Colleen in action with the Pod in Season Four! Photo courtesy of Matthew Raney.

COLLEEN MURPHY: SEE WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS

Yesterday's dead and tomorrow is blind and I live one day at a timeWillie Nelson, One Day at a Time

Cetacean Nation recently had a chance to chat with our amazing former #8, defender Colleen Murphy. As you may have noticed, Colleen has had an eventful past twelve months, including both on the ice with the Riveters in the NWHL, and in various functions with the Carolina Hurricanes in the NHL. And, representing her country on Team USA in the ISBHF World Championships. (You can read about all that ball hockey  in the ISBHF stories here on the website) But that was not the only ball hockey that Colleen played last summer. She was also involved in the now famous Ocean City, MD ball hockey tourney that played a big part in Brooke Wolejko joining the Pod. We have heard this story from several different players, and since she was there and one of the character's in the previous recounting, we wanted to get Colleen’s take on it. And  catch up on ball hockey with her as well. She laughed and explained

“It’s so funny! At that time Sam (Walther) hadn’t signed yet and I didn’t know Sam at the time either. And we were like: We don’t have a goalie, we need a goalie! That was the first time I met Brooke, and she is an awesome ball hockey goalie! She is so good and I was so mad, because we didn’t have enough spots to put her on my team, same with Hughie (Sarah Hughson) and Kayla (Meneghin). And the guy who runs the tournament wouldn’t let Hughie & Kayla play on my team, because we had too many good players. And their ended up winning, and I’m like: Are you kidding me? She just allowed one goal the entire tournament, and that was the first game that she ever played as a ball hockey goalie. OK, I said, she’s going to be OUR ball hockey goalie for everything else!"

"So we’re all going to come play down there, and I think Sonjia Shelley is coming down too, and she’s going to play out, she’s not going to be a goalie. That’s kind of what we’re looking forward to next, Just kind of get together with everyone and play in just a fun tournament. Huey, Kayla and Brooke are on my team, no questions asked, I will not play without them:). Witley will be the coach. I’m trying to convince Sam Walther to come down and play out too, it would be like the “goalies playing out team”, we’ll see how well that goes:) Brooke made a joke that she’s going to play out and throw me in net.! And I was like: Nope! Shannon Doyle might come down and play with us too. It’s going to be a big Whale reunion type of thing. I mean, I made the most friends when I played at the Whale. They were great people, they’re really my friends and they still are my friends. Huey is coming down to North Carolina to visit at the end of July, so they yeah. they were the best teammates I could have: and to definitely stay friends with”

Colleen lives down in the Raleigh, NC area. Cetacean Nation asked how things were going with the pandemic at this point (end of June) and she brought us up to date. 

"I am actually at the office, I’ve been back three or four weeks now. It’s been fine here, it’s all good, it’s very clean. Everyone’s taking the right measures and what not. I was working from home end of March, middle of March, and then all throughout April and went back in mid May. Which actually, I’ve not had too much of a difficult time with. I’ve actually enjoyed it"she laughed, "I like not having any hockey. So it’s a nice break for me. I was tired that’s for sure. Everything’s pretty much normal for me right now. Obviously there's no sports. All the youth programs have been shut down. I know they pushed try-outs back. Those are starting for the girls in July, and then they’ll go from there and see how that is. So there hasn’t been anything. But it hasn’t been bad for me at all, just taking the positives from it for sure.”

Cetacean Nation asked Colleen for a medical update on a couple of people that the fans of Cetacean Nation are familiar with. Her sister Katherine, who is recovering from hip surgery, and our friend and ISBHF correspondent Witley Nichols, who is rehabbing from knee surgery. Colleen advised

"Katherine’s recovery is going pretty well. She's been cleared for all sports, but there’s obviously no sports right now. She is working out regularly and everything. Witley’s knee is a little bit of a different story, ACL’s generally tend to take a little bit longer to recover fully, if you ever get to that point again. She’s been taking it slow, but again there’s no rush to get into anything right now. So lot’s of PT and making sure it’s 100% ready to go before hopping into anything, which I think is smart.”

Colleen has played for the Beauts, Whale and the Riveters in the NWHL, and we asked her what it was like playing against former teammates on the pro level. She replied

"For me it was all the time, constantly, right? And I’ve made friends on both teams when I played on them. And I particularly enjoy playing against my friends. I think there’s a lot more competition, it kind of brings it up a bit because you never want to lose to your friends. So it’s definitely in the back of my mind when I see one of my friends, I want to try extra hard to get the puck from her, you know? I think it’s different than in college, because we’re all a little bit more mature. We can be friends off the ice, but when it’s game time, we can still joke with each other, but it’s a level of hey, this is win or lose. But you joke with the person and your friends, and you go hang out with them after. That was one of my favorite parts about it, actually playing against my friends.”

Colleen has 51 NWHL games under her belt, playing as a defensive minded defender. But she also had her best offensive season last year, picking up seven points, and scoring her first NWHL goal. Or was it? On January 5th against the Minnesota Whitecaps, Colleen blasted home a tie-breaking goal from the high slot to give the Rivs a 2-1 victory. We asked her about all this and she told us

“I’ve obviously never been a points player, so that has never really been my forte at all. So for me, I was content with that. I obviously wish I could have done a little bit better on the score sheet, and make more of an impact there. But again, that is not really what I was expected to do, and obviously scoring that first goal, finally, was nice:) That was definitely a good time, so I was pretty happy with that. The only other time I actually scored in the NWHL was when I was with Buffalo, against the Riveters, and they called it back. They said I was in the crease. It was funny, because we went back to the locker room and looked at it right away, and I was nowhere even near the crease" she laughed. "It was at Barnabas and we lost the game actually? So that’s what I thought of, well I guess this is technically my second but they obviously didn’t count the first one. So I was just glad that we won this time, to be honest with you:) 

New uniform, same intensity! Photo courtesy of Kate Frese.

We discussed a few of the rinks that Colleen has played in, and we were particularly interested in her take on the outdoor game up in Buffalo this past season. She said

“I’ve actually played at that rink in Buffalo twice before. It was for a tournament that we did up there every February with the Lady Hurricanes ( her club team). So I played there in February, and it was much, much colder than it was this year. We got pretty lucky that night in December, It wasn’t bad at all. So I was pretty familiar with the rink and I actually didn’t like it when we played there with the Lsdy Hurricanes, and I really don’t like playing outdoors at all" she laughed. But it was a really cool experience and they did a really great job with the whole event in general, and it was kind of fun.”

We told Colleen about some of the problems the Pod reported about the extreme height of the boards at Pro Skate, and she responded

"I feel their pain! I think the only person who did not struggle with those boards was probably Stretch (Ashley Johnston). But that was awful, I hated it. Mal Rushton is pretty short, and I feel I’m short, but she’s definitely one of the smallest players, I don’t think it was fun for anybody. I heard that they were moving, and I voiced my opinions pretty strongly about how I felt about Pro Skate. It was not an ideal location and I get that they were kind of scrambling.But it did make it difficult for everybody. The whole area was not best suited for our types of games. It was also like extremely cold in there all the time, absurdly cold. So I think they are definitely moving away from that. It was tough for everyone to get to Pro Skate, even the fans. But what can you do, you’ve got to make the best of what you’ve got.”

As you may recall from her first interview with us (The Whale’s Harrier) Colleen is deeply involved in girl’s and women’s hockey in the Carolinas. And as you may have noticed in some of our social media posts, she has been recognized once again in a couple of big ways for her efforts. Including being designated by the Carolina Hurricanes as a Hero of the Game. Colleen humbly explained

"That was at the end of or right after the end of, my season on the Whale. But basically, I know a lot of people who work for the Hurricanes organization, and they’re all great with doing any kind of inclusion with women’s youth sports whatever it may be. And they reached out to me and said: Hey, we want to do this feature. So at the Hurricanes games before they hop out into the ice they do a siren, and I had done that before, back when I was with Buffalo. So a guy I know over there was like: Do you want to do the siren again? I was like; Sure, yeah, that was awesome, of course! So I was fully expecting just to ring the siren again, and then I’d be done with it. But it actually turned out that they wanted a bigger kind of event for women’s and girl’s hockey, kind of like a women’s and girl’s hockey night. But instead of me doing the siren, my buddy was like we’re not going to have you do the siren anymore, you’re going to be our Hero of the Game Feature. And I was like: Wait a minute, I’m not a hero, first of all, so that’s not like anything. But he’s, no, no it’s just everything you do! You work with the girls, playing in the league and traveling to Connecticut play games, it would be really cool. So I was like: Ok, that’s awesome, and so it was just that."

She continued "And my other friend Shane Willis who does all the in-game reporting stuff said we’re actually going to do a feature and bring you on Fox Sports Carolina before the game. I was like, that’s so cool! I was really excited, it was a really awesome opportunity just to talk more so about women’s and girl’s hockey growth in the Carolina’s than anything. Which is something that is very important to a lot of people down here. So yeah, I kind of just went with that. And like I said, the Carolina Hurricanes do such a great job with it. This year, before everything got cancelled we were going to do another women’s and girl’s hockey night, and me, my sister, and Alyssa Gagliardi, were going to do a three on three scrimmage in between the periods. We were going to do more feature stuff, and we were going to hold a women’s camp before the Hurricane’s practice. So we had all this stuff planned but unfortunately we couldn’t do it because everything got cancelled. There are a ton of people who get involved in things like that who really care about girl’s and women’s hockey down here. They want it to become better and even bigger. If I can have any kind of role in that that’s what I’ll do. And I’ll continue to do that as long as I can.”

Colleen also told us about actually getting on the 'Canes home ice at PNC Arena in Raleigh

“It was the alumni game. So the alumni game is a charity event, and obviously some alum from the Hurricanes come out and we just play this fun game. And people come out to watch and you’re skating at PNC which is pretty cool for just normal people. Again, my buddy who works for the ‘Canes , and Shane were like: Hey, we have an extra spot if you want to skate, so come on out and be a part of the game,. I was like: Yeah, that’s awesome! And I actually got pretty lucky with it, because with the league having games on Saturday and Sunday, most of the times I would have had a game Sunday afternoon. But luckily that one weekend it was just that game against Connecticut Saturday night, so I was able to catch an early flight home Sunday morning, and get to the rink by noon. It worked out! Again, it showed the kind of organization that the Hurricanes have. They could have asked anybody, they could have asked another male ot whoever they wanted to in the community to fill that spot. But the fact that they asked me and Alyssa just really shows how they they want to include everybody.”

So with that kind of base, we asked Colleen if she thought that the area could support a NWHL franchise. She gave us this nuanced answer

“I would say obviously yes I would love to have a team down here, it would make my life much easier and give me an almost definite option to be able to play in the league. I do think there would be support for it, I don’t think there would be any issues getting people to support the team or getting an investor to support the team, I don’t think that’s the issue. I think the issue is primarily location. The travel expenses, the issue of getting players to come down here, move their entire lives down here. It’s not close to anywhere most of them have grown up or are living now. When they graduate college they either stay near that college city, that’s for the most part, close to an NWHL team,right? That’s where the issue lies. There’s also a brand new facility that will be done in July down here. It’s going to be a two sheet rink where the Hurricanes are going to be practicing out of and it’s beautiful, it’s gorgeous. It’s not physically connected to the Hurricanes home rink, but it’s going to be the premier training facility. It’s something that we’ve needed in Raleigh for a long time now that will finally be done."

Colleen with her Carolina Jr Hurricanes squad of Future Draft Picks!

Colleen continued “Anyway, none of that would be the issue, it would be just getting the players here, and getting the league to be able to financially support a team down here without having an investor right away. I think that would have to be squared away first. And I don’t know how they make their acquisitions or go about picking a place to expand to. But if you look at the NHL, it took a long time for them to get a team down this way. To think that a league that is going to be in it’s sixth year would expand to the South seems unrealistic unfortunately. Toronto I think it’s great for the league. Toronto’s a huge market, so I think there’s definitely going to be a lot of people watching the league. Especially just having that Canadian presence, in it’s going to bring in a lot of people. It’s already bringing in a ton more players who want to play in the league now, there’s really not a downside to it. I would assume most teams would probably just bus there, unless it’s MInnesota. I know flying to Toronto is a little pricey, but it seems like a good cost option for them and it makes sense that was the next expansion, for sure. “

Cetacean Nation offered the opinion that with the way girl’s and women’s hockey has developed, and the way the NWHL is thriving, that there are way more good players than there are roster spots in the league. Colleen revealed that reality is impacting her at this point, and told us

“Yes, you’re 100% right about that. I’m actually one of those players who sees the effects of that right away. It is because we do have more of these high caliber players coming out of college, and some that want to come back to the league or join the league for the first time. And they are good players, and if they can be there more than I can and they live in that area, it’s a no brainer, right? You wouldn’t want someone who can only make it to practice once a week, versus someone you could have twice a week. So I am by no means any sort of All-Star player or whatnot, and so that’s why my spot kind of gets in the vulnerable stage. And, possibly taken with these players which is great for the league, but it’s not great for me. Like I said, I’m seeing that first hand, because with my living situation and not being able to get to practice, most teams are moving away to where they want all their players there. And I’ve been told that by the Riveters and by most of the other teams. That it is just probably not going to work. Which is fine, I get it. Obviously I want to,play again, but at the same time if that’s how they want to run the team then there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t move, I can’t lift up my life here in North Carolina to go play when it’s not a reasonable living wage. I hope that it gets to that point one day, where you can just move wherever, because you have enough to fully support you. But it’s obviously not there yet and it will take awhile to get there. Definitely feeling the effects of that a little bit."

Cetacean Nation understands that we both say hello and goodbye to players each season. It is just the way it is. Sometimes we still get to cheer for them individually on other teams. Sometimes not. Colleen remarked

“Right now, personally the whole pandemic/quarantine thing, I don’t miss ice hockey that much which is a little concerning But at the same time, kind of opens up my eyes. If I don’t miss it now, like how am I going to push myself through traveling every weekend again, and putting that much time and effort into it. I’d much rather be playing in ball hockey tournaments, which is funny. I never thought I’d say that I’d prefer running over skating right now. I kind of want to focus on that, and just play ice hockey for fun down here. The traveling gets to you. I was just traveling so much, and it takes a toll on your body, physically and mentally being away. It’s just kind of nice to be home and do whatever I want whenever I want and not have be anywhere on the weekend, leaving on a Thursday morning and coming back super late on a Sunday night. So there’s a good and a bad to it. Obviously I want to keep playing at that level and be a part of the team camaraderie and compete. But at the same time I’m not sure where my heart would be in it exactly. Obviously I’d push through, but at the same time this could be a blessing. So I’m just kind of taking it as is. Think in the positive for sure. I was very upset when I figured my chances would be pretty low to play again, but you just have to look at it from a different perspective. Obviously it sucks to be told we want you on the team, but if you can’t be here for both practices, then we can’t make it work. Well that sucks to hear for sure, it’s unfortunate that that is the case."

she concluded "But at the same time I had three good seasons and I think I’ve gotten what I’ve wanted out of it. Do what you can with it, learn from it, and just move on. It’s moreso teams want players at practices and they want to limit out of town players unless you’re an All-Star. I think that’s the one kind of outlier, if you’re that All-Star, that superstar player then there’s an exception. I’m not going to continue to pursue anybody, but if somebody reached out to me I’d definitely entertain that fact. I love hockey and I love playing in the league so I definitely would like to have that option. But right now I’m content with the decision that Is e been given by the Riveters, so. that’s kind of where I’m at"

NWHL fans are aware of Colleen’s tenacity and work effort, and so are the teams. It’s a long season, and if things should continue as she laid them out, Colleen will be in shape and ready to talk. And the addition of a veteran presence during the play-off push is almost a certainty, somewhere. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. Cetacean Nation thanks Colleen for her insightful and heartfelt comments, and we’l keep following her and cheering her on, whether on ball hockey rink or an ice hockey rink.Fins Up Forever Colleen! Once A Whale Always A Whale!

Colleen at the Carolina Hurricanes Alumni Game, rockin' some Whale(r) green!