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