Cetacean Nation also asked Eric for his thoughts on Grace in the NWHL, the league, and the Whale going forward. He offered
“Watching the games in Season Three, for Grace there was a huge difference going from DIII to NWHL. Maybe not for some of the D1 girls, but for a lot of the D3 girls it was. Fortunately for Grace, she has always been a fast skater and used to pulling her own weight. One of the biggest challenges at Neumann was that nobody could keep up with her, there is nobody to pass to nobody to dish off to. That sometimes makes it difficult to develop fully.It’s an entirely different team this year, but still with a core of veterans like Shannon Doyle who is flat out a great, solid all around player for the team, just a rock, and smart. And same with Elena Orlando. The league league had a good season last year, and picking up Toronto, I think was huge. Toronto in the CWHL had actually drafted Grace before the the Whale called just before season three. We had literally made living arrangements, as I have friends who live there, so we were making all the plans for Toronto. She was going to go to the tryout camp, but Connecticut put their money where there mouth is and said we want you to come play, and signed her, Dani Rylan (NWHL founder) was instrumental in getting Grace in the league back in Season Three, getting her to sign with Connecticut over going to Toronto in the CWHL. Dani has done an amazing job of keeping this league going. And her story coming along coming along and fighting the NWHL battle is amazing. “
“The NWHL lets some of these players know that it’s not college and done. I think Grace would have made the same decision she made about her degree, but some of these girls coming up, they now know that if they want to continue to pursue a career in hockey, as a player , coach, trainer, they have a chance to go pro. They have a chance to elevate themselves above the other college player graduates. I think it’s important that the girls see that there is a possibility to get some notoriety/celebrity status (and money) and an opportunity to show you’ve worked hard and become an athlete at the highest level. It gives them an opportunity to validate that. That they are a pro athlete, I think that’s important.”
Eric also offered some comments that are especially salient to the Pod, a team with six DIII players on their roster, and two more who finished their careers in DIII. “Some people think that even the 4th line DI hockey is better than first line DIII. But some of the girls in DIII didn’t have the opportunity to go Tier I Elute or a powerful New England prep school, to get recognized by the DI schools. And now they have a chance to develop and excel in the NWHL. So the league (and most notably the Whale) gives players who are achievers like Grace, who graduated with honors and was Captain of the hockey team, to go play pro. It’s like they gets a chance to fulfill a dream that has now become reality.
Cetacean Nation can confirm that at the start of last season, Eric accurately predicted that Grace would be an All-Star. He added “I just hope that this year she gets another chance to prove that her speed wasn’t a fluke:), a reference to her battle with Allie Thunstrom in the fastest skater competition. Eric mused “Could you imagine a line with Allie and Grace on the same line, could anybody defend that?” We think Eric was speculating on seeing that line in the ASG, not prognosticating a trade.:) Eric further commented on the ASG saying he is not in favor of the running game clock, something several players have mentioned as well. Eric also revealed this ASG related fact: Grace Works for a great orthopedic company. They have a bunch of locations throughout Connecticut and they had a Grace Klienbach Day at the clinic. Anybody who wore Whale paraphernalia or dressed in Whale colors, were entered into a drawing. Two winners each got four tickets to the All-Star Game plus hotel accommodations for people to go cheer for Grace at the All-Star game.” Fins Up to that!
Anyone who has followed Grace's recent career, especially on any of the Cetacean Nation social media, knows about 14/94 Hockey (1494hockey.com) For those who don’t, ir is a hockey training company run by Grace and her fiancé Shayne Morrissey, out of Ice Works in Aston, PA, just south of a Philadelphia. It was the home rink for Grace and Shayne when they plated for the a Neumann University Knights. As we finished up our chat with Eric, he gave us this cool bit of Grace’s hockey history there “One of Grace’s first Team Florida games, when she was about eleven years old, was at aTwin Rinks. She faced off against Mario Lemieux’s daughter. He would come watch the games and they would have to put him behind the bench so he wouldn’t get mobbed by the fans :) Anyway, I think I have a picture of Grace somewhere inside that Aston rink that game,when she was about eleven years old. There are four sheets of ice at Twin Rinks, and the picture off Grace is on the same sheer where she ended up playing her collegiate home games during her career at Neumann.” Again, a little foreshadowing in the tale of Grace’s journey to the Whale!
Cetacean Nation thanks Eric Klienbach for sharing some of Grace’s journey with us, from the unique perspective of her family. Fins Up Eric, we’ll see you next season in Danbury!