financially) I guess it was the right thing to end it on a somewhat positive note. I guess I really don’t know if it’s positive or negative but I can see the benefit of their being just one league, and I’m just happy to be in the NWHL now.” We also asked Erin if she had much experience on special teams,  the penalty kill and/ or power play. She replied “I’d say yes for both, PK for sure, I have a lot of experience on that, and I think that’s probably because of my quickness and i don’t know, intelligence about that the power play. I would say yes to an extent on the PP. Not so much with the Blades, but in college that was my forte. Some people think that I have a good shot. So yeah, I guess you could say I have experience in both”

We told Erin we also had noticed she had worked as a lifeguard, and said that probably meant she could swim pretty well. She replied “I can swim very well actually! Funny enough, in the summer I usually do triathlons just to stay in shape. This past summer I stepped up my distances for this, they call it Olympic distance. You have to swim a mile, bike 20 miles and run six miles, so you can say that I’m a decent swimmer, and yes I enjoy lifeguarding, I’ve been doing it probably since the end of high school, it’s a good summer job like anything, I enjoy it and I only work at pools. Ironman is something that’s on my bucket list for sure, it’s kinda just it not like hockey you’re not on a team and you are kind of just working for yourself and it’s just a cool challenge any way you look at it.”

 In closing, Erin offered this “I would say to the fans, just thank you for the support! And believing in women's hockey and continuing to show up.I think it is important to the players to know that you have people behind you who actually want come to see you play and watch you do well. Because ultimately, the fan support is what is going to carry our league and our sport to the next level.so I think that the fans deserve all the credit in the world for being behind the Whale!” Fins Up to that, and Fins Up to the great content and insights Erin provided. Cetacean Nation thinks our #8 Erin Hall, “The Pembroke Persuader” will have no problem “persuading” even more fans to come out to Danbury to cheer on the most exciting team in hockey: Your Connecticut Whale!