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 are in 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