Haley in action with the Pod Photo courtesy of Bryan Johnson

HALEY PAYNE: BLADE RUNNER

“We've already tried it. Ethyl methane sulfonate is an alkylating agent and a potent mutagen….the newly formed DNA strand carries a mutation and you've got a virus again. But this - all of this is academic.”

The words above are not from Dr. Fauci or Dr. Birx, but a quote from the movie Blade Runner. It is offered here merely as a bridge to link the title of this article over a stream of consciousness, to the some of the off season workouts by our amazing rookie #5 Haley Payne. Come to find out, Haley likes to roller blade and enjoys running, hence Blade Runner. More on that and more in a bit. But after some early postseason adventures, when we caught up with Haley, we discovered she was back in Braintree, Massachusetts. And the pandemic was in fact, the first thing we discussed.  We asked how and where she was dealing with our new normal, and Haley told us she was 

“Pretty bored, but that’s alright! So I am actually at home right now with my family. I came back actually, from Ireland, and I’ve been back about a month now. It is stressful, it’s a scary time, but being home is definitely helping. Just kind of relaxing, definitely sleeping in, catching some rest. Lots of movies, lots of puzzles, lots of family dinners. My brother’s a really good cook, so we’ve been eating pretty well, I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing.:) Getting some exercise in when the weather clears up. All the parks are closed down, and all the basketball courts, and at the schools all the fences are closed. I actually live right near my high school, and the track’s closed so you can’t even go up and walk around. It’s crazy.”

 Coming off her rookie season, this is Haley’s first offseason as a pro, and it’s atypical, to say the least. So Cetacean Nation wanted to know what a normal off season usually looked like for her. She explained

“I go to a local gym right near my house, I usually do that mornings in the summer at least three or four days a week. But definitely get it over in the morning, just get up and go. And running, I actually like running.(there’s the running part) I played lacrosse, so I’m a big runner, especially in the summer I love to run. So I try to do that two days a week, put some cardio in there and kind of spread it out. When I was in college, my first offseason I kind of just followed the summer packet that our trainer actually sent us, so I kind of stuck with that all throughout the four years.And it did become a little hard because I go to a public gym and I didn’t have a trainer at the time. So they didn’t have many of the types of equipment I needed, so I had to switch some exercises out for other ones, figure that all out. It worked, but everyone is a little out of shape going back to school when the season starts, but it definitely helps, getting out to run and work out like that, Especially for hockey players, if you played a running sport, you like to run. But if hockey was kind of your primary sport, a lot of hockey players I know despise running, cardio’s not what they want to be doing at all! :)

Haley added “Like everyone says, it’s tough to get ice in the summer, even to the the point where you need to be conditioning on the ice. I know you can rent ice, and just kind of play little pick-up games with your friends. I probably looked at the end of July, beginning of August to get back on the ice, and try to do it twice a week. But it it’s hard to get ice to rent around here, unless you know someone and they just kind of let you use the rink. So that was kind of my technique in the summer. But I would say again, end of July beginning of August, a good month before hockey started, because in college I think the end of September was when we started to get on the ice for hockey practice. I rollerbladed (there’s the blade part) a lot, I used that as kind of a substitute. Rollerblading is as close to skating as you can get without going to the rink."

We wondered if Haley had played any roller hockey and she replied  "No, I haven’t. I actually hadn’t really heard of that, until I met some of the girls on the Whale, and they said that they played roller hockey., or ball hockey. I’d actually never heard of it, these don’t really have leagues around here like that for us. I know my two friends, they live in Michigan and Georgia, and it’s big there. They have a lot of indoor floor hockey and stuff like that. But I really had no idea, because there is not much around here".  We also discussed with Haley the remaining NHL or NBA seasons and asked if trying to have a more normal 2020-2021 is more important than salvaging the interrupted season. She replied  "I think it should definitely just be normalizing the season that comes after that. I think jumping into anything too quickly, with everything going on, is crazy. The news that I’ve been watching is saying slowly come back, and kind of put players and put teams ranked as we left it, But I don’t think they should rush anything, and they should kind of just go off what’s going to be in the upcoming season. I think they should just hold off, and then a fresh start. It stinks, but then everyone’s season ended that way everywhere, in every kind of league."

We also wondered if Haley was able to do any coaching, or clinics this season or if she has plans to? She explained

" So, during the season I was actually helping out Laura (Assistant Coach Laura Brennan) a couple times in Fairfield with the little kids skating. When I signed with the ream I was actually looking to coach a youth team in Connecticut, because I think,it would definitely help pass time, and it helps in terms of money. I’ve always babysat in the past, I just love hanging out with kids, being their mentor, so I definitely have done that. And when I graduated college, I was living back home, and looking to coach a local high school team near me. So coaching had been in my plans and still is now, I’m actually kind of looking around here to coach next season".

Cetacean Nation also offered Haley our congratulations on winning the Twitter handle (@houseofpayne23) championship, in a really fun competition put together by Dan Rice. Haley laughed and told us

"I was like talking to people I never met before and telling them: Go vote for me! There were so many votes on it, it was going up and down for the longest time. It was good competition, her’s was funny too. It was very clever. It was funny to see three Whale players who actually made it into the second or third round (#94 Grace Klienbach @tweeterlessG & #33 Cassie “Casper” Goyette @TFriendlyGoalie) Haley explained that Cassie was called Casper by her teammates, and told us “Yeah, that’s what we call her. I didn’t understand if Casper the Friendly Goalie meant something, so I actually looked it up: What is Casper the Friendly Goalie? Maybe, it’s Casper the Friendly Ghost, maybe that’s what it’s supposed to be! That would make sense! "


 Haley had mentioned she had recently returned from Ireland, and we asked her about that trip. She exclaimed 

"Oh, Ireland! My whole family has been before. My family went a year or two ago, and then my brother and Dad went together for a little bonding trip, it was my first time, Ingwe went to go visit my friend that plays professional basketball up there at University of Dublin. So we were supposed to be there for about a week and a half, but it got cut short because we had to keep changing our flights. About the fourth day in, we were walking around and everything was closed, the place was a ghost town. I was like come on, the one time we come to Ireland, everything’s closed. My friend that plays basketball there, ended up going home, because her parents wanted her to come home. She’d also been there the whole school year, so they were like, just get home, better safe than sorry. But I was actually with my friend Olivia from Sacred Heart, so when everything closed in Dublin we got on the train to Galway and did an AirBNB, and we were very surprised that things were still open."

Haley continued "The restaurants were open, but then again there was no one walking the streets. So it was like: Oh, just a private tour of Ireland! And the last two days we were there we actually hired a driver, and he took us to the Cliffs of Moher. It was funny, we went to the Cliffs of Moher, and our tour guide was like this is crazy, take this in now, because usually there’s thousands and thousands of people here, and there were maybe ten people there, and we were two of them. It was completely empty, It was beautiful. So I guess it was a good thing that things were closed, because we ventured out saw some of the countryside of Ireland. It rained like everyday we were there. I actually preferred the countryside, I thought it was beautiful. I have family, cousins that live in Kerry, so they live right in the Ring of Kerry. Everyone thought I lived there, they’re like where’s your accent? I’m like, no I’m not from here:)"  Cetacean Nation asked what her favorite part of the trip was and Haley thought a moment and offered " I would say just how friendly everyone was. I think everywhere you went, everyone was just kind of ready to help you with anything.they were just so nice about everything, but that’s like coming from Boston where you’ve got a lot of attitude, a lot of personality. We are actually making plans to go back this summer, let’s hope everything goes back to normal by then. Probably go for a week or two"

Hayley on her trip to Ireland, at the Cliffs of Moher and in Galway with Padraic Ó Conaire

Haley played a varied role with the Pod this season, skating on multiple lines and contributed early, getting her first NWHL goal in just her second game. Haley saw reduced playing time as the season wound down, and we asked if there was there an injury we weren’t aware of or just a numbers game? She revealed

 "No injury, we signed a bunch of new girls as the season went on, so my playing time got a little cut short. But I think it was better for the team, we picked up some really good girls. We dropped like flies on defense, we lost a couple, but we picked up two switch players that could play forward and D. I definitely didn’t get as much ice time asI would have liked, but it was definitely good for the team. I think the team was very successful when we picked up some of those new girls. So being part of the team and practicing is really not something to complain about as long as it’s what’s best for the team, if we”re winning, then I was happy for the team. The roster was definitely small at first, and then the New Jersey game we lost two of our players. Neither of them really came back actually."

And speaking of New Jersey, a few other players had commented on the boards at ProSkate in New Jersey, and so we asked what Haley’s recollection of them was, and she added a new twist as she clarified

"How bouncy they were? Isn’t that the rink where they’re wicked bouncy? But getting onto the bench, some of us little guys really couldn’t get over them without a running start. Elena Gualtieri and Maddie would jump and we’d have to drag them over, and they barely made it! :) "And of course The first Whale win was in New Jersey, and Haley was a part of that, so we asked her to tell us a little bit about that special night to start the new year She exclaimed "

"That game was crazy! You could tell the genuine happiness when we won that one, especially with the coaches, Colten’s reaction when we won was crazy, you could tell how proud he was of us. He couldn’t stop smiling! You could definitely see how proud he was. He was like: I told you it would take one, all it takes is one! It was such a back and forth game, we were up, we were down, then we were up again. Everyone was surprised we were up, and they tied it up. I think it was Hanna Beattie that had the goal to tie it up, and then Kendra (Broad) scored in OT. Ir was fun, and I think it was definitely a turning point for our team. The team got a lot more confidence, don’t stop fighting ‘til the end. I definitely think it really brought the team together, and was a just another kind of step up for the rest of the season, and you could see that."

We also discussed with Haley the fact that the Pod had twenty-two different skaters who scored points, or as she put it “ We were spreading the wealth” So we asked Haley to tell us about her first NWHL goal "Yeah, I think it was my second game, up in Buffalo. That was very exciting, it was crazy,like you never really think it’s going to happen to you. And then it’s like before you know it, it’s already in the back of the net! Like I said, the game is so quick. But that was very exciting, it was awesome"

Since this was her rookie season, we asked  Haley if there was something about the league, that she didn’t know about or realize before this season?  She replied

"Ok, so when I really first found out about the league, I kind of thought it was more like full time, I didn’t know it was more like part time., so we’d have two practices a week. And I thought there would be more team events that kind of went along with it. Like you watch the NHL there always together, ding fundraisers and things like that. But I think we were more spread.out. We were definitely separated, I didn’t know that girls would be traveling from other places. I thought we all lived near the same area, stuff like that. But I mean it did work out, but I definitely think it would help if there was more involvement with the team. I think it would bring everyone closer. I think Minnesota, they’re very close, and you can see that. Because I think a lot of them live in different places and travel to Minnesota and live together. But that’s really the only type thing in the league that kind of surprised me."  Haley added  "Road trips are really fun because you get a different view, you’re not playing in your home rink. You definitely get to know people more because you’re eating meals together, you’ve got a roommate, and you’re traveling on a bus together. I think it definitely helps bringing teams together, and that was probably one of the most fun parts of the season, was going on road trips." 

Haley offered the following observations on last season, the team, her teammates.

"It was good. Like we said you had your group that was veterans, so they kind of all knew each other from past seasons, past teams. Then you had a bunch of new kids coming in like me, Maddy, Elena, Brooke and others. And we all got along pretty good, we definitely jelled as the season went along and we all became one group. It can be hard, joining a team out of nowhere, and not necessarily being the new kid, because I think hockey players grow very quickly together. I think the chemistry definitely got stronger as the season went on, We kind of figured out who each other was, and where we were coming from, why we were brought to the team, and the meaning and reason that we wanted to be there and stuff like that. And I think it definitely got stronger as it went on. I think having rookies like we did is very good for the future. I know New Jersey has signed a couple of their rookie players and I think that’s good for growth. If they stay together, play together, they”ll just grow together. Just get stronger and stronger as the years go on. So me personally, I had a blast, I thought it was a great time." 

We chatted with Haley just before the announcement from the NWHL about the expansion into Canada with the addition of the Toronto franchise. Her thoughts about expansion were that

"I think expansion is always a good thing, there’s always room for it. And I think there are a lot of girls who would like to,play in the league and be part of that. Right now thee is a good spread of where the teams are located, but they cam definitely add a team or two, progressively, move up to tha. I don’t think it would be a good idea to double the amount of teams right away, but if you add a team or two a year, I think that’s definitely important. It gives more girls an opportunity to play. Each team only has 20-25 players as it is. It’ll definitely grow at some point, let’s hope".

Haley concluded by telling us "I had a blast my first season, I think rookie season is a lot of fun. You learn a lot, you learn about the commitment levels that this league is expecting. And I think it definitely pushed me to become a better player, especially with Colten being the coach. He’s a great guy, and I actually talked to him a couple of weeks ago. He told me that they really appreciated the effort I brought to every practice, and when they needed me to play in games. And if I  ever need my help with anything or recommendations, to give him a call. I think it’s very important to male those connections with those type of people, it can always help you out in the future." We told Haley that the fans of Cetacean Nation  would hope that future plays out with Haley coming back for Season Six, and she said “I hope to be!”

We thank Haley for her honest, interesting, and often amusing content. Fins Up to our #5, Haley Payne our Blade Runner!

Little Future Draft Pich Haley, and Connecticut Whale Haley with her first NWHL goal