Cetacean Nation observed that Celeste was part of the first graduating class of college seniors who had the prospect of the NWHL looming on the horizon. We asked about how she made the next step in her journey, and she replied “The goal was to try and go play after graduation, with it being Europe which seemed the only viable option. So I was really trying to pursue that before the NWHL was even brought up, and it was difficult. I don’t know, I just didn’t have enough connections in the world. I had a couple of leads but it wasn’t necessarily promising. Then I just caught word that the NWHL was happening and I think they announced there would be four tryouts. I thought: Oh, sounds pretty legit! My older sister, (and all my family) are huge supporters and fans, but her job allowed her to come out and be a little bit more involved. So she was like: “You should try this” and I was like: “Why not?” I did not really have a preference of what team, so I said OK let’s do it, let’s try out.”
Celeste contunued ”I think the first one I did was in Connecticut and I might’ve met Dani (Dani Rylan) there. We started exchanging a few emails about the tryouts and I thought why not try for all four and just see where things fall. Because at that time it was all tryouts, there were no drafts. So basically you had to go try out and get picked by a team. I just wanted to play, I didn’t really care where. It evolved and I got the offer from New York, and I thought: Heck Yeah! I’ve always wanted to live in New York, and that was a weird thing too. It was a weird thing again where the stars kind of just aligned I was: Yeah, let’s make this happen! So I ended up playing in New York the first year which was pretty epic. I had some common friends who were on the team so that was pretty cool to be able to share that experience with them and experience one of the greatest cities on earth”
Celeste also discussed some of her impressions of that landmark first game saying “I think looking back, it was historic. At the time of course you knew it was historic. But at a certain point it switched, and we said hey we’re just here to play hockey. But it was cool, and I will remember that there was a big ceremony to start, and a ton of little girls which is pretty cool. So I’ll always have that memory, and I do get little memories of random parts of the game.We (Riveters) ended up losing that game but it was just great to be a part of it. Everyone was there and a lot of fans I think just stop and reflect that, Hey, this is happening! I played with Ludmila Belyako that first year and that first year was insanely epic. It was so cool that you’re playing against the best players in the world? Just be able to say that is cool and to experience it is even more so. And a different thing was playing Boston, which was full of great players, six times. A lot of those players are older, so it was not like I had the chance to play against them in college. So it’s cool to have that in your memory box and also to learn things from them to just by playing against them”
Just as Celeste was part of that first season and that first game, she was also part of the always “interesting” post season. Celeste explained how that led her to the Whale. “After the first year I came to a point where I wasn’t getting signed so I had to sort of make decision to go with my career, or just be in limbo. I had an opportunity to go coach at Connecticut college. I had sort of prefaced the head coach because I knew about practice players from the year with the Riveters. They had been there in case people couldn’t make it for a particular or basically just fill numbers in practice. So I prefaced the job with the possibility of being a practice player, because I was pretty confident that at the very least I could be a practice player in that organization. I’d already played in the league for a year, so it ended up working like really well. I only got to play a few games, but I pretty much went to every practice, twice a week It’s still cool to be part of it. You’re still part of a team, still learning from other players. Kelli Stack was still on the team so you could learn from players of her caliber, and then I would go and apply the things I had learned. Either from the staff or just like other players like Sam Faber who had been playing forever. They had tricks up their sleeve that you might not pick up as easily if you’re not in those situations. That was a really cool experience for me on that level, so I’m grateful for that. And again, I just wanted to play. If I had been able to be signed again I would have played another year I think. But It was cool to be part of two organizations in the NWHL because you got to experience not only how things are done differently but also similar at the same time, and it gets you into the community more.”
After her season with the Pod, Celeste took a big step in her career, accepting a job at Penn State where as you’ve read, she is the women’s assistant ice hockey coach. We asked Celeste to tell us more about the coaching aspect of her hockey career. She responded “There was definitely a point while I was in college that I was like: Yeah, I want to coach. I think that going into college that was not the plan, I had other goals. I’m not exactly sure when it switched but it did. It’s funny, I’ve had conversations with one of my coaches from my NSA days and she used to tell me all the time in high school: You should be a coach you should be a coach! I’d be like: no I don’t want to be a coach! As I said, I had different goals going into college but maybe just the experience or something along the way maybe changed for me And now look where we are now.
Celeste elaborated “I was just fortunate with the opportunities I’ve been blessed with. Penn State just sort of happened. I got asked to do an interview and and that wound up working on both ends. I feel extremely fortunate for the opportunity, it happened and now I’m here. I don’t even know where my mind was at that time, in terms of still playing, with That’s because I practiced but only played a couple of games so if that point I think I was pretty much focused on career which is it which is fine, But I guess If I had stayed at Connecticut College I would have been a practice player agai. Who knows, maybe I could’ve played more games. it’s tough to really tell or to think what if…. But the focus was definitely on career at that point and this was Penn State. This place is incredible, and I think anyone in the world of college hockey knows the potential that it has. it was the right fit, and offered the opportunity to work for Jeff Ebersole. He’s a legend in the world of hockey coaching, so I just jumped on the opportunity and took it, and now I’m heading into my third season”
Celeste also offered these additional insights into her coaching career. “My first official coaching job was at Connecticut College. Of course you might coach kids or coach summer camps here and there but Connecticut College working for Kristen Steele was my first position. She’s the head coach there, and was a great mentor. And I really have always put priority on who you work for and what you can learn from them. That was one of the reasons that I picked to go to Conn because Kristen has mentored a lot of female coaches, coaches that are in great positions now. So that was the first gig and I don’t know it just took off”. She continued “I feel that you learn from everyone.Every coach I’ve played for I’ve learned something from. Incan think back, and maybe I wasn’t aware of it, but I can think back to things I learned from youth coaches that I use to this day. And it may not even be hockey coaches you learn from. I have really good friends that are basketball coachesOn the collegiate level and and I learned a ton from them. It’s not hockey, it’s just coaching. SomI have mentors in that realm too and they may not even be athletic coaches, maybe they’re teachers. There is a lot of similarities between teachers and coaches. Coaching is such a white umbrella you can kind of take anything you learn from anyone, anyone and may be your mentor.”
If you follow Cetacean Nation on any of our social media, you won’t be surprised about the next subject we delved into with Celeste: fishing. If you know anything about fishing, and you’re chatting with someone from Montana, you ask about fishing.. Come to find out, Celeste is an angler. She informed us “I do fish, I fly fish. I picked that up like three or four years ago and progressively got better. And now I’m to the point that I know what I’m doing and can go on my own. But I will not put myself in an an expert roll. I still have to learn some of the nuances because flyfishing is very intricate.”
Cetacean Nation agrees, and notes that Isaac Walton wrote in his seminal work The CompleatcAngler that “It can be said that fishing is so like mathematics , in that it can never be fully learned”
Celeste continued ”But it’s an unbelievable sport, it allows you to connect with nature and also clear your mind. You’re always applying and learning the skills which I think fuels enjoyment. I actually started to fly fish during my year At Connecticut College. I’ve always liked to fish but not like this. Of course you might go camping and bring a casting outfit, and might throw in there, but I was never really into it. My sister’s boyfriend is a really good fly fisherman. We had an opportunity to float a river in Montana for five days, basically fly fished down the river. It’s a huge flyfishing river named the Smith River. That first trip was when I got introduced to it and I was not very good at it because you really have to learn it. So that was the first year and then when I came to Penn State, I thought well, I actually enjoyed that and I would like to get good at it. So I took some lessons to learn more and just kind of stuck with it, but not as much as I would’ve liked. The next summer I got a little bit better and then again this last summer a little bit better. And I again I got to do that Smith River float I was home for a little bit more time and was able to go out and learn some more. And now like I said, I’m on the level where I can go out by myself now or with my friends here at Penn State. I can go fish and still be learning, it’s pretty awesome actually.”
Celeste added “This year when I was on the Smith it was unbelevable for fishing. My sister says she thinks I’ve been tainted. The fishing was unreal Basically you could pick any fly and paint the bottom black, because the cicadas were out and if you can get it to go where it needed to go you were catching something. And on the last day I caught like a handful of massive trout They were brown trout in that area. Anncouple of other people in our group caught rainbows throughout the five days. it was just unreal. Noting against fishing in Pennsylvania, I mean I know it’s good. But I have not caught a fish that size here, so I guess I am a little bit tainted:) But I’m so fortunate to be where I’m from. It is challenging fishing in Pennsylvania, not that is it isn’t a challenging in Montana but it’s a different kind of challenge. I talk to the people at the fly shop and they tell me you’ll become a better fisherman out here, and I say: OK, don’t chirp Montana, It’s a different world out there! It’s tough I tell people it’s unbelievable and they should go, but then I think: Should I really be telling him to come here? I don’t know, it’s a double edge sword. You want to tell him to go there, but you don’t want to tell him to go there.)
We concluded our chat with Celeste’s by asking her whether she thought women’s hockey was moving in the right direction, She stated emphatically “100% It is moving in the right direction! I don’t think you can even argue that it’s not.It’s growing both on the youth level and collegiate level. And on the professional level I don’t know what exactly is going on this year, but I think it will grow. Like you alluded to earlier, it’s like a Lay’s Potato Chip, you can’t eat just one. You can’t watch just one game you’ll be back for more. The more people who experience it the one time get kind of hooked. It’s really weird how it works, but they are hooked! They think: Yeah, that was actually legit! It’s just a matter of getting those people more and more hooked but it’s moving in the right direction. Women’s hockey has a ton of not only aesthetic qualities, but for youth girls, it’s empowering and helps him with a lot of different life skills. And it teaches them that they can use those skills that they learned athletically and apply them to life, whether it be critical thinking in a new situation, or communication skills with your teammates. All of that I only see as positive things from the sport because that’s how I choose to look. It’s just a matter of everyone that isbin the hockey world who is involved now to positively promote and build the sport. I think that anyone who’s experienced the sport and understands it, and it has done something for them is optimistic about the sport. Whether you’re playing it, or you’re a fan or you have a family member who plays, anything. it could be the smallest sort of ounce of connection, and you can understand the benefits to it.”
We thank our amazing #42 Celeste Brown, and hope the stars continue to align for her. And we wish her and her Penn State squad the best of luck the rest of the season. Fins Up Forever Celeste!