Grace in action: Top photos courtesy BDZ Sports, bottom courtesy Phil Zola

GRACE KLIENBACH: GETTING HER GAME ON


Hey now, you're an All-Star, get your game on, go play...Greg Camp

Our amazing #94 right wing Grace Klienbach, is just that, an NWHL All-Star. And we’ll get to that in a bit. But in case you didn’t know it, Grace is also an All-Star off the ice. She is a medical professional, still going to work during this pandemic. So when we caught up with Grace, that aspect of her life is what we discussed first. So let's see how and where Grace is dealing with the current situation, and how is it effecting her at home and at work. Grace revealed 

“I’m still in Connecticut right now, and I’m still working as an athletic trainer at Orthopedic Specialty Group. So we’ve still been working away, but our hours have been cut recently so I’m working about half of the hours I normally do. It’s kind of crazy, because obviously I’m working in the healthcare field, so our screening precautions are kind of intense when we see patients. And it’s kind of hard being in that setting, where you’re having all these people come in, and everyone’s kind of on edge. It’s definitely a weird feeling, especially now that I’m not working as much and being home. Not working is not something I’m necessarily used to, so it’s definitely different. I feel this is just surreal, it’s a weird situation, we’re trying to make the best of it. Doing a lot of walks in he park just to get some fresh air which is nice but…”

Grace continued “Shayne and I have to be extra careful because one of our roommates and really good friend, I met her working here two years ago, she’s at higher risk for getting it. She’s in chemotherapy so she’s very high risk. So me and Shayne take extra precautions in everything we do, just to make sure we’re not doing anything to bring it home to her. It is crazy because I live with someone who could be seriously effected. Everybody could be effected, but she’s at higher risk from other people and she’s only like thirty-three. So we all take really high precautions here just to be sure that she’s safe, and comfortable. Especially If we’re going out to pick up groceries or anything, we always make sure we make her feel comfortable that we’re taking precautions. Hopefully people everywhere kind of think about that it’s not just if you get sick, but if you transmit it. It’s not about you necessarily, it’s about people who are at high risk you are trying to protect.”

Grace introduced us to her Dad in her last interview, and so we asked how things were going with her folks back in her home state of Florida. She replied

 “They’re pretty good, it’s the same kind of thing that’s going on up here. Everything’s crazy, everything’s off the shelves because everyone’s grabbing everything they can. I think it’s good though because my Dad, even after he had a heart attack, has always been go,go,go. I know my Mom especially is happy that he has to chill out. So actually, ironically, I think it’s a really good thing for him personally, He’s like out of the house every single day doing something, and now he;actually at home most days, he still goes out here and there, bit for for the most part he’s at home, which is good.”

Grace and Shayne Morrissey (her fiancé) have a company that is now called 14-94 Hockey, and will operate eventually again at IceWorks in Aston, PA. In the meantime, they have put together a program for their young athletes to use during the current crisis. Grace explained

“So we just figured out a way to get some of the kids active and stay up to date with everything. Since our hockey camps and private lessons have been put on pause, we do a weekly or a daily newsletter. So we put together a little video, with either a stick handling drill or a challenge for the day. And then we go to one off ice exercise. Yesterday we did depth jumps, and we’ve done quick feet taps on a stair, or whatever you have. So we’re trying to do things that anybody can do, anyplace, with things you already have. I was doing dead bugs, but instead of using yoga blocks, I was using a water bottle. We’re trying to do things that everyone has access to, so like one kid can’t say: I don’t have that so I can’t do it! So we are trying to use things that we all have at home to try to help out and not have the kids go stir crazy. So just have a little bit of hockey drills to do. I’ve been seeing a lot of funny posts where someone’s saying: This is the time I’m grateful ! don’t have kids! Obviously I’m bored here, so I can’t imagine having other little ones running around. Especially if they are used to being active, and playing sports everyday, I can’t imagine. I know we’re already going stir crazy, and I still work three days a week:) “

 

Grace at the ASG with her fiancé Shayne & her Dad

Coming off a year away from the game (see her preseason interview here for more on that) Grace hit the ice flying this season, and as we mentioned in the opening, was selected to the All-Star Game. We asked her to tell us about that, because she had a great, but “unusual” experience. She related

“It was kind of crazy and surreal. I don’t know what the exact term to use is, but I’m very modest about myself. I look around the league and see so many other amazing hockey players, so wasn’t like: Oh, I could never be there or anything like that. But I used to think about how great all these other girls are, and it was definitely an amazing feeling when Bray emailed me telling me that I was chosen to be an All-Star this year. I was like over the moon, it was awesome. Especially with taking the year off (2018-2019). Not that it is something I never thought I could accomplish. But I took a year off and didn’t play hockey at all, and I was just helping my family out. And I didn’t get to train until later into the summer. So from not playing at all to being in that position, it was a great feeling. And I’m definitely proud and very happy that the league and the fans think the same way and think that highly of me. It just means the world to me and I’m glad that I had at least the opportunity to experience that.”

Grace continued “I didn’t really know what to expect, because I’ve never been in one. But it’s very laid back, which is cool too. It was just for fun, literally all of it was just for fun. No hard feelings, no one was getting upset, it was just a good time all around, it was a blast. I will say, I wish it was a little bit longer, it was pretty quick since it was running time too, so I wish it would have been a little bit longer:) It was a great time, a great experience. I got to talk to girls, and hang out with girls, and play with girls that you would never talk to and play with. So definitely a cool experience to see some of the other players behind the scenes and get to know them a little bit better. So the game was great.”

Then, at our behest, Grace delved into her experience in the fastest skater competition, the “unusual” aspect we mentioned. Grace laughed and said

“Then the skating:) I was super excited, I was so nervous going into it, but I was pretty proud of how I did. Obviously it was sad about how everything went down, I think it was kind of jangled, kind of weird. But at the end of the day, I was like: You guys have your mind made up and that’s OK. But I did suggest that next year they have the automatic laser timing (FAT), so I did say that, I didn’t think we should be doing this by stopwatch, that’s kind of silly. Especially since most facilities have them or you could even rent one if you don’t own one. So I don’t know why we weren’t doing that from the get go. I’m still happy with how I did and I was glad to see all the support I had behind me. In and of itself, that was an amazing feeling to know I had so many people who were probably more upset than I was about it. That’s just a good feeling, knowing that a bunch of people are on your side no matter what the outcome was. But I was just very grateful to be involved in it and to know I did well enough to at least have this happen:) Everything happens for a reason, and it’s not something that keeps me up at night. At the end of the day, it was just for fun anyway. It’s not supposed to be super serious, I was having a good time, I was just enjoying being there, being immersed in the moment, and I just loved every minute of it. No regrets there!”

Grace was one of six Whale to play in every game this season, ending up third on the squad in both scoring and SOG, and utilized her speed to help out the defense with her backchecking, playing on the special teams as well. We mentioned that GM Bray Ketchum had indicated a desire to bring back the core players, and this is what Grace had to say.

 “I really hope so, I think we have a really good group of girls. We all get along, and there’s no hostility, which is always so key, on a girls team I feel. Everyone just really liked each other and everyone was nice, no one was disrespectful or anything like that. So I do think, just on a personality level, it was a great group of girls. And then top that with we have skills and we’re all willing to get better and learn, take criticism where it’s due. And I think all of that can really lead up, and did have a good push at the end. I really believe we can do something special with this team. So I do hope that they keep the core of us together. I think that would be great, because we all know each other now.”

 Grace added “I was very grateful to the coaches putting their trust in me, allowing me to play every game obviously. I know some of the girls couldn’t play every game because of prior work commitments and stuff like that, but definitely grateful for the coaches Colten and Laura, always having faith in me. And allowing me to be someone to be able to help out every single game in our big push towards the Isobel Cup. I was very thankful for that."

All the fans in Cetacean Nation know that Grace scored the first goal of the season for the Pod this year, as she had done in Season Three. We had also posted that Grace had scored our final goal this yearns well, and she noted

“I did see that, it’s kind of funny how that worked out. Gotta keep it up, oh my gosh. I gotta give it my biggest push, gotta get it my first game I hope we’ll be playing Buffalo first too, because it’s always been Buffalo that I scored first on. I’ll make that a request, Ah, can we play Buffalo first maybe? ” :)

 We talk a lot about Grace’s speed, but another big aspect of her game is her physicality and strength. We asked her about that and she thought and said

"I think in college, playing at Neumann, I was a bigger girl on my team. And I played boys hockey up until midgets. SonI always played a physical game obviously, because there’s hitting in boys hockey. So I’ve always played physical since checking was allowed. And then definitely going into college, I guess I was a little bit more of a goon back then. Not intentionally, but I was always in the box, because I was so much bigger than all the other girls. So I’d barely touch them or go for a battle and they’d fall over and I’d just get called. And then I realized as soon as I went to the NWHL, I stopped having penalties. And I said OK, so I’m allowed to be physical and battle for pucks! And I wasn’t the biggest girl anymore. For one, girls weren’t falling over as easy so I wasn’t getting called there and two they let us play a more physical game, which I was so grateful for, So I think, I’ve always been physical, than some girls in womens hockey just because I played boys for sooo long and it was just kind of ingrained in me. And as I mentioned in previous interviews I have an older brother who I used to play with, so it’s just how I played hockey. So it’s great being in a league where there’s stronger girls and better refs, in the sense that they will let us be more physical than college for instance. So, it’s something I’ve always been doing, and definitely how I am. And also we, me and some of the other girls on the Whale, would train at Prentiss Hockey Performance, so that also helped us out. and allowed us to be a little bit stronger on the ice.”

We had mentioned the 14-94 Hockey Camps, and Cetacean Nation thinks they do a great job of continuing to grow the game in the Philadelphia area. And we think it is a potential market for a future NWHL team. Grace concurred, stating

“I would absolutely love for there to be a team in Philadelphia. I know I talked a little bit about it to one of the owners/partners in the rink (IceWorks in Aston, PA) and they’d be interested in potentially doing it. But obviously it’s just an interest right now. I talked to Dani ( Commissioner Dani Rylan) briefly about it. And Dani and the rink would have to talk more. So I’m like: It’s time to get things going :) But right now Dani says maybe it’s a possibility for down, down the road, but I’d need more information. So obviously nothing yet. But yeah, I would love for there to be a team there, especially just with how much that area means to Shayne and I, it would just be awesome to be able to have something down there. That would be unbelievable.. obviously it’s going to take time. Since we’ve done a few games in Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh would probably be next just because we’ve already played in the facility and we saw what kind of crowd came out. So I think Philadelphia is still a few years down the road no matter what. I think Pittsburgh will probably be our next pit stop. I know we have enough girls to fill another whole roster if there is another team added, there are just a lot of really great hockey players and just not enough roster spots right now.”

Cetacean Nation shared that we thought it had been a great season for the NWHL as a whole. And some fans who were on the fence with the changing landscape of women’s hockey, are now clearly on the NWHL side. Grace added

“I’m definitely excited to see what comes of this, I think it was a great year and I think the NWHL does a great job. I know that there were a lot of obstacles to overcome, with the PWHPA and all that stuff going on, but I think Dani and the NWHL did a good job of holding their ground and not giving up. And I think all of us knew that we weren’t going anywhere, and I think that support doesn’t go unnoticed and I’m glad that we’re still thriving right now. It’s cool when you see people who were in the fence, and they say OK, it’s cool what the NWHL is doing, they’ve got a great thing going and we are a sustainable league right now. So I think that’s all we can ask right now, We’re doing all the right things and moving in the right direction. And it’s good to see that even one of our girls who used to be a PWHPA member (Alexa Aramburu), came over. There’s girls making the switch and it’s not going to reverse, at least that I’m aware of, that any NWHL girls are going away to the PWPHA. I think it kind of shows everyone we’re doing something right.”

Before letting Grace get ready for her next shift, we asked about a photo we had seen recently of Grace from back in her days at Neumann University: on the back of one of the college’s vans! Grace laughed and revealed

 “Neumann would ask people to do little photo shoots, and they would tell you itmight be for a billboard ot this and that. But they ended up putting me on the back,of a van, shiv he was pretty funny, I got plenty of Snap Chats saying: OMG you’re on a van! I will say, I was a little upset when they took me off the van. When I visited Neumann afterwards and I was no longer on the van. I was a little bit upset, but that’s OK:)" We wonder if the next time we see Grace’s likeness on a van, it will be in her Whale sweater. Wouldn’t that be cool!  Cetacean Nation thanks our amazing #94 Grace Klienbach for her candid and engaging content as always. Fins Up, and looking forward to watching Grace get her game again next season. Hey now, she’s an All-Star! Can an Isobel Championship be far behind? Let’s go play and find out!