HALEY PAYNE: Eye Of The Tiger

On the third weekend in a October this year, one of  the newest member of Bray’s Bunch, our #5 Haley Payne, shuffled off to Buffalo for a two game set against the Beauts. With only a handful of practices under her belt, Haley seemed likely to see only limited action that weekend. And so it was, until late in the second period, when a game misconduct to our #12 Kendra Broad placed Haley smack in the middle of a furious Whale comeback attempt. She was suddenly a key member of The Most Exciting Team in Hockey. And one look into her eye of the tiger, and you knew she was ready. Here’s how Haley explained it.

 “I was signed two weeks before that (series) and had about four practices. And then we were up to Buffalo that weekend, somfirst road trip, first two games. I had a couple of shifts here and there, and I remember going out there and I was like : we’re kind of in a rut right now” with the score. And the penalties were like back and forth all game, and I knew we needed one because I think we were down at the time. I was out there with Hanna Beattie and Maddie Evangelous and we kind of crashed the points and we had a 3 on 2 and we ended up going in and before we knew it the puck was in the back o the net. It all went so quickly. It was a very strange game, a lot of time in the box”

Haley scored that goal, the first of her NWHL career, to cut the lead to one, although the Pod was unable to catch the Beauts that day. Leading up to those first two games, Cetacean Nation was curious about Haley’s perception of her limited stint thus far as a Whale, and she highlighted the practices in her reply.

 “i think the first practice was a little bit of a wakening. I think the thing that was different was the tempo. Just doing drills, I would say the passes were much crisper, it was a little quicker and you’ve got to stay with everyone. I feel when I was with Sacred Heart, University, the little mistakes you could capitalize on by covering up with other plays or something like that. But with these girls it’s high tempo. They are always moving and even the littlest mistake in a drill can mess things up. I think you have to be confident in every pass, every play, you always have to be aware of what’s going to happen next, because as I said it was a quicker tempo.”,

We also talked with Haley about the  team, and she noted in particular the versatility of her teammates. “ A lot of the defenders do like to skate the puck. And Hanna said she played D all throughout college.” As for herself Haley explained'

"When I was a freshman and sophomore in college I played right wing, and coach had me at left wing some. But junior and senior year I played center. It’s like: you’re playing forward today, get out there :) I think when I was playing center I had a lot more confidence in my speed, because that’s kind of where my hockey IQ is at. Kind of helping out with the D, being more in the center of the ice. Bur I’ve had experience on both right and left wing and I think I like playing left wing better than right wing, I know the break outside is easier on right wing. But when you do get up the ice, that shot from the left side, I do think I get it off quicker. And it’s more of a harder shot from me than, going up the right wing, I have more power down the left as well.”

So how did it come about that Haley has brought her talents to the Pod? Haley told us:

“It all kind of happened so quickly! I graduated and I was living back at home, and probably about a month ago now, Bray reached out to me and asked would I be interested. And I said sure, why not? I wasn’t really doing much at the time, just looking for a job, so I came down to try-out and I loved it. And I thought it’s not only something to do for six months, but it’s something you love to do for six months. Why give it up now when you’ve got the opportunity? So I joined the team, and I love the team, they’re a great group of girls.It’s fun playing with kids from all over, and like I said, it’s a different tempo. These girls have played at the highest competitive level of hockey, and it’s good to kind of just jump tight in that with them. I am now actually living with two of my old teammates, so it all kind of worked out for me that it’s a team from Connecticut. So I have all my old teammates here, and my old friends. And it’s only about two hours from Boston, so it wasn’t too out of my comfort zone to jump right back into things.They are a great team,and they are a great coaching staff. It’s a lot of fun, it keeps you in shape, and like I said you get to play hoskey for a little bit longer.I’m having a blast,! And we have a couple of girls from Boston that I’ve actually played with in the past. I think it is a lot of fun!”

 Haley is one of six current Whale who are from Massachusetts. Her hometown is Braintree, and Cetacean Nation asked how little  Haley first got started in hockey. She related:

“My whole family was kind of a hockey family. All my older cousins played hockey, and my brother was actually a goalie. He’s two years older than me, and he started when he was 4 or 5 and I started when I was probably 4 or 5 as well. I always played with the boys, growing up. Charles River was my first travel team and I was with them from like U10 to U16 then I switched to the Islanders for a year. My parents friends were all hockey parents, so I was always hanging out with the boys at practice and was always on their teams. until,probably about until my freshman year of high school. That’s when I switched to girls hockey and did that for about two years, Then I actually played for Walpole Express under Anya Battaglino (Packer), she was my coach, it’s kind of a small world..She kind of helped me through the whole recruiting process. I knew playing for a high school team wasn’t going to get me far, it was just kind of a lower program. And I knew I had a lot more potential to play with girls who had more skills. So, I switched over to Walpole and I did two years there and then ended up at Sacred Heart. Growing up I was playing a bunch of different sports, but when it came time to choose one, I had to go with hockey, I played lacrosse and field hockey in high school as well. My lacrosse coach actually wanted me to go to Sacred Heart and play lacrosse and hockey, but I thought that would be a little too much to handle so I just stuck with one.”

 We also asked Haley if having a multi-sports background was helphful and she replied:

“I think so, because I think if I had just played hockey, I feel that at some point you just burn out, just like any other kid would. And I think playing all those other sports, you realize what you want to stick with, what sport you think you have the most potential to do, Sometimes when you just play one sport you don’t fully develop in that sport. If you don’t play others, you don’t really know what you’re good at and what you’re bad at. I did play softball, probably finished that in middle school. I was big into softball, I played for my town, I played for travel teams I was a big soccer kid too, every neerkend indoor and outdoor soccer. Just about everything.i was withr shortstop or catcher, if they needed one (Bats right, throws right) But I think growing up with all those different tactics and different sports kind of really developed me as a person and as an athlete.”

Haley attended Braintree High School in her hometown, and we asked if she had ever considered prep school. She stated “I took the test to go to private schools, I passed and was going to go to one bit I said “Know what, at this point I live like five steps from my high school and ther’s such a good education in Braintree Sciols and I just said I’ll stay here and play hockey somewhere else.I have my club team, and they are hpjust as competitive as some of the prep schools threes days so I might as well just stick with that.” Haley went on to have some of that great multi-sport career we mentioned, as a student-athletes at Braintree High, In addition to starring on the ice, she was Captain & MVP of the field hockey team, and Captain, MVP and an All-League selection with the lacrosse squad.

But not surprisingly, it was a game she had on the ice with the Braintree High Wamps that really piqued our interest. On the night of January 14; 2013 in a game for first place in their conference, Haley scored a hat trick, and then she scored a second hat trick. Both in that one single games! Six goals in one game is an amazing feat under any circumstance, even in the context of huge blow-out between vastly unevenly matched teams. But Haley’s six goals came in a game that was between two equally strong teams, with a final score of 6-4. Haley scored every goal that night for a Braintree and Cetacean Nation asked if she could give us some insight. And at the end of her reply, you can see the eye of the tiger we mentioned, as she thought back and said:

 “I don’t know what I had for dinner that day! I think at that time I was actually playing with the coach’s daughter Deirdre. I think it was my sophomore or junior year. And some of the girls from their travel teams were finally in high school at that point, so I had some help. We were playing our rival Weymouth, and I don’t know, we just kind of worked well together, a lucky puck or something. It ended up on my stick a lot, but I definitely remember that night. I think that even growing up, I hated to lose and I like to be a leader on the team, and I’m sure there was a little puck hoggin’ but, I I wanted to win, so.,, ;).” 

Cetacean Nation noticed that “eye of the tiger” part of Haley in her recruiting profile while she was going through the college selection process. She wrote at the time “I enjoy being part of a team and a leader of a team. I've been told, others look up to me as role model due to my unselfish playing style and off ice optimistic character and involvement with the team. I look forward to excelling in hockey everyday…” Her unselfish play is reflected in an almost perfect balance in the sixty points she went on to score at score in college: 32 goals and 28 assists. We asked Haley to tell us a little more about her views on being a team leader. She noted:

 “When I was in high school I was definitely one of the stronger players My coach, he never wanted to make me captain, never really wanted to give me anything. I don’t really know how to explain it. He really didn’t want to make me captain, he had. something against me. It’s all right without the letter on your jersey as long as you’re a leader on your team, that kind of can go a long way. We kind of struggled in high school and only had a few here and there who were actually competitive players so it was frustrating at times. Getting upset about a team or getting frustrated isn’t going to go a long ways. Sticking together does, and I sort if saw my self as a leader in that way. To keep the team together even though we did struggle here and there”

So how did it come about that Haley chose to continue her education at Sacred Heart University we asked? 

It was actually interesting. At first I didn’t really know if I wanted to,play competitive hockey in college. It happened so quickly,and I was sort of torn between hockey and lacrosse. And I didn’t know if I wanted to go to a D1 school, or D3 school and focus more on academics, My senior year playing with Walpole, me and another girl were kind of in contact with University of Maine. And Anya was like: “Yeah, they’re interesting, but you’d probably be more of a practice player. My brother actually went to UMaine so I was like: I love, the campus, I love the area. But then I was like: this isn’t really what I want to do, I am too competitive to just be a practice player and not be part of the actual team when it comes to games. So I visited Southern Maine and Saint Michael’s, but the campuses were too small for me. I was really committed to going to UMass Amherst and playing club hockey there. I loved the school, and it had very good academics. I was also in touch with Coach 0’Malley (Sacred Heart) and he said if you’re interested, come up for a visit, I thought it’s D1 hockey, the program has a lot to offer and it can go in the right direction in the future, which it has, it’s grown so much.”

When Haley finally decided on Sacred Heart, her Walpole Express Coach, our amazing former #4 Anya Battaglino Packer posted this on their website. “Haley Payne was one of our most significant game-changers -- such a coachable player that thrives in pressure situations. Throughout the scouting process she generated a lot of attention and we are so proud that she found a home that fit her needs, both academically and athletically.”
Naturally we asked Haley to tell us a bit about how things went at Sacred Heart. and replied:

“My freshman and sophomore years we weren’t the best, more tallies in the loss column. But it was definitely improving, and in my junior year we won the whole thing!. When I visited the school I wasn’t the biggest fan, it was kind of small. But it’s grown so much. There’s construction that’s been going on for four or five years now, and It ended up being the right choice, I loved the team. Tom O’Malley is a great coach and he’s an even better guy. He’s like everyone’s Uncle they want to have., I think I definitely made the right choice coming here great school, great program, and like I said, it’s growing.”

Sacred Heart agrees, and when Haley signed with the Whale, Coach O’ Malley wrote: " Congratulations to Haley on her signing a professional contract with the Connecticut Whale. I know that all of Haley's former teammates, and her coaches are very proud of her, and we wish her the very best in her professional career. Knowing Haley, and what she brings onto the ice everyday, will add greatly to the Connecticut Whales success this season. We wish Haley the best of luck and the rest of the team this season and we can't wait to see her play this year."

Haley continued speaking about Sacred Heart, saying:

 “We definitely got stronger and stronger as the years went on. We had a terrific goalie in my grade and she really stood on her head most of our games. But we also had such confidence in each other, and we grew as such a family. I think it was a big personality thing. Our.coach guided us in the right direction and he made sure that we were a family throughout those four years. And Ithink definitely by my junior and senior yea, we were very strong. Junior year was like a miracle. I feel it couldn’t have gotten any better from every aspect of the team and that is how we ended up winning everything towards the end”

So it was not a surprise when Haley referred back to that championship season when we asked her about her favorites memory at Sacred Heart. She elaborated

 “I would definitely say winning the NEWHA Championship. We were kind of struggling early in the season, we’d win here lose here we were tying some games. With our rivals Saint Anselm’s and Holy Cross we actually lost the first game. We played against Holy Cross, and the second game we ended up winning, and I think right then was kind of a turning point. We’d never beaten Holy Cross before,only lost or tied So we beat them and then we played Saint A’s about mid season and we lost both games. We thought that team has it, they’re going to win it all. We can’t beat them,there’s no way, they’re too good. But towards the end of the season we beat Franklin Pierce, and we then we played Holy Cross in the semi finals and Saint A’s in the championship. We ended up winning both games three to one I was on the first line with my two teammates Jayne Lewis and Taylor Moreland, and we had such a big impact. It was such a good feeling coming from a season we thought we were going to lose to both these teams we’ve never beaten before. It was just awesome to beat them both to win the whole title. To be such a part of it and be playing every other shift, actually feeling that you had an impact on the game was the the best feeling.. So that’s the moment I’ll remember from playing at Sacred Heart”

While at Holy Cross Haley wore the same #5 that she reps for the Whale, and we found her story of the genesis of that number interesting. She explained “I am a big fan of odd numbers. I was always three growing up, and then I was seven for a bit. I kind of just like the way number five looked on the jersey. I do like odd numbers and I like single numbers as well. I don’t like the way double digits look. There’s really no player background or anything like that. I think I turned number five my freshman year in high school up until then I had been on and off between three and five but nothing really interesting about it But I stuck with it.” Well Cetacean Nation thinks it is pretty cool explanation, and we had never really considered uniform numbers in quite that way.

 We concluded our chat with Haley by soliciting her thoughts on the NWHL. She stated  “I think I first found out about the league when Anya started playing for them. I had no idea what the league was, when she said she was part of the Connecticut Whale. We were texting one day and she said she was living in Stamford. I said what are you doing up here and she said she was working and playing for the Whale. That’s kind of the first time I ever heard about the league, I had never been to a game It was really exciting because for one it was professional women’s hockey and how often do you hear about that? I think it’s great how it’s grown and how much of a leader Anja was in the league and still is. And for me coming from her coaching, it was cool to see her as big voice and face of this league. I think it was cool to see how many Olympic athletes were playing and the how the skill level was so high. Just so many strong athletes from all these different schools, who all came together to play, who were once arrivals. I think that was very interesting. and I’m excited to see where it goes."

Cetacean Nation thanks our amazing rookie #5 Haley Payne for her insightful and candid insights to her vareer, as seen through the ete of the tiger. Fins Up!

Haley withthe puck she buried in the net for her first NWHL goal. Photo a courtesy Bryan Johnson