WHALE’S TALES 9/29/30: Whole Lotta’ Shakin’ Goin’ On!


Season Six is still several months away, but the movers and shakers in the world of sports have gotten things going, We have a Stanley Cup Champ, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The NBA, WNBA & MLB playoffs are in progress, and the NWHL and NWHL Players’ Association have been super active this offseason. There are over 100 players signed for 2021, including twenty-two by our Pod: two goalies, twelve forwards and eight defenders. And it is a balanced roster, with fourteen veterans, two first year players, and six rookies. The Most Exciting Team In Hockey has been busy! They have also expanded the front office and increased their social media presence and quality. The Isobel Cup vibe is there, and will grow now week by week. A whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on!

NEW PARTNER

Last week a partnership with Hyperice was announced. According the the NWHL press release, it was “a product of a new committee created by the NWHL and NWHL Players’ Association this offseason. The committee’s goal is to enhance the player experience by identifying brands genuinely investing in women in sports, and who see the value of endorsing and partnering with the more than 120 professional female athletes in the NWHL this season. The committee is comprised of league executives, current partners, and NWHLPA leadership and players” “Our Hyperice partnership provides all of the athletes of the NWHL with top-level performance products to enhance their development and help them excel through the grind of an intense season,” said NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan Kearney. “We thank the team at Hyperice for their meaningful support of the NWHL and their dedication to advancing women’s hockey at the professional level in the U.S. and Canada.” Hyperice has also acquired our league partner NormaTec, and information about both these amazing enterprises can be found here on this website on our NWHL Sponsors page.

RIVS CLOSER TO DANBURY AGAIN

Cetacean Nation, can you say road trip! On 9/13/20 the NWHL announced that the Metropolitan Riveters would being calling Monclair State University Rink, the former Floyd Hall facility, their new home. Our former Amazing, #3 Kayla Meneghin, has a long history with that rink, so we s asked her to comment. She told us

"I think the Riveters moving to Montclair State University is huge for them and girls hockey in general. Montclair State is my home rink, it was the first place I saw women playing hockey and I wanted to join them as soon as I saw girls on ice! Growing up, the Quarry Cats played there and getting older they became the Montclair Blues (two of Kayla’s youth squads). So it makes me really happy to see that the girls playing for the Blues will have the Riveters as role models to look up to!"

Montclair State Is about an hour closer for the Whale fans that comprise Cetacean Nation than ProSkate in Monmouth Juncion. Just a little further than Barnabas was, with a train station on campus, just up the street, And Dunkin’ Donuts on campus as well! ! Fins Up to four more “almost home games” next season!

HOUSEKEEPING

We have changed our address on Twitter due to some technical issues Twitter is having. Our new Twitter page is @CetaceanHockey, so if you haven’t already, please follow us there, Our old page @nation_cetacean is still there to view previous posts, but we will not be updating it, at least at this point. If you have tried to send us a DM there, please re-send it to the new page, or one of our other social media platforms. As always we are also on Instagram: cetacean_nation_hockey and Facebook: Cetacean Nation Hockey. And we do post weekly online in the Danbury Patch patch.com/connecticut/danbury Neighbor section. Fins Up!

WHALE’S TALES 9/1/20: News & Views From The Other Side Of The Glass

As we move into the final third of continuing dire straights of 2020, there are s few positives. Silver linings among the dark clouds. This past week, we some good from the “Other Side of the Glass”. New Whale GM Amy Scheer got right to work and added two key front office pieces in Juliana Nikac and Amanda Zanghi. Amy told us

"Amanda is going to focus on revenue for us, really the day to day of bringing in sponsors. And once we understand from a Covid perspective what we can do in terms of ticket sales, she’ll focus on ticket sales as well. Juliana Nikac will oversee our social and digital media for the club. So two great young professionals who will add a lot to the team this year! I couldn’t be more excited than to be working with these two young ladies. it’s going to be a fun year and they are going to contribute at a high-level for sure. They are both professionals and are very good at their job,."

As you know, we have been sharing input from several of the fans that make up Cetacean Nation. Both in our “Other Side of the Glass Series” here, in various editions of Whale’s Tales, and then in our “Not A Whale But… interviews. In the latest edition, our input comes from Tom LaRocca (@tomlarock27) who told us about the Whale and the NWHL are important to him. We loved his responses and think you will too. He begab

“The NWHL is important to me because it allows me and my girlfriend to grow closer. It’s a bond we share, something in which she introduced me to at the start of our relationship and I instantly took an interest in. I’ve had so much fun at the games whether it was a regular season game rooting for the Pod or the All-Star Weekend in Boston this year. I think it’s also important to me because it really opened my eyes as to how skilled these players really are. Watching them play in person is a whole different experience. The fan interactions are also a huge part of my interest. I have never attended a hockey game and met the players after, so to be able to do that after every game always makes my day. I always ask my girlfriend if we can stay after to say hello.”

“I think the NWHL is important in general because it gives women a platform to play a sport they love. Sports are meant to be inclusive and allow everyone the same chance to play, gain exposure and garner fans. Having a league like the NWHL does so much for women in sports, especially young girls who want to play hockey at the professional level. I hope to one day have a daughter and for her to be interested in hockey and know that there is a platform like the NWHL where she can play."

“What makes the Whale so important is that it brings hockey back to Connecticut and does an amazing job of showcasing talent. I think our players also make the Pod so special. Players like Doyle, Brickner, Orlando and so many others who just have passion for the game and the team. That type of energy on the Whale really is something so special and makes the team really stand out among the others.”

We also asked Tom about how he got interested in hockey. He explained

 “I first got interested in hockey at a young age, probably 5 or 6. I always loved sports but I just took extra interest in hockey for some reason. I’m a huge fan of the New York Rangers but just love the game of hockey so much that I enjoy watching most teams and all sorts of leagues. I did play hockey, played for 8 seasons in a dek hockey league. I only just learned how to skate this past year with the help of my girlfriend. I always wanted to learn how to and she showed me, which was so fun. I definitely enjoy playing any chance I get which as of lately, isn’t too much because of the pandemic. Growing up and now, I’m also a big baseball fan and really enjoy watching and playing that sport as well. Love my New York Mets!”

He added “What I’m most excited for this season is the Whale. The roster is stacked and we’re riding off some good energy from last season. I’m super excited to see The 6 in action too. I’m glad the league expanded and I think they’ll do super well up there. I’m hoping fans will be allowed to attend this year, but will understand if they aren’t due to the pandemic, I’d love to get back to some games.”

When we asked about Tom’s favorite NWHL moment, he to,d us

 “My favorite NWHL memory probably is meeting Anya Packer. We drove to ProSkate in NJ to watch the Whale take on the Rivs. I knew Anya was gonna be there so the whole drive down I’m nervous. We finally get there and I’m looking around nervously. Finally, second period rolls around and I stand up (sporting a season 1 Anya jersey) and she sees it and waves frantically. So now I’m waving frantically and I’m like we need to go and say hello. We head up to the broadcast booth and she gives me a big hug. She is such a kind person and so fun to talk to. She was happy to take a photo with me and sign a puck to add to my collection. We ended up speaking after the game for almost an hour and I was so happy that she took the time to talk to us. I mean that’s definitely one of my favorite memories but I have so many more, between meeting the players after the first Whale game we attended, meeting Sam Faber at LIU and attending the All-Star weekend in Boston.”

These experiences and feelings that Tom has are awesome, but here’s the thing. In this league, with this team, you can build a memory bank as full as Tom’s. The other fans in Cetacean Nation already know this, the players love enabling this, and now here’s a perfect outline for any new fan wondering if they should give the NWHL and the Whale a tumble. Short answer: absolutely! Longer answer: See above. Final answer: Do it and pay it forward, and let us share your story too! Fins Up to that idea, and to the great content from Tom. See you around the rink! 

WHALE'S TALE'S 8/22/20: The Odd Uneven Time

The poet Sylvia Plath referred to late summer, in her beautifully melancholic way, as “The odd uneven time.” This summer, now two-thirds complete is nothing if not odd and uneven. But hockey is happening, in the NWHL, at camps and clinics, and plans are being put in place for prep and college campaigns. Eventually, January in fact, our NWHL will begin Season Six, and iprior to that, we’ll have an extended pre-season. It is all odd and uneven, but so is everything else at the moment.

It got us to thinking about last summer. On the way to a baseball game late August, we stopped at a small diner. And one of the breakfast specials was “three eggs as you like it", not the normal "three eggs any style" usually offered. In his play “As You Like It “ Shakespeare penned the line that offered the idea that "All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players." So true, when you really think about it, But true as well, we are not all Meryl Streep. Mike Francesca, a New York sports radio personality may not be your cup of tea, but he has had a few gems over his career, that much is certain. He once said the biggest thing most sports fans don’t understand, is just how good pro athletes are. We think that statement, as well as the Shakespeare/Streep thought, most definitely pertain to the NWHL. These athletes are the 1% of the 1% and their skill level is through the roof.

In our interview with Whale Assistant Coach Mike Bonelli he pointed out “when you look at the players on the Whale, those are very special athletes.” And our former GM Bray Ketchum Peel, is to be credited for putting together most of the very special athletes we’ll be cheering for on the Whale this season. Yes, we said former, because Bray has left to devote full time to an educational career. No official word, but it’s unlikely Bray is finished with hockey. When you’ve been at it since you were a little girl, like Bray and the rest of the players that reach this level, it is part of you. Always. If you weren’t that familiar with Bray's remarkable career both on and off the ice, or would just like to reminisce, check out her interview on the website (Bray Ketchum Peel: The Architect of Bray’s Bunch nwhl-cetaceans.com/444782933) or see what Marine Devillers had to say about Bray as well on this site (Second Home nwhl-cetaceans.com/445471091) So all of the fans of Cetacean Nation wish Bray all the best, and look forward to seeing where her journey takes her. As always, we will keep you abreast as best we can. Because Once A Whale, Always A Whale!

And a big Fins Up welcome to our new GM, Amy Scheer. Amy comes to the Pod with a Whale of a resume in front office sports management. She is familiar with the market and has been an innovative, cutting edge mover and shaker wherever she has gotten involved. The season doesn’t begin until January, and we’ll have gotten to know Amy a lot more by then, as we start to see the things she brings to the table.

Some Whale coaching news the last couple of weeks too. Our amazing rookie Melissa Samoskevich, who helped coach at Quinnipiac last season, has been named Assistant Coach out in Hockey Valley for the Penn State Women’s Hockey squad. Also in the a Big Ten our former #44 Zoe Hickel has accepted a position as Assistant Coach at Ohio State, so Fins Up to that. Former Penn State Assistant, our former #42 Celeste Bown, has returned to her alma mater and take over the reins for the RIT Women’s Hockey program. In another recent development, our former #3 Kayla Meneghin, now skating for the Buffalo Beauts, has become co-owner of KayRad hockey development (Website; https//www.facebook.com/KayRadHockey/) Fins Up and best of luck in these new their endeavors to Bray, Amy, Melissa, Zoe , Celeste and Kayla!

And last but not least, the Whale stand at the moment with twenty-two players under contract, after signing the amazing rookie Draft Pick Maddie Bishop from Sacred Heart. Those twenty-two,players include a dozen forwards, eight blue liners, and a pair of goalies, and represent 14 veterans, 2 first year NWHLers, and 6 rookies. Fins Up to that too!

WHALE’S TALES 8/1/20: A NEW QUINQUENNIAL

                     

A few days ago, the NWHL announced their updated plans for starting Season Six. We will be moving into the second quinquennial (five year period) of our first decade, in January of 2021. The NWHL and the NWHLPA have put together a solid plan to bring the players back to the rinks, and you can read the announcement below. https://www.nwhl.zone/news/nwhl-announces-season-6-timeline 

Since it is the latest start of any of the pro leagues after the cessation of play due to Covid, there will be ample time to observe what works and what doesn’t with the other leagues. It will be a vexing task to accomplish, but the league has the opportunity to make this as safe and viable as possible. Cetacean Nation is confident they will. What it will look like exactly, is unclear. But we all need to be preparing ourselves for the new normal of our sport as fans, just as the Whale are doing as athletes.

It has been a busy offseason for General Manager Bray Ketchum Peel, and she has accomplished what she set out to do: add scoring and size to the squad and return a core group of veteran Whale. After a strong finish to the NWHL's fifth season, she has wasted no time in assembling the component parts of Bray’s Bunch that Coach Colten Orr will need to finish the push to the Isobel Cup Championship next season. The Whale already have twenty players under contract including that strong core of 13 veteran members of the Pod, two prize veterans playing their first NWHL season, and five highly regarded rookies. They represent the 11 forwards, 7 defenders and two goaltenders that comprise the roster. Another one or two high profile additions could be announced before play begins. And looking ahead to Season Six, our opponents in the NWHL are currently home to six former members of the Pod. At least one player with Whale roots skates on every team. They are Emma Greco, Shiann Darkangelo, ans Kelly Babstock with Toronto; Kayla Meneghin with Buffalo; Sonjia Shelly with the Riveters; Amanda “Boo” Boulier with the Whitecaps and Kaleigh Fratkin with Boston.

             TRI AS WE MAY

We had posted during this past week about our former #24 Nicole Stock our former goalie, turned Ironman Triathlete. It was a year ago she had a terrific race up on the Whistler, BC course. You can read about her preparation and race in a couple of her stories on this site. We touched base with Nicole this week, and she gave us some updates, including a new line item on her resume. She told us

“It is crazy to think about how different things look after a year. As you mentioned Lake Placid Ironman was cancelled, and this was supposed to be my week of vacation following my Ironman. Instead, my summer has looked very different, with much less bike and run time. We are trying to figure out the plan for our kids coming back to campus (at Lawrenceville School in NJ where she works and coaches) and what all that looks like to best protect our students and faculty. It is a crazy time. I saw the Whale season was postponed until at least the new year. Hopefully it will be able to come back this season even if on a shortened schedule. I am just happy that the NHL is back. I need that right now, to take my mind off of things. I am currently registering for my level 2 reffing certification as I decided to go that route last year and spent my first year reffing in NJ. So hopefully I will be able to climb the ladder a bit and ref womens hockey at a higher level down the road. Other than that just trying to stay safe. I did get my Ironman Lake Placid registration pushed to 2021 so I will be doing next year's event given Corona is under control!” We will certainly be looking forward to that, and we offered this thought to Nicole: since she has now added referee to her list of hockey achievements along with player and coach, we think she has completed a unique Hockey Triathlon as well! Fins Up

UPDATE. 8/5/20: in our continuing conversation with our amazing former #10 Kaliya Johnson, we discussed what comes after the sadness, outrage and sense of injustice. We have to find a watpybforward. But who exactly is we? Kaliya had some measured thoughts which we believe are important to share. She told us

"My personal opinion is that white people need to realize this and try and change. This is a problem created by white people and it needs to be fixed by them. Not only because they are the only ones who can bring actual change, but because black people are oppressed because of it. It’s not a problem we created or asked for. Once people realize it’s a white problem they need to fix, rather then a black problem they need to help, then we will get somewhere. Recognizing and owning is how we move forward" Recognizing and owning that it is a white problem, not a black problem."

That is also why keeping the issue front and center is important. Legislation is important too, but laws are broken quite often and can have loopholes or caveats. People’s hearts and minds need to change, so that laws are embraced. So that “We the People” means all of us. White people’s hearts and minds have to embrace who we really are, rather than who we pretend we are. .If the racism was only emanating from white supremacy groups, that problem could be addressed quickly. But if a person tolerates racism or ignores history, then they are culpable. They are defacto members of a white supremacy club. In our hearts, Cetacean Nation still want to believe that if a person can be good, then by extension, a people can be good. But it starts with each of us as individuals. We all have to ask, what's in our hearts.

 

WHALE'S TALE'S 7/6/20: TURN! TURN! TURN

 

To everything There is a season And a time to every purpose, under heaven... A time to build up, a time to break down... A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together… A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing... A time to gain, a time to lose…Turn! Turn! Turn! The Byrds

CONUNDRUM

Each line can be reimagined, accurately, as an allegorical the process by which a team is constructed in the offseason. And for the Most Exciting Team in Hockey, A little less time is now left (hopefully) before the first Whale puck drop. And our GM, the amazingBray Ketchum Peel has now, with the addition of #1 Pick Kayla Friesen, assembled fifteen pieces in the construction of Bray’s Bunch 2020-2021 continues. Sixteen members of the Pod who were on the roster roat seasons end, remain free agents at this point. Doubting the likelihood of a thirty-one player roster, at least some of them will not be returning to the Pod. That’s just the math. The larger picture can be stated quite simply. Even with the expansion to Toronto, there are more pro quality players than there are roster spots for them. Women’s hockey is growing, the NWHL is thriving. The women want to play, the fans want to watch. There is an ever growing player pool. Growing faster in fact, than the league, which is the historical model. The gradations between the levels of players, those who earn spots, those who don’t, is minimal.

Our former #12 Jamie Goldsmith pointed this out to us a couple of years ago. “The margin of talent at this level is so much closer together than any level I have played before. There is not a huge huge difference between the Olympians, and the players that just miss the cut for their respected national teams, and the players just below that.” And as the NWHL stands poised for Season Six, there will be players league wide who do not find a slot on a team, and those who want to join, but are unable to. And not solely based on comparative talent. As we saw in our recent interview with Colleen Murphy, geography is a huge part. So to everything there is a season, and once again we confront the conundrum. The larger player pool reflects the sport moving in the right direction. It also the reason, along with the financial reality of the league at this point, that things secondary to talent are a factor in construction of rosters.

COVID

As pro sports start gearing up, Covid is already impacting some teams, and every league. It seems everyday, there are reports of new Covid cases detected among players and staff in the various sports. All the other leagues have protocols in place I in sure the health of the players, but not all seem to be working. And several players are opting out of coming back at this point. And although the setbacks are vexing and have ruinous potential, things are, and will be learned. To put it bluntly, the NWHL, with a later projected start date, we will benefit from their mistakes, oversights or flawed protocols. And hopefully have a Covid-Free environment to skate back to. But until there is a vaccine, the jeopardy will remain. It is roughly four months since things came to a halt, a blink of an eye in a lifetime. There will be a new normal that we embrace, but it too might be wearing a mask.

CHICKENS

Most things on the plus side of the Covid equation are not much of a comfort, But there have been some, and some relate to our sport. With gyms, and other exercise related facilities remain closed in many areas, and our Pod has had to get creative in their early offseason workouts. Home gyms were constructed or enhanced, and several,of the players and coaches, continue to share conditioning tips and hockey drills, including Laurel Hill, and Katelynn Russ. We’ve seen driveways, backyards and basements turned into mini training facilities, we’ve seen duffle bags filled with books as weights for squats and lunges, and bleach and detergent bottles doubling as dumbbells. And Melissa Samoskevich spoke in her interview about chasing chickens back into their coop, ala Rocky! But things are coming around at this point. Allie LaCombe has the Hockey Lab up and running now in Nashville, and Grace Klienbach has been on the ice with 14/94 Hockey in Philadelphia. And a trio of Amazings, Shannon Doyle, Brooke Wolejko and Sarah Hughson will be hosting a clinic back at our old digs, Terry Conners Rink in Stamford. And, our former #33 Assistant Coach Laura Brennan has geared uo her new enterprise The Goalie Pad. So, if we can mask both ourselves and our skepticism, and maintain social distancing, perhaps this trend towards normalcy will continue. And normalcy, for The Most Exciting Team in Hockey, means just one thing right now: beginning the push towards Isobel, and bringing her to Danbury where she belongs. Fins Up to that!

WHALE'S TALES 6/15/20: JULOON


“One poem for each summer that we traveled together. The other nine months of the year were really only a preparation.” Suddenly Last Summer by Tennessee Williams, 1958

“One summer never ends, one summer never began” Suddenly Last Summer by Martha Davis, 1983

Summer has played for most of this current century to mixed reviews. Culutural, societal and economic influences have combined to leave summer as runner-up to fall in popularity. That is in normal times, which are in scarce supply these days.. And those thoughts above on summer, melancholic at best, seem apropos in the annus horribilis that 2020 has revealed itself to be. When we need the joy that summer can bring more than ever, the only thing certain, is uncertainty. The summer, whatever it is going to be, stretches before us now. Maybe that is part of the problem with summer, it seems too long. It is hard to qualify because of how it has been quantified. So let’s break it down,at least into two parts. The first and most important part in our opinion is Juloon. Juloon is that ephemeral time of year between mid-June and mid-July, approximately. It is not defined by equinoxes and solstices, it is defined by . Borrowing it’s name from the sixth and seventh months, albeit somewhat phonetically, Perhaps Tennessee Williams should have asked for two poems to cover the summer: one for Juloon, one for the rest of the season. At any rate, Juloon is upon us and we must decide if the summer it harkens will truly ever begin, We think it will. Not as we have known it, not as we would want it, but perhaps as we need it. Hey, how bad can can it be sitting around a campfire, or on a beach, or in your backyard listening to summer hockey? Looks like we are about to find out, we reckon.

All InThe Family

Cetacean Nation, based upon your reactions to our “Other Side of the Glass” interviews and our “Not A Whale But…” stories, we are introducing a new series featuring more of the same. But with a twist. This new series of interviews will feature input from the families of our amazing Pod players, discussing their love of the NWHL and the Whale, and giving us some insight into our players from their families perspective. As Elizabeth Barret Browning might have said “How do we love our Whale? Let us count the ways! “ And when we tote all of those ways up, we can now include the “All In The Family” series as one of those ways! Our first offering in this new series comes from Jerry Orlando, our amazing #14 Elena Orlando’s Dad, and will be found on the toolbar among the group of articles below the player’s interviews here: https://v4.simplesite.com/#/pages/446355344?editmode=true

 

Bray’s Bunch

Still a lot of time left before the first Whale puck drop, and it has already been a busy offseason for our GM, the amazing Bray Ketchum Peel. Bray’s Bunch has reached thirteen players as of early today, more than half the roster. Bray has brought back a several of the key core players from last season, and added some exciting rookies and first year players. She has already signed four draft picks, equaling the combined franchise totals from the previous seasons. More to come, stay tuned! The tools of building a roster cut both ways. We have had to say goodbyes and hellos each offseason, and this year is no exception. Abbie Ives, Amanda Conway, Maggie LaGue, Melissa Samoskevich and Tori Howran are recent additions, and Sonjia Shelly has signed with the Riveters. Once a Whale Always a Whale, so Fins Up Forever Sojo!

WHALE'S TALES 6/2/20: RACISM


Cetacean Nation has asked our former #10 Kaliya Johnson to share with her fans, both new and old, her feelings and thoughts in these most volatile times, on the subject of racism. Here is Kaliya's message:

 "There is so much to say as I wrote this over and over again. From the angry me, from the sad me, and the hurt me. So here it is, you get the tired and fed up me."

"I am hurt that I had to see another African American life taken unjustly."

"I am sad for the family members of George Floyd who had to watch their loved one killed on video by a cop with a vengeance as he pleaded for his life."

"I am disgusted that this isn’t the first time, and probably won’t be the last, that yet another black person is killed because of the racism that has been systematically built into this country."

"I am angry because it took riots for people to finally start listening and seeing us. It should have never come to this, but it has"

“A riot is the language of the unheard” - MLK

"How I feel is all over the place, but what I do know is that my feelings are valid. I don’t always do well expressing myself so I decided to write a letterr."

Dear Fans,

"I am sick and tired of seeing black people being portrayed as “thugs” in the media or being killed because of the color of their skin. Because guess what, I am one of those “thugs”. I am a black woman living in a country that has set me up to fail."

"I don’t get the luxury of walking into the store that sells expensive things without being looked at like “she doesn’t belong here, she must be lost”. Or just simply not being helped because I don’t “look” like I can afford anything in the store."

"I don’t get put at the front of the restaurant if I decided that I didn’t feel like dressing up that night and opted for a more casual look of jeans and hoodie. I get put in the BACK."

"I don’t get to feel relaxed when I get pulled over by a cop while they question me about my car and if it’s actually mine."

"I don’t get to walk into a room and not be immediately judged by the color of my skin.There is so much more."

"Silence is complicit. Being complicit is deadly."

"Well It shouldn’t take me writing this for my pain to be recognized. I’ve seen posts on social media saying "I’m with you" and "I see you". But not until something is done, and people are educated about the history of this country, then you will truly see me. Because trust me, that little history lesson you learned in school during Black History month doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface."

"Until you realize the cold hard truth about your privilege you won’t feel my pain. Here are a few differences between white privilege and black reality."

"When we are young and have “the talk” with our parents it’s not the same talk that white people have with their kids. At the age of 5 and 6 black children are no longer seen as handsome and cute but are suddenly seen as a threat. Black children, especially young black men, are told that when they are approached by an officer they are to put their hands up and announce who they are and that they are not a threat. And when we’re older and can drive, we are told to drive with our wallet in the cupholder and not in our purse or packet because we dare not reach for that bag while a cop is present. Reaching for a bag can be seen as a threat, simply because you’re black. I’m fairly certain that my white friends haven’t had to think twice about reaching into a bag for their license when they get pulled over. That’s called privilege. Look it up."

"Look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I using my privilege for good or am I just going about my life?” Think about how you can make a change within yourself and those around you. If you don’t know how to do that, then let’s have a conversation. We all have biases, conscious and unconscious. It’s what we do and how we act on those biases that becomes the issue."

"Myself, and so many others, are tired, so tired, of having our loved ones die because people aren’t willing to stand up and make a change. I’m tired of people posting online when a murder happens and then forgetting about the injustice until the next murder happens. Black people are not a social media campaign that you can just jump on for clout. We are human beings and we’re tired. We are begging for change in this country we call home. So when all the social media buzz dies who will be standing by me with the same energy, focus, and attention to this?"

"I could be next. All lives don’t matter until black lives matter."

Ways to take action:

"Have conversations with your friends and family about privilege Call people out when you see someone being treated unfairly and unjustly Donate to social justice organizations who are supporting black communities Have honest conversations with your black friends about your privilege and how you can make changes."

"Read books and educate yourself on the history of racism in America. Don’t only rely on your black friends to tell you about the racism they face."

"Be kind to everyone you meet. If you find yourself judging someone, stop yourself and think about how your biases are adding to the problem."

"Come November, vote. Vote for a leader and local leaders who will make changes for every American. All lives don’t matter until black lives matter."

"Research and follow new social media pages @theconsciouskid @shiftingtheculture"

"Follow hashtags to stay updated on continuing action #blacklivesmatter"

"Continue to educate yourself"

Kaliya Johnson

WHALE'S TALES 5/10/20: LIFE DURING WARTIME

 

"This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, This ain't no fooling around" here  Life During Wartime, The Talking Heads

At this point, regardless of where in the world you reside, we’re pretty sure by this tome everyone can agree with the above. The Covid-19 is not a one off, and can’t be ignored.. It is intertwined in everyone’s life, and in every interview we’ve done the past couple of months.with our amazing Pod. It has impacted all of us, and sharing how we are dealing with it is something we need to hear and to say. Some of those whose interviews you read on this site are also among those on the front lines as healthcare workers, putting on different gloves and masks these days. They include Kate Buesser, Grace Klienbach, Elena Orlando, Maddie Evangelous, and the Gamer Doc Lindsey Migliore. And many of our sponsors and partners areAnd, many of the draftees have signed, and as of this date, our Whale have officially announced the signing of the amazing Tori Howran, who you will meet on these pages shortly. the fight, as well as many fans in Cetacean Nation. So our gratitude is unbounded, and we preserve their stories here not just as heroes on the ice, but everyday heroes off it as well. The world has changed once again, and now even our youngest players, the Little Future Draft Picks, have seen it. And whatever the world looks like at the end of all this, hockey will be a component.

Humans are the most adaptable critters on this planet. We have figured out how to stay submerged longer than, well, a Whale in fact. We can travel on land faster than a cheetah. We can fly higher than any bird, to the moon even. We have learned how to survive in the polar regions, the tropics, the deserts, and the mountains. We communicate planet wide in essentially real time. As a species we have survived the most trying of nature and our own machinations for self destruction. So the pandemic? This too shall pass. Or, we’ll adapt to it. A life during wartime, as they said during WWII, for the duration.

The recently completed NWHL Draft, held over two nights, was flat out the best thing in sports since the pandemic shut everything down. Innovative, entertaining, informative and a shot in the arm to a battle weary sports world. The Draft honored the players selected and their great careers. And that doesn’t change if they never play a game for the team that selected them, or never even play again at all. It was an uplifting celebration of women, reflected in their selection, and in many cases by their awesome presenters. Nothing subsequent can change the magic if the moment. And, many of the draftees have signed, and as of this date, our Whale have officially announced the signing of the amazing Tori Howran, who you will meet on these pages shortly.

Additionally, as each season goes by, more and more players at higher levels aspire to play in the NWHL. And even with the expansion into Toronto, there are still more elite level female hockey players than there are roster spots. Again, that is something that augers well for the growth of the league and the game. But there is a caveat. The president of the Toronto franchise, Digit Murphy, posts little nuggets of wisdom in her videos in her “37 seconds because Title IX only has 37 words” series. She recently spoke of the relatively small pool that female hockey players are metaphorically swimming in. No metaphor as it concerns the Whale, but we digress. Point being, although the sport is growing, it is not an ocean yet that we are swimming in, it’s the same small pool Digit mentioned. So think of it as our quarantine situation: you keep bumping into the same people over and over. It’s like that in women’s hockey by the time you get to this level. So to use another terminology of Digit’s, we have to learn to play in the same sandbox. And thanks to the NWHL, we have a sandbox. It can become a beach one day, to accommodate the ocean of talent. We may be living life during wartime. but the fighting shouldn’t be among our own ranks. We will all be skating on the same ice again some day. Sooner rather than later seems a good idea to us. Come and expand the sand. Fins Up and stay safe, Season Six is getting closer!

WHALES TALES 4/27/20: OH, CANADA

The NWHL announced on April 22nd that the league would expand to Toronto for the 2020-2021 season. And legendary coach and women’s hockey advocate Digit Murphy will be running the franchise. Digit had these comments in in a NWHL press release and her social media:

"This is just the start,” said Murphy, who is also an entrepreneur whose latest initiative is dedicated to providing female leaders to the corporate workforce. “We have plenty of work ahead. Our team in Toronto is led by women, and we are providing opportunities and jobs in the GTA for hockey players, coaches, and staff. This team will proudly represent Toronto and compete for the NWHL championship, and will also be dedicated to empowering younger female athletes through community engagement and education. We welcome everyone who wants to be part of a challenging and rewarding venture. Looking forward to being in a city with the most female registered hockey players in the World! @cityoftoronto Growing the game is imperative and our leadership team of all women is a game changer! Thanks NWHL for the opportunity.” Fins Up to that Coach! If you’d like to read a little more about Digit, go to the menu and scroll down to her interview “Digit-izing the Pod”

The expansion by the NWHL is both timely, and inevitable in the reality of the growing number of female hockey players. And the fact that having been a viable league for five years now, more and more of that growing number of players will want a seat at the NWHL table. And, they deserve it. Every player we have interviewed this post season has echoed the sentiment that there are far more talented, elite level players right now, than there are roster spots. That is not speculation, or fancy metrics, it is just science and arithmetic. If you are looking for any specimen in a random population, the larger your sample, the more specimens you will find. Ergo, quality hockey players will be present in greater numbers if you look at a random population of 10,000 vs 1000. So more players, more good players, more roster spots needed. And once in motion, that dynamic is a virtual perpetual motion machine. It has been put in motion, and is gathering speed. Get on board and enjoy the ride or get out of the way.

And, especially in the surrealistic world of the current pandemic, everyone, everything, including the NWHL has a vexing task ahead. But we like the metaphor of an ice breaker. The Coast Guard’s Polar Star has to break through ice to get to where it’s needs to be. The ride is bumpy, with starts and stops, the path has obstacles that must be overcome, icy barriers to be broken through , to reach their destination. Similarly, the NWHL has had a somewhat bumpy five year voyage, that also involved overcoming obstacles and breaking through barriers, to reach their destiny. Both the Coast Guard cutter and the league know that if they stay the course, they always sail into calmer waters. And both are always looking for that next sheet of ice.

We were listening to some Springsteen last night, and thought these words from “Human Touch” had a more complex meaning these days than when they were first written:

"You might need somethin' to hold on to

When all the answers they don't amount to much

Somebody that you can just talk to

And a little of that human touch"

Well, there is not a lot of human touching going on right now, and it’s at minimum, uncertain when that will change. But people are touched and stay in touch in different ways, especially in these days. Social media platforms and technologies were a short time ago, being decried as harmful to real social interaction. And human connections. were feared to be collateral damage along the path to our ever increasing technological expepertise and resultant dependence. But now, it is one of the tools we are using to actually stay connected, to maintain that human touch, even if you are obeying the various stay at home protocols by yourself. And if you are “sheltered in place" with loved ones, then the silver lining in all this is the opportunity to reestablish some of the actual human contact we sometimes get away from.

If you are reading the interviews of our Pod this offseason, you know exactly how they are dealing with the pandemic. And once we get through this, and we are back on the ice and in the stands and tuned in to Twitch, we’ll all have an even closer connection from having gone through this together. We may never know what it feels like to streak up the ice like Grace Klienbach, or block a slap shot like Shannon Doyle, or make a save like Wojo, Sojo or Cujo. But we will know what it feels like to have gone through this isolation because we’ve been there, done that. Just like our Amazings. Fins Up and stay connected and be safe!

WHALE'S TALES 4/10/20: Core Strength and Inspiration

If they stick with it long enough, most athletes generally experience four universal transformational moments in their careers. Epiphanies, if you will. You read about some of them here in the stories told by our amazing Whale. The first is when an athlete first feels the passion for their sport. The moment they know it’s “their game”. The second comes as their talent starts to exceed many of those around them, and they think that they might be better than they ever imagined. Go further, as it were. Then for most, the realization that they will never be as good as they once thought they could be. And the fourth, for whatever the reason, the realization that it is time to end it. Now most pro athletes, including our NWHL players, are not going to experience the third stage of this development. They are the elite, the 1% of the 1% of athletes on the planet. Their angst as their career progresses, is the end game. In sports as in life, you reach a point where there are more minutes on the clock behind you than in front of you. That’s not some way to put it, that’s what it is. So, why bring it up? Because teams are the same way, and the Whale, as a whole still have many more minutes ahead of them.

This year, teams have already begun to form up for the 2020-2021 NWHL season. Players coaches, and GM’s have all inked contracts for Season Six, even though there is some unsettled business between Boston and Minnesota. The Isobel Cup for Season Five is still pending by pandemic at this time. But our Pod has already signed our amazing rookies, #1 Brooke Wolejko and #15 Emma Vlasic, and just today Captain #6 Shannon Doyle, for Season Six. Terrific players, and fan favorites, Shannon, Wojo and Pickles are key members of the core of players who came together last season, and made some noise in the play-offs. The Whale would love to continue with that core, and we will surely see some familiar names re-joining the Pod. But there will be additions and subtractions to be sure, as there always have been. But with the talent level and youth on this team, it seems to look like a lot less than in previous seasons. Much of The Most Exciting Team in Hockey, could be on the ice again next season. Which of course, would make them once again The Most Exciting Team in Hockey, Herb Brooks’ famous remark about not wanting the “best players, but the right players”, is iconic. But he never said they can’t be the same. Ergo, Cetacean Nation thinks that if things play out like we all hope they will, we will have a roster full of both. And most will be names and numbers we have come to love and respect. In work-outs and team building, the other side of strengthening the core is maintaining it. That is also not just some way to put it. It’s what it is.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GLASS

When we have the opportunity, we have shared some stories here about what the Whale and the NWHL mean in people’s lives. We have had a diverse group of correspondents share their content, and the following comes from Cara Hickey (hickey.93 on Instagram) a high school hockey player from New Jersey. Here is what she told us.

"I found out about the NWHL during my freshman year of high school, in 2017. I was just starting to play hockey at the time and wasn’t playing in any league. I fell in love with theleague and all the teams. I followed the league a little and really got into it during the 2017-18 season. They were fun to watch and showed me there was somewhere for me to play if I chose to continue with the sport. The second game I went to in person was the playoff match between the Connecticut Whale and Metropolitan Riveters in the 2018-19 season where I was job shadowing Matt Falkenbury, the Riveters’ play-by-play commentator."

"That opportunity showed me the careers options on and off the ice that the NWHL creates. I saw the behind the scenes of a game and got to see high level talent. I remember leaving and thinking how I wanted to play just like former Whale forward Katarina Mrazova. I work hard on and off the ice to strive to be like the players I watch in the NWHL. I work hard in school as well in classes such as journalism so in the future I will be able to cover the NWHL and the Connecticut Whale. The Whale and the NWHL represent a future in professional sports to women and girls and the development of professional women’s ice hockey that will hopefully trickle down to the grass roots."

Cara touched on some great points in her brief words, that illustrate the league’s mantra, “It’s why we do what we do.” While the players were full throttle competing that evening in Newark, and Matt was in the thick of it calling the game, it was more than great hockey and entertainment taking place in the rink. By their actions, another Future Draft Pick had been inspired to dream her dreams which include the NWHL. A calming and happy thought in these trying times. Fins Up to that!

WHALE'S TALES 3/17/20: Not Life As We Know It

In the wake of the evolving Covid-19 pandemic, our world has changed, seemingly overnight. In every aspect of our society, this is not life as we know it. How much more it may change, or for how long, is not really known. And spectator sports have have been among first impacted, because few events draw larger crowds of people than sports, and none as frequently. Competitions have been halted, games, championships, seasons, all cancelled ot put on hold. So right now we sit here without a final outcome for the historic fifth season of the NWHL. But it was an amazing season, featuring the most games ever, new support, sponsorships and partnerships for the league, and a whole new approach to viewing the games, via a Twitch. So Cetacean Nation offers condolences to those whose seasons may never be completed, a Fins Up to them always. But stay strong, be safe, and know that the sacrifices made in the cancellations and postponements were for the greater good. And know too, that when competition returns, the fans will be there. Including all of the fans in Cetacean Nation.

So we are in a shadowland between NWHL post-season and off-season, and will remain so for a while. But our Whale will next hit the ice for the 2020-2021 season, so this is offseason now for the Pod. And looking back, it was a remarkable season in so many ways. 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. And this year’s version of the Pod continued those traditions.

The current suspension of sports, and how we collectively are feeling about it, illustrates the significant position sport holds in our society. And teams with unique, palpable cultures are a huge part of the attraction of sports. All teams have a culture, and a certain atmosphere around them. By way of example, 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 recognizable if/when they come back to the pack. There is a Celtic way of doing things, a Manchester United way, a Notre 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.

The development of the culture of the Whale took a big step forward this season, spearheaded by our GM Bray Ketchum Peel, Head Coach Colten Orr, and Assistant Coaches Laura Brennan and Mike Bonelli. We are the Most Exciting Team in Hockey, but our culture is becoming even more than just that. They have developed a grittiness and toughness into their game to feed the excitement. Around the leagu, it is becoming increasingly clear,of what it means to,play the Whale. There will be the inevitable re-shuffling of rosters that is part and parcel of the NWHL at this point.Cetainly we will be saying welcome back to some, and veterans Shannon Doyle and Elena Orlando have already made indications they would like to return. But we will also say good-bye to some and hello to others of course. But right now, the players that continue our quest, and the players that join with us, have a clear mission. And a clear means by which to execute it successfully. That is where the culture begins, and that is how the culture grows. So although our current tribulations have removed sports from the equation, this too shall pass. And when we come through this, sports will be one of the aspects that leads us to normalcy, new normal though it may be. And in that realm, there is a lot to look forward to as a fan and part of the culture of the Connecticut Whale.

WHALE'S TALES 3/3/20: Understanding Underdog


This goes out to the underdog: Keep on keeping at what you love: You'll find that someday soon enough, You will rise up, rise up, yeah!” Underdog by Alicia Keyes & Ed Sheeran

 

By a lot of metrics, our Whale may be considered underdogs in Friday’s upcoming play-off game with the Beauts. We here at Cetacean Nation feel,that is an incorrect assessment. The Buffalo Beauts are a good hockey team, and capable of winning on any given a Game Day. But come to find out, share the Connecticut Whale. At this point in the session, we are quite simply the better of two good hockey clubs. And that will play out Friday, and result in a Whale win. Having said that, it follows that this underdog intro is a red herring, just little tongue in cheek. Either way, when the puck drops on a Friday, we’ll find out. That we were correct, and the first step of the Process will have been taken. Maybe our amazing, versatile and euridite All- Star #16 Hanna Beattie said it best: "OK, first off, a lion...swimming in the ocean? Lions don’t even like water. If you placed in near a river, or some sort of fresh water source, that’d make sense. But you find yourself in the ocean, a 20 ft. wave, I’m assuming it’s off the coast of Connecticut, coming up against a full grown, 80,000 lb whale with her 20 or 30 friends. You lose that battle. You lose that battle nine times out of ten.” Underdog, indeed. Fins Up to that!

We also have another installment from "The Other Side of the Glass”, where we hear the voices and stories of some the myriad Whale fans, aka Cetacean Nation. All of them different, but all of them united in their support of the Pod and the NWHL. Our current contributor, Brooke Brennan has a very unique point of view on all things Pod. She is the wife of our amazing #33 Laura Brennan. And here is what Brooke had to tell us about her Whale experience.

"I became interested in the Whale after going to my first game during the inaugural year. Laura (my wife) played for Lisa Giovanelli (Giovi) during her time at Quinnipiac, and invited us to a game since she was now coaching the Whale. I had been to a few NHL games previously which I had enjoyed watching but seeing the women play completely changed how I felt about watching hockey. The speed and the skill level really blew me away. I couldn’t get enough, and dragged Laura to all of the Whale home games after that, during that season."

"I remember sitting upstairs in the restaurant at Chelsea Piers with Giovi and Laura after one of the Whale’s last home games and Laura jokingly saying to her, “if you need a third goalie to sit on the bench and get paid for it next season, I’m your girl!” Sure enough, in June after the season had ended, Giovi called Laura and asked her if she would seriously be interested in trying out for and potentially playing for the Whale. At this point, I had never seen Laura play (goalie) before, besides on an old DVD from her Quinnipiac days. I had seen her give goalie lessons before, but this was totally different. She kept insisting that she was retired, but I really don’t think she had much of a choice in the matter. That’s because there was no way that I wouldn’t have made her go to the tryouts! I was packed and ready to go watch them, before she could even pack her bags for the weekend. Fast-forward to today, she’s been with the Whale ever since; as a goalie during year 2 and 3 and as part of the coaching staff for years 4 and 5."

"The Whale have always been the underdogs, year after year which make them even more of an exciting team to watch and root for. Even with the changing roster, they’ve always been a team that play their hearts out and don’t give up regardless of what is thrown at them. I respect the players’ determination, commitment and willingness to do what it takes to hang with the best of them. Seeing the coaching side of it, I am in awe of the time and dedication that the coaches invest in their team.. In terms of the NWHL as a whole, I think it’s incredible that Dani Rylan was able to create the first women’s league that was able to pay their players. I’ve enjoyed watching it grow each season despite setbacks and outside influences. The league as a whole has proven to be resilient, kind of like the Whale!"

"I think that the league, the individual teams and players are all a great example of women’s empowerment. They are teaching future draft picks how to fight for what you want and what you believe in. It’s great to see little girls and boys at games, looking up to the players and wanting to be like them when they grow up. As a teacher, you can preach all you want to kids about how to be perseverant, to work hard and to work together and problem solve with others, etc. But here, seeing it in person is way more effective. During year 2, one of the little girls in my class was an honorary captain and to see firsthand how excited she was to not only be around the players, but also on the ice with them, was awesome to watch. I’m hoping that each new season brings more exposure for the league, and with that, new fans. Everyone that I’ve brought to games has commented on how impressed they are with the skill level of the teams in the league and how fun the games are to watch."

"Laura jokes around all of the time that I’m more obsessed with hockey than she is. Seeing that she is from Minnesota, you can probably guess how invested I am in her team as well as the league! I go to every home Whale game and try to go to as many away games as possible. If I’m not at the games, I’m watching them on Twitch (and also periodically yelling at the tv!). Ever since that first game that we went to, I’ve tried to learn all about the game as a whole. I remember seeing the goalie leave the ice during a game in year 2 and wondering what was wrong with her (was she injured? Did something happen that I didn’t see?) and being totally confused. I’ve now been watching the game long enough to know that duh-it was a delayed penalty! I also remember wondering why hockey players take such short shifts but quickly realized why after playing 3-on-3 for the first time and feeling like I was going to die 20 seconds in. I’m not quite ready to be on the ice making calls but my hockey knowledge has definitely improved since then."

"Not only have I tried to learn more about hockey, I have also made it a mission to learn how to play. When I met Laura, I knew how to skate (not well) but had never really been too interested on getting on the ice at the Fairfield Ice Academy (where she is the director). One night shortly after I met her, she had invited me to come out and skate with some people and I almost had a panic attack once I was standing there in the middle of the ice with huge men and women whizzing by me. I lasted maybe all of five minutes and then decided I didn’t want to get hurt and that she was insane for even suggesting I come out there. After watching the Whale play, they have inspired me to get out on the ice and try it for myself. A few years ago, the mother of a child in my class asked me to sub for someone on her hockey team during a tournament, after finding out that I had been learning how to play hockey. At that point, I had just started learning and even though the chance of me playing was already very slim, once I mentioned it to Sam Faber. And she was trying to encourage me to go, by telling me that she would also be playing in that same tournament, it was definitely a hard no! That would’ve been very embarrassing! "

Cetacean Nation thanks Brooke Brennan for her iunique, nsightful, and entertaining content! Along with the rest of Cetacean Nation, she’ll be cheering hard for the Pod starting Friday night, and  all through the playoffs. Fins Up to that!

WHALE'S TALES: 2/19/20: GAME DAY / PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEMORIES


It’s a feeling that you first experience when you awaken, not even fully yet, and begin to sense the totality of change in your being. Realizing all at once, that this is the day. The emotive tidal wave of every holiday, birthday, victory, accomplishment, special gift, first date, accolade, positive vibe, celebration that you have ever experienced and more, some unidentifiable even to yourself, washes over you and thrills you to the bone. You may shudder in the overwhelming moment, even drool or tear up in joy, and you fight with every fiber of your being to bring that under whatever it is you consider control. And it only builds as the minutes and hours tick away and Game Day moves inexorably towards it’s inevitable goal - the outward expression of all this as your competition begins. But if you are not competing on the ice with “The Most Exciting Team In Hockey”, or another athletic event this weekend, we hope you can recall your own Game Day(s) past and know more of them in the future. We can wish the fans out there in Cetacean Nation, no more amazing grace than this.

And how do we remember our Game Days as fans or athletes (or both)? Well to a great degree it is through the lens of the artists who capture those events for us. In the NWHL, we have several gifted, and hard working individuals who record the history being made in this league. We caught up with one of them, Schuyler Meyer of Schuyler Meyer Photography, ask him about his craft and the Connecticut Whale. Here is what Schuyler had to say.

We were curious how Schuyler first got started with photography. He explained: "

I've always "kind of" been interested in photography. A story I always like to tell is that in 5th grade, I participated in the school science fair. My project was about this body of water near my house (we'll call it the puddle pond). On the day of, I was presenting my project to the judges and I was going through my PowerPoint ("Here is a photo of the puddle pond in winter, ...in spring, ...in summer, here are photos of animals that live around the puddle pond, here are some plants from the area..."), and about half way through the presentation, I realized that I had forgotten to do any actual research, and my entire project was just a PowerPoint presentation with some photos I took."

Continuing "I became much more serious about photography my freshman year of college when I was elected historian of the baseball club. And then I became even more interested and serious about it when I started working for the school as a student photographer my junior year. I see these two points as like level one and level two of myself being a "photographer". Prior to that, I was just taking pictures with my Kodak point and shoot (like anyone would with a cell phone nowadays)"

So when did hockey come into the picture?

"For as long as I remember, I've loved hockey. My dad played at Franklin Pierce University (prior to their NCAA debut) and I think he got me into it. I played for a couple of years when I was younger, but for various reasons, I stopped. Hockey wasn't really that popular in my area, so it was kind of always on the back burner. Once I started at Clarkson University, my interest in hockey skyrocketed. The highest level of play I had seen in person before Clarkson, was my dad's high school alumni game, and then seeing top tier D1 hockey was mind-blowing and I was transfixed from that first game. (It may have helped a little that the first game I went to, the Clarkson Women shutout Syracuse 9-0 with a hat trick from Geneviève Bannon.) Plus, the hockey community and culture in Potsdam is amazing as well. Additionally, I played intramurals and a little bit of club hockey throughout my entire time at Clarkson."

And how did you get interested in the NWHL, specifically the Whale?

"I first learned about the NWHL when one of the Clarkson players was drafted (~2017ish) and I've been a big fan ever since. Despite being a big fan of the league, I still can't decide on a favorite team, however, I've been rooting for the Whale a lot this season. After graduating from Clarkson last spring, I was looking for more hockey to replace all the Clarkson hockey that I'd be missing out on now that I was no longer there. And then it was announced that the Whale would be moving to Danbury (which is really close to my home), so I bought season tickets and have gone to as many games as I could this season."

Do you have a “game plan” for your game action shots?

" For the most part, yes. Each game I try to come up with a specific shot or type of shot that I want to try and capture (ex. panning, wide angle, bench or crowd reactions, etc. or something much more specific). I will also decide beforehand (or during the first period) where I want to shoot from - in the corners, behind the net, the highest place I can go (ex. top of the bleachers), home / away side, etc."

And how many photos do you take on a Whale Game Day?

"It can range anywhere from like 300 to 1500 photos, with the average between 600-800 per game. If I'm using both my camera bodies, then that number (and average) will go up, but I usually just shoot with my one camera."

Most fans snap photos with cell phones. Are there any pro tips on how they can take a better photo with their phone? "

One of the most essential things I've learned is that a photo is not just the subject, but also the background and the lighting and a whole lot of other factors that are equally as important. While fans with cell phones may not have as much control over certain things like lighting, they can change their framing and angles. A different framing of the same photo can change the entire emotion of that photo. So, try reaching down and angle the camera / phone up or reach up and angle the camera / phone down - try different things. If possible, walk around - close to the ice, far away from the ice, left, right. Basically, in summary, sometimes the best photo may be taken from your seat, with your phone at chest level, and sometimes you may have to move around (within reason) to get the best photo. I'm also a big fan of symmetry, so if it's possible to situate yourself in the middle of the stands or behind the net, a cool photo may come out of that."

Cetacean Nation thanks Schuyler for his great content here, and for cintinuing to help tell the story of the Connecticut Whale and the NWHL. From his lens, to our memories, Fins Up to that!

GAME DAY photographs by Schuyler Meyer!

WHALE'S TALES 2/11/20: Goalies, On Both Sides Of The Glass

 

Thinking about the Oscar Awards this past weekend, and about the big stage the NWHL performed upon as well. And thinking about the Bard of Avon, what he wrote in “As You Like It” “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” And taking it in only a slightly different direction, a few are hockey players. Fewer still, are goalies in the sport, like our Sojo (Sonjia Shelley) , Wojo (“The “Brooke Wall” Brooke Wolejko) & Cujo ( Cassandra Goyette) and Coach Laura ( Laura Brennan). Cetacean Nation has always thought there was something Shakespearean about hockey goaltenders.It does not seem like that much of s stretch to equate “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, to frozen discs of vulcanized rubber being shot at you at high velocity. A goalie may not say it out loud, but facing a breakaway from Kaycie Anderson or Grace Klienbach, one could imagine an “Et tu, defensionis?” being mumbled under their mask. And said mask, when removed and held aloft by our netminder, is it not reminiscent, alas, of the skull of “poor Yorick”? But “sweet are the uses of adversity”, and “all’s well that ends well.” So Fins Up to all you goalies out there who have the mental toughness and fortitude to pull on the pads, don the mask, pick up a stick and glove and play the game in your unique style. “As you like it”, if you will. Fins Up to you all!

Also, in this edition if Whale’s Tales, Cetacean Nation takes another look on “The Other Side of the Glass”. and fittingly enough, we found a goalie! Here are some thoughts from this amazing voice in the crowd, a very unique perspective, by one of growing base of fans we also call Cetacean Nation, Brieanna Scolara, @_bscolaro. . Brie is a former netminder for the Blue Hens at the University of Delaware, who has continued her education (MSW, Columbia) and founded her own company (Scolara & Associates, LLC) in NYC, and still finds some time to guard the crease. Here is what Brie had to share about the NWHL and the Connecticut Whale:

“I first learned about the #NWHL in late 2018. I stumbled across a link to apply as a Free Agent for the '19-'20 season and I almost couldn't believe my eyes that there was finally a professional women's ice hockey league, and that I actually had the opportunity to try to be a part of it. I didn't quite know what I was doing, but I gave it my best shot and participated in a series of camps and trainings across Summer 2019. Even though I didn't make it this year, I felt like I had accomplished my lifelong dream of advancing the sport that I've loved my entire life.” “The last time I was able to live this dream was when I played with University of Delaware Women's Ice Hockey team from 2008 - 2012. From the time I started, the team transformed from barely being known, to participating in our first National Tournament and advancing as a top team in our league. Like it is for many players, hockey was my life during college, on and off the ice. Unfortunately, after I graduated, I didn't know how to exist outside of my love for hockey. There was no place for female players like us to go. I decided to continue on graduate school and was forced to give up my sport altogether. Instead I focused on building my career in Manhattan.” Brie continued: “Fast forward to 2019. After summer tryouts ended and the '19-'20 season was gearing up for launch, I began to follow the Connecticut Whale. I met a few of the players during summer tryouts, and was able to connect with some of the coaching staff and thought it was awesome how many of their players engaged on social media with their fans. I was also drawn to the beautiful green jerseys and thought the Whale itself was one of the coolest team logos I had ever seen. My first NWHL game was a Whale home game versus the Beauts early this season - I watched intently from the stands and was not afraid to shamelessly cheer them on. It felt like my dream was once again alive - only this time, it was through being an active fan and advocate for the NWHL.” “I'm not sure where the future will take me - but one thing I know for sure is that I will not stop advocating for the future of girl's and women's hockey. What the Whale and the NWHL represent is monumental for the development of the sport of hockey and the next generation of players.”
Cetacean Nation thanks Brieanna for sharing some of her inspiring story, as well as her love of the NWHL & the Pod. Fins up to that!

Brieanna Scolara with the Delaware Blue Hens (photo UD Athletics)

WHALE'S TALES 2/3/20: World Hockey Forum, Musings From Moscow

In his largely forgotten poem (except for this verse) “The Ballad of the East and West” Rudysrd Kipling wrote “East is East and West Is West and never the twain shall meet.” Seems like that is the case far too often, even today. However, sixty three years after Kipling’s work, Pierre Boulle opened his co-seminal work (Planet of the Apes being his other) “The Bridge Over the River Kwai”, with more hopeful words: “Maybe the unbridgeable gulf that some see separating the western and the oriental souls are nothing more than a mirage?” At least perhaps, and we’d like to think so. So would our former #17, Yekaterina Smolentseva, who recently was involved in the World Hockey Forum in Moscow. Katya was born in the area of Russia that historically had divided the the Oriental, and the Occidental as East and West were so referred to in the past. So Cetacean Nation was pleased when Katya graciously shared with us, some of her experiences as an official organizer of the event, which promotes the sport of hockey worldwide.

The IV World Hockey Forum took place in Moscow, Russia between December 13-19 last year. Since it’s inception, the Forum has brought together members of the ice hockey community worldwide, including the sport’s national governing bodies, educational and scientific, and league representatives among others. The Forum is a platform for addressing a wide range of issues and topics, from safety to competition, to business and financial aspects of the sport. This year’s program featured an emphasis on various aspects of women's ice hockey, focusing on growth and development. Participants discussed the possibilities and prospects for growing support and enabling development. Growing the game for soecifically youngsters (International Little Future Draft Picks) was also on the agenda, a topic of special interest to Katya. She had told us previously of her own experience “I started playing hockey at the age of 9, in 1991 we did not have women's ice hockey in Russia, so I started playing ringball.” She has told us that today, female players are “more embraced”, and she hopes to keep that trend going. So Cetacean Nation asked Katya about the Forum goals that were of most interest to her and she told us “The issues of refereeing, and in general the development of all hockey in the world which were touched upon. The goals were different for everyone, (but for me) it is for women's hockey, the goal is the most important to date. To attract more girls to engage in hockey. Many are just afraid or shy. Parents do not all want to give hockey to their girls, saying it is not a women's sport. We do not need these stereotypes!”

Katya continued “Organizers of children's tier hockey were present, and also offered their methods for the development of the sport. My role was to tell how I achieved such results as I did in my career. My favorite part of the forum is the coaching seminar. There were coaches from different countries, but I can not say who I liked more, everyone talked about their theories and shared their methods of training young athletes. Of course, if every year we will attract more people to engage in hockey, then that in itself will cause further development.In our country (Russia) now, a lot of time and effort is devoted to the development of women's hockey, and that makes me happy!”

We asked Katya about the likelihood of more Russian women coming over to play in the NWHL and she was skeptical of a latge inlux in the near future. “The conditions that exist in the league would not be conducive for Russian players. Many could play there, but the financial problem prevents the girls from playing with you.” She knows this is something that has really started to grow this season, and Katya offered “I wish the NWHL prosperity, and success in attracting sponsors.”

Fins Up to that, and to one of our original Amazings, #17 Katya Smolentseva! You can read more about Katya here on our site in her recent article, “YEKATERINA SMOLENTSEVA: Hockey’s Catherine the Great”

Whale's Tales 1/24/20: Around the Rink

When you have attended a Connecticut Whale home game over the last few years, you may have crossed paths with two cheerful and dedicated siblings, Danny and Tiffany Melillo. Working off the ice at our hip one games, their pleasant demeanor, enthusiasm and positivity make them the perfect ambassadors for our game. Cetacean Nation thought you might like to get to know them a little better, and they have graciously agreed to share some of the story of their love for hockey and the NWHL.

Tiffany told us, “ We grew up in Morris Park, The Bronx. When I was a kid, my parents put me in ballet but I quit that as soon as I was able to join the Morris Park Roller Hockey League when I was 6. I remember walking by the park and saw kids playing and knew I wanted to join in. When we were older, we started playing ice hockey with the Mt. Vernon Hockey Club.” Danny added “My old man is a big Ranger fan, so we were always watching them on TV. The earliest living memory I can vividly recall is watching Wayne Gretzky’s last game. He took my sister and I to our first Rangers game when I was 4 years old, and have been hooked ever since. It's always been the singular thing I cared most about, but beyond that it developed into a family thing”

Danny continued “Growing up we lived four blocks away from a roller hockey rink, so whenever there was free time, my sister Tiffany and I would be out there just messing around. We played in the Morris Park Roller Hockey League for years, I started when I was 4” Tiffany added “I played ice hockey with the boys until I was 14. Then I joined different girls teams in Westchester, NY, then I played for the Quarry Cats U19 team in Montclair, NJ. I went to Fordham University, which unfortunately did not have a women’s team. While in college, I joined the North Jersey Phoenix. At the time, the Phoenix was a member of the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference,(http://www.westchesterhockey.org, so it was pretty cool to play against other colleges even though my college did not have a women’s team.”

 Tiffany told us “Dan and I coach Learn-to-Play with the Westchester Hockey Organization (WHO), which is part of the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone program. The other coaches are some of our teammates and coaches from the Mt Vernon Hockey Club (where we first got involved with ice hockey) so it’s pretty fulfilling to come full circle” Danny recalled “?I started playing ice hockey at 8 years old, and played travel hockey for several organizations across Westchester/NYC. I played my high schoopuck with Fordham Prep. I still play beer league with a team called the Pelham Bay Shamrocks. I'm on the ice 4-5 days a week, as I coach with a youth program, the New York City Cyclones. I love every second of it”

 As to other sports, Tiffany said “In high school, I was the captain of the varsity volleyball team.” Dan related his sports background as well, saying “rt?I played baseball as a kid and am a big Yankees. As a Bronx guy, that's mandatory. I watch a lot of soccer as well, namely Manchester City. That would be my secondary sport at this point, in terms of how frequently I watch. But still, it’s well beneath hockey for me”.

 We also asked both Tiffany and Dan how they first get involved with the NWHL and the Whale.Dan explained “The only thing I ever wanted to do was work in hockey. I majored in Sports Management, and after graduation, actively sought out any opportunities involving Hockey Operations. I saw a listing for a related internship with the NWHL and went from there. My sister had actually played for Mark DeSimone, who was an assistant coach with the Riveters. I reached out to him to explain what I wanted to do career-wise, and how interested I was in working with the league. He spoke with the league and got me an interview. Initially I had preferred to work with the league itself or the Riveters, as they were a closer local option, but at the time the Whale needed more staff-help. That's how I wound up in Connecticut. No regrets” Tiffany revealed “I was very excited when the league was first announced. I got chills at the first NWHL game I went to because a professional women’s league was something that I only could dream about as a kid. I never thought that it would be reality. When Dan got a job with the CT Whale, I volunteered to do the scoreboard”

 Tiffany continued, explaining “For home games I get to the rink early and help set up the merch table and during the game I do the scoreboard and scoresheet”. Dan added “My responsibilities have fluctuated a bit over my time with the team. This is my third season being involved. This season my focus was almost exclusively on running the home games. Though a big part of the job is taking care of the necessary prep work, game days are still quite hectic. Starts with getting the merchandise tables and box office set up, distributing time sheets, getting the pre-game introductions/honorary captain in order, arranging the intermission activities, and breaking everything down at the games' conclusion. I usually arrive 2 1/2 hours before puck drop, and leave around an hour after the game.” Dan told us “The accessibility of the players. There's not a professional league of any sort out there where fans have as much access to the players as they do with us. My favorite part of any game is seeing the little girls in the stands and realizing how much they look up to and idolize the women playing. That's what it's all about. Building off that, whenever we have honorary captains and youth intermission teams, seeing the way everyone interacts with them from the players to the coaching staff, really making it special and a lifetime memory for them, is one of my favorite things about the league.”

And lastly, we asked them a few fun questions:

Tell: something that people might be surprised to learn about you?

Tiffany: I had a picture of Henrik Lundqvist on my 13th birthday cake.                            Dan : I have a role in Scorsese's "The Irishman"

Favorite Dunkin’ beverage?

Tiffany: Hot black tea with milk and sugar - I get it almost every day!                              Dan: Caramel Cappuccino, iced or hot.

Favorite Chipwich, original or peanut butter: Both: Original!

Fins up to Dan and Tiffany, and we looki forward to watching them enhance the Whale Experience for years to come!

WHALE"S TALES 1/7/20: The New Ice Age Redux

Our Whale are moving into the second half of their fifth season in what we have called the New Ice Age. We see this as the Age of Professional Women’s Hockey, as conceived and presented and nurtured by Dani Rylan in the form of 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. In fact, sport itself. The continued rise of women’s hockey has begun to flow like a glacier, slowly but inexorably, unstoppable, inevitable, an overdue reckoning. A large part of bringing this change to hockey and sports is in the knocking down of barriers of exclusion. And once that bell has been rung, it cannot be un-rung. Our human culture is being reformed by similar events in other sports and in other areas of society. The effects. of 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 example 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 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. Fourth 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 will already be the second to have had the NWHL 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 2020, add taking in some high school or college hockey to the list as well.

Final Note: Vote!!!! Today is the last day to vote to send more Whale shippin’ up to Boston for the All-Star game. Whichever member of our Amazings you choose to support, remember that our Captain #6 Shannon Doyle, and Assistant Captains #14 Elena Orlando and #26 Jordan Brickner have already been named as All-Stars, and therefore don’t need our votes. So, cast you ballots for any of our other 17 players and punch their ticket to Boston. Voting closes at 5:00 PM EST today (January 7th) so don’t hesitate. You can cast your ballots here:nwhl.zone/allstar-vote