Paul Fernandes getting the Whale bench set-up for a tilt against the Riveters in Newark.

BEHIND THE SCENE: WITH PAUL FERNANDES

Of all of the people involved with the Whale last season, only four had been involved continually with the NWHL from day one: Shannon Doyle, Jordan Brickner Gragano, Elena Orlando, and Paul Fernandes. Paul as you may know, is both the Trainer and Equipment Manager for the Pod. There is a lot that goes into putting our Amazings out on the ice each game, and Paul has been a part of that for five seasons, and is heading into Season Six. Part of the way GM Bray Ketchum approached this offseason, was to attempt to bring back key core members of the Pod. And she has succeeded in doing so. To date that includes thirteen returning players, Head Coach Colten Orr, Assistant Coach Laure Brennan, and Paul Fernandes.

We caught up with Paul recently and chatted about his career with the Whale. We started by asking him to explain for the fans what exactly his role is with the Whale. Paul explained 

“I have two roles, I guess I fill two roles. It wasn’t my role to be equipment manager from day one. I was basically just the athletic trainer for the team. But our equipment manager was working at NBC Sports while we were at Stamford. And then when we made the move up to Northford Ice Pavilion, he was having a hard time working at NBC Sports and traveling an hour and a half north to come to practices. So I was thought, well, the sharpening machine isn’t too hard to work, I can do this. It wasn’t too taxing. I can do this and whatever else I have to do, I can take it over. So ever since, I’ve been kind of doing both. It was hard to find somebody that wants to do it, and be committed to do it too. You can’t say you are going to do it and then say you’re not going to show up, two hours before the game. There is a commitment level that’s required. As professionals, we have to be there early to set things up, before the players start getting there. So I just said I’d take both jobs upon myself for now, until sometime further along somebody else comes in who really wants to do it. Or the league has the resources to have someone come in and actually do it as a job. Sometimes you get stuck if things happens at the same time that require your attention in both roles. That’s the only snafu. But it’s really worked out well.”

Cetacean Nation wondered what a typical Game Day might look like for Paul, who answered.

 “So it all depends if you’re the home or the visiting team. But but I’ll go with being the home team, because that really gives you the whole enchilada basically. I try to get there at least three hours before game time. Although I know what rink we’re going to be on, I need to first look to see what lockers are assigned that day. Then I can set up all my tables for us and the visitors, and my sharpener. And I’ll be getting ice for both us and the visiting team too. I am bringing my frozen pucks already from home because that’s important. If you don’t have frozen pucks, you get a lot of bouncing pucks, so once I get there I go and put those babies on ice. Then I start filling up the water bottles, getting a water jug and ice for the visiting team. Dan Melillo and Bray Ketchum will sometimes bring snacks and Gatorade or water for both the visiting team and us. If someone needed new sticks, I’d be bringing those for them as well. And setting out towels and tape.Tape for the sticks and a clear tape for the shin pads.” So it’s basically setting up the benches and the pucks for warm-ups,then the game, and sharpening as many skates as I need to. And every game is a little different. I have a card set up for the different hollows that they like and the sharpening grade, so they can put them all in a row underneath those categories. So I know what’s needed once they go off to do their warm-ups, and I can get the rest of my stuff done in an order that I want. And the clipboards and markers out for Colton. it’s a lot of stuff when you cram it all into a small window.”

"And from the athletic training part, there may be players that need some work done. They might need their hips aligned, or they might need a little stretch or a rub down or whatever, It all depends. Again it’s a little different every day. I make my way back-and-forth from sharpening some skates, to working on the players, to get everybody read. And then you set up the game benches while the girls are getting dressed. And put water bottles and towels in the penalty box too. Sometomes you wish we had the rink earlier so you could do it more at your own pace. But sometimes it’s really rush, rush rush, because we’re not playing at our own facility.We’re sharing a building with somebody else, and we can’t control the ice time before the game. The rinks often will book the ice right up until game time, so it makes it a little difficult for things to get situated in certain areas. And as a visitor, rinks are set up differently, so you may have a longer walk or a harder walk to get to the bench area. Right now it’s hard to get people to volunteer and to agree to do that all of the time. If somebody just shows up a couple of times, it’s pretty much worthless. My son likes to come out and he’ll help me and sometimes if it’s local, like say we’re going down to the Riveters. He’ll come with me if he’s caught up on schoolwork, which is nice. “

Paul added "Everything is more organized now in the off season, compared to earlier seasons. We get uniforms and equipment.sized up and ordered up, making sure we have everything we are going to need for the upcoming season. Getting the doctors on board as to when we’re going to do physicals, now that’s set up in advance which it wasn’t in year one, And equipment wise we’re trying to get everyone on the same page. It’s easier to supply the whole team, and to take care of the visiting team that way. From my experience, and I come from 15 plus years working in pro hockey, the leagues have a standard for what the visiting team gets. There’s a big list from both the athletic training side, and from the equipment side. So when it comes down to basic things, pucks, water bottles towels, we shouldn’t have to be bringing that on the road. The whole team should provide that, the same thing with sock tape, and stick tape, stuff like that. Because now your flying more, you’re going to MInnesota and there should be no need to have extra charges for bags, overweight this or that. If the home team takes care of all that, it works out to be the same cost anyway over the course of the season. We’re starting to have those conversations now, to try to get everybody on the same page. And since I’m kind of the older one in the league, I’m just trying to make them aware of things that have happened with me in the past in other places I’ve been. Other organizations, other leagues, how we did it. It just makes ir easier for everybody. They’re starting to make some of these little changes here and there, which is nice to see.”

In the preceding comments, Paul mentioned sharpening skates. Cetacean Nation is aware of our partnership with Sparx, and we asked Paul about that, and about the ins and outs of skate sharpening. He informed us

“Sparx has a partnership with us ( the NWHL), and they supply us with the wheels for the sharpening machine. We’ve been using them since Season Two. In Season One about halfway through, Boston had gotten one. One the reps from Sparx was a hockey player and lived in the Boston area, and she asked them if they wanted to try it out. It’s really convenient. It’s portable so you can take it on the road. It does an awesome job sharpening skates? There is a method to sharpening skates, and if you don’t know the precision parts on a regular sharpening machine you’re gonna mess it all up. Sparx takes that out of the equation, and makes it really easy. It’s just lining it up, feeding it in and pushing play basically. That’s it!" he laughed.

“it’s kind of idiot proof! None of my players have complained about it since we’ve been using it. I know some other facilities or other teams don’t use them, but but like I said no one‘s complained. Also, it’s pretty maintenance free. We clean it, clean the air filter, and replace the wheels when they are worn out. Sparx has been good to us, and we just email them when we’re running low and they send the wheels in the mail to us. They’ve been awesome, I have no complaints. The players have liked it. Sometimes they may want to change the hollow, the different cuts that they have, (The hollow Id the concave groove ground into the bottom surface of the skate blade) Depending on how the ice is, there are places you may want a little more grip on your blade or a little bit less grip. Those are the kind of things that players will change on it. I’ve had the same machines Sparkx gave it to us and so far nothing is broken on it so they definitely hold up with the rigors of use.”

“So depending on the grades of the sharpening, it gives you different grips and different glides, so it all depends on what you’re looking for, and what position you’re playing. You might want a different cut if you are a person who wants to take a really sharp turn. A forward might want a half inch cut on their skate for that. But defenseman most of the time want a five eights cut, because they want to move quicker from backwards to forwards in transition. So they are going to want more of that glide type of feel. Each position has a little bit of their own characteristics. You’ve got a know a little bit, but actually sometimes the players don’t even know that there’s a difference in the cut but most of them at this level know what they’re used to. “ 

Paul on Sparx: It’s just lining it up, feeding it in and pushing play basically. That’s it!

We wondered if perhaps goalies had a yet a different sort of cut? Paul confirmed that, saying

Yes. For example this past year had three goalies and each one had a different cut. I think Brooke likes it 3/8 Sonjia was more like a half Cassie was around a half too. it all depends what you’re used to. But nowadays goalies want more of a grip when they go down and do a butterfly or a half butterfly. They have to push off with that leg that’s on the ice so you want those skates sharpened to have a grip. So that’s why the 3/8 inch is good, it really really gives you bite on the ice. With that 3/8 inch you’re going to get a great stick to the ice. But it also it takes some power to move a little bit too, because there’s more resistance on the ice. So there are pluses and minuses as you go through the different grades of sharpening depending on what you want to achieve on the ice. it’s all kind of a little preferences on the goalie side.” 

Paul had also spoken about tape, and that is something used on both st is and players in hockey. Paul elaborated on both scenarios.

“Most of the players do their own stick taping. I might have to do one in a certain situation. For example, maybe the one they were using on the ice got a skate cut, and the tape from head to town was slit. Nobody really likes to use it like that. So in that case we will swap it out and use the back up little bit and I’ll ask them if they care if I re-tape the other. I do take notice of how they tape their sticks. Some players are picky and they’ll have their own little way of doing it and they’ll be like: No, no, no. only I can tape it. So I ask if they want me to do it or if they want me to just leave it and so they can take care of it during intermission. It doesn’t make me mad if they say no” he laughed “I’m pretty easy-going. I don’t want to mess with her mojo” 

Paul continued, and addressed the taping of players, observing

"There is definitely a technique to taping a player. You’ve got to go with the flow of the tape but also depending on what you’re taping, use the proper tape to do the job structurally.For example, some players do not want to wear a knee brace. They”d rather have it taped for something like an MCL sprain. So then what tape are you going to use for that? You are not going to just use some off-the-shelf tape. There is a Great a tape called Elastikon tape which is a little bit thicker grade. It gives you a little bit more sturdiness. And nowadays you have kinesio tape, which actually has foam bars built into it. That’s what I used this year actually on One player who had some patella tracking problems. Females have a slightly different hip angle, that is greater than a male does (hip morphology). That sometimes causes problems in that area with their patella tracking properly. She was having some of those issues over the summer, and I said we’re going to try the kinesio tape a couple of times.And she’d report back on how it works. That’s the other thing, sometimes it’s trial and error process. I had her do some taping with the kinesio tape, and the kinesiol tape with the foam bars and she loved it. So so every practice and game that is what I’d use to tape her up.”

"Unfortunately with the league right now, we do not get to see the players every day.Which I don’t like because there could be things that I could be doing those other days with them. But at least I get to see them three or four times a week between practices and a couple of games. So you try to “home school” them a little bit too. Tell them what to do when they’re not with me, to kind of get better and keep the injuries they may get in the games under control. We are always talking and texting now and they’ll tell me this is what it looks like this is how it’s feeling today and we’ll take the proper precautions. Similarly, the doctor is only a phone call away which is a big plus compared to year one. Then we did not have anybody as a team doctor, but that finally came in year two and that’s just gotten better. You have the doctor’s phone number and you can call or text and tell him what’s going on with your particular player. Then usually the doctor will reach out to them and try to get them in the office, also so that’s been great too.”

“We have been working with Dr. Marc Kowalsky and ONS the last couple of years. And talking with Bray, I think he’s going to be back again. It’s great because they have a relationship with the returning players and already know what’s going on with most of them. So it’s great to have the same doctors group. The same with my relationship, because we know each other and we can talk about things easily. You’re asking them to supply you with some resources of theirs in exchange for some of our resources which is important. Because it’s a lot of money involved in healthcare. Dr. Fabian was our doctor for the two years previous to this, and she was awesome as well.”

Another huge concern in all sports, especially contact sports like hockey, is the incidence of concussions and how they are dealt with. So we asked Paul to tell us about how the NWHL concussio protocol works, and what Itbentails. He explained

“The home team is responsible for having medical coverage, and having an orthopedic doctor and a regular medical doctor plus the EMS personnel at the game. Everybody is on site before the puck even drops for warm-ups. So if something like happens that a player comes off and says: I feel a little dizzy, I can’t see too well, I think I got my bell rung. So you start asking a bunch of questions that you know the answer to. That’s another reason why it’s nice to converse with the players when you see them at practice or a team lunch maybe. So we’d ask: Where did we go eat? What hotel did we stay at? Just kind of ask them questions like that, to try to get some responses back and to see how long it takes you to get those responses. Because if it’s a slower response, you know that there’s something going on. And you observe how they’re reacting when you are asking them the questions. Are they like a deer in the headlights? Are they trying to close their eyes, are their eyelids drooping? Do they look like they are trying to fall asleep? There’s a lot a little things you’re looking for in terms of symptoms. And when you see them, then you call the doctor in. And then they’ll go through the whole concussion protocol, where they’re testing cranial nerves to see that everything is intact. And they’re doing muscle testing to see if both sides react the same. And checking how do their pupils track and react to light.”

"And then you ask them more questions. You’d say remember these five words I’m going to give you. I’m going to ask you to repeat them again. You are testing to see if cognitively, they can process and remember words. And if they can’t then there’s some other issues going on. So before every season starts all the players have a concussion baseline testing done. There’s a SCAT 5 test (The Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 5 which is a standardized concussion screening methodology The SCAT-5 can be used to assess athletes ages 13 and older for a variety of mental and physical changes following a head injury) ans a King-Devic (The King-Devick or K-D test is based on measurement of the speed of rapid number naming and captures impairment of eye movements, attention, language, and other correlates of suboptimal brain function) that we would do on a computer. So there’s a lot of different things that we do as a league before the physical even happens. We discuss what we’re going to use each year, and basically it’s always the same thing. We know what we’re doing so we’re testing them when they’re normal, so then when someone gets hurt we can test to compare with how they are now. You have the answrs and the results that you had prior, and you can compare that to what you have after a head injury And that helps determine how bad the level of the concussion is. So the players are going to go through these different muscle tests and tracking and we’ll see how they respond, and if they’re having trouble with it, they’re done.”

Paul added  “Because with a concussion you could have bleeding in your head. It could be either a veinous bleeding or an arterial bleeding. Venous bleeding is slower so the symptoms take longer to appear, whereas arterial bleeding goes a lot faster. in that case the symptoms come on right away. So those differences are one of the big dangers of concussions. You’ve probably heard about waking your kids up in the middle of the night if you think they’ve had a concussion. And that’s because of the venous bleeding with the danger that it takes longer for those symptoms to show up It is takes longer to circulate through your body, that’s the danger. That’s why they don’t want you taking anti-inflammatories after you’ve had a concussion. Because that’s just going to increase blood flow at a time when you don’t want to do that. You want to actually try to decrease it. Your head may be hurting but you don’t take anything for 24 hours So that's basically it, you have to have your concussion protocol in place.”

 

Paul also talked about spine boarding, and what is being done to improve that safety protocol. He Informed us

"We have our own association for professional athletic trainers and hockey and equipment managers in hockey? And we have our own convention every year. In the NHL and the AHL, guys have their own protocol for spine boarding (Spine boarding is a technique that is used to transport an athlete for emergency care whenever a cervical spine injury is suspected) on the ice which we don’t actually do right now. It’s going to get there eventually. I’ve been kind of bringing it up to everybody. The problem is that is NHL facilities have a sheet of practice ice just sitting there. We don’t have that luxury of having empty ice andu an arena where you can practice for an hour every day Ideally you want your EMS personnel there and your trainers there, just in case something happened on the ice and we need to backboard somebody. Just let me know ind of having a plan in place. We do have a plan in place and I’ve written things out. But practicing it is half the battle. so that the quicker you get them off the ice and into the ambulance the better. And what’s the most efficient way to do it? The NHL/AHLy guys are practicing that, and there’s very strict guidelines for them. Eventually we’ll get there, but in a lot of ways the league so young it’s like a little baby. Things take time, and the NHL wasn’t the NHL that it is today right from the start. Eventually it’s going to get there, you’ve got to have faith in that. I keep telling everybody money solves everything in terms of this. I mean if you get some billionaire who is going to give you a ton of money, yeah we could do some stuff really quick. But if you don’t have that, kind it takes time to build that up. It’s not going to happen overnight. I’ve seen the progress every year and that’s what you want.”

Paul doing some pre-game stretching with former Whale Captain #28 Sam Faber

And speaking of protocols Cetacean Nation asked Paul to comment on the realities of returning to play with Covid still in the picture. He replied 

“I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’ll figure it out. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this works out. With the tight space have there already, we’ll see what happens. You’ll get a feeling of what worked, what didn’t work with the other leagues, what was successful. And I know Dani has a good relationship with the NHL she knows a bunch of people there, so maybe she could get some input from them also. Because it seems like they’ve done a great job so far with what they’ve come up with. So we’ll see how things shape up in a couple of months. It's a waiting game.The new norm for a little bit.” 

Paul’s background as a certified and licensed trainer is extensive. He received his undergrad degree from Plymouth State in Athletic Training, and his Master’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University in Sports Management. And his career includes service with South Kent School (prep), Fordham University, the Elmira Jackels, the Adirondack Ice Hawks and the Danbury Whalers/Mad Hatters in India pro hockey, and the Connecticut Wolves in pro.soccer. So how did Paul first get started in hockey, and what was his journey to the Whale like? Paul revealed

"I was raised in the Ridgefield/Danbury area growing up and I picked up hockey basically when I was thirteen. We had some family members that liked hockey, and they were like: Let’s go to a hockey game! So that’s howbI got introduced to it. The one thing I miss about Hartford still, is those Whalers! We used to go up and watch them whenever they were home. Ridgefield was the closest place that had ice when I was growing up, so me and my brother started playing there, in house and then breaking out to travel hockey. I played for Richfield High School also, and played a little bit of club hockey in college. I tried a lot of different other sports but hockey was the the one I really loved to play the most. I’m first generation Portuguese growing up here in the States, and my dad wanted me to play soccer. But that did not work out, I wasn’t good at soccer. So I stuck to just watching a little bit. But L actually got into the sports medicine thing because in my senior high school I actually tore my ACL and I couldn’t play the rest of the season. And that’s a shock because you think you can play forever without having an injury, so then it was what can I do that is sort of sports related? I started doing some research and I was like: Oh, athletic training, that could be kind of cool. You”re on the sidelines while you’re watching a game! When I got my knee reconstructed and was going to rehab I got talking to some of the PT’s who are also athletic trainers who were working at the clinic I went to. It was kind of like, Wow, this is what you can do with it, that’s cool ! Somthat’s how I got into it and then I got my masters degree in Sports Managememt in case I ever want to side track a little bit, I could still be involved in sports that way as well.” 

Paul added “I’ve always been a goalie. It’s kind of funny, I’ve been a back up for a lot of teams, even in the East Coast Hockey League. We only carried two goalies, so in case one of them got hurt or if they were dealing with something and had to miss practice, they’d tell me “ Go get the pads,” And I’ve strapped them on more than a couple of times for practices there. Almost got in a game in the ECHLtoo. But the coach didn’t want to do it because it was a home game and he said he didn’t think the clinic I worked for would be happy if they had to bring somebody else in to do my job. If we were on the road I could get away with it, but not at home:) But I get into a game when I started working in the EPHL with the Danbury Mad Hatters. One day we were going on the road to New Jersey, and out goalie had gotten called up to Hartford. I said: Awesome, you got called up, that’s great And then I looked at the coach and asked: You called someone up to be the backup right? He’s like: Oh, no! I didn’t! I don’t have a backup! So I said: I guess I’m going home, grabbing my stuff and I’ll meet you at a Turnpike exit. I wasn’t expecting to play, but our starter didn’t do well and by midway through the second period we were losing 6-2 or something. So the coach asked if I wanted to play in the third period,and I said sure. So I got to play one period, and just gave up,one goal.” But if you look it up, I am charged with 6 or 7 goals, because if a back up gives uo a goal, they inherit the other goals the starter gave up. But only one actually got past me.”

Paul then revealed “Even in Whale practices the last couple years, I’ve put on the pads and got out on the ice if one of the players couldn’t make it down to practice. When Laura was the backup a couple of years ago, and if the other goalies wouldn’t be coming to practice, she’d call me up and ask me to grab my gear and come to practice. She appreciated it, so she didn’t die out there by herself. I was like: OK, no problem. I’ll get everybody ready and then I’ll hop out there. I always joke that it’s confidence builder for the girls. A confidence buildup day when I’m in the net," he laughed , they’ll score a lot of goals on me.” 

Paul continued “I didn’t start out working in pro hockey. Even when I was in college, all of my professors knew that I loved and played hockey. When we had to choose a sport assignment, every time I just put hockey, hockey ,hockey as my three choices for assignments. But I’d never get them! They’d say: You know too much about hockey! But I’d say that I never worked in it. I knew it as a player, but I wanted to see that other aspect. But they just wanted me to go take something else. I’d get mad because I had to do other sports, but that really was fine. And actually when I graduated, I worked a couple of years in pro soccer. That’s actually what I started with. Connecticut used to have a team in the league which was like the minor-league teams for the MLS. Up in New Britain there was a team called the Connecticut Wolves, for the New England Revolution and the Metro Stars in New York. I interned for two years in school. They had an internship program and the girl that was a head athletic trainer for them was looking for an intern during the summer. And I was like, cool it’s in Connecticut only 45 minutes from where I live. That would be awesome to do and get some experience with them, and I ended up working for the Wolves. Then once I graduated, it was still the same coach, and I went over just to say hi and see how things are going. He asked what I was doing, now that I passed all my tests and was certified. Then he asked: Do you want to work tonight? I said: Are you serious, where is your trainer? He said she just quit and the new girl didn’t know what she was doing. So I said all right, I’ll sub in today. Then after the game the coach was talking to the general manager and pointed to me and said: Get him a job now! And he offered me the job right then and there! That’s how it started. Sometimes things just fall into your lap” 

He laughed and added “The team ended up folding but then hockey season was coming around a little bit earlier that year, and there was a hockey opportunity up in Adirondack to work in the United Hockey League, so I went up there and took that job. I stayed for a year, then I ended up moving out west to Bakersfield, California to work there for a while, before starting my trek back east. So I’ve been kind of a little kind of all over the place. It’s what you do when you want to move up to better leagues, sometimes it’s a lot of moving” 

So Cetacean Nation asked the obvious question: How did all of that eventually lead to his position with the Whale? And Paul had a very interesting answer!🐳

“I found out about the Whale just by looking online. I saw this NWHL is starting and I said: Cool, we’re going to have a women’s pro hockey league, that’s great! Then I saw Connecticut was going to have a team and I wondered who was going to be in charge of that, who’s involved, do I know anybody? And actually there was. It was Harry Rosenholtz who was our first GM that year. I’ve known Harry since I was a little kid playing in Ridgefield. Our practices were right before Harry’s men’s league games, and sometimes their goalie would not show up.or show up late. So they wanted to get playing, so between me and my brother, Harry was trying to bribe my mom into letting us stay and play! He’d offer to drive us home, they just needed a goalie, so they can start playing. We loved it, we wanted to play with the older guys and try to stop those hotter shots,coming towards you. We goalies are a little crazy! “


“So that’s how I knew Harry, just from growing up, and then I saw him here and there when he was coaching with Yale and Quinnipiac. I’d say hi, and stay in touch. So when I saw his name with the Whale, I thought I can reach out to him to see if he’s got anybody in mind as a trainer. He said: No, I have not actually thought of that, but I know we’re going to need one. I told him I worked in hockey for X number years and asked “What do you need me to do? He said: Perfect! So that’s how I got involved with the Whale, just by knowing Harry and calling him up. And as I said, I’ve been with the Whale since day one. And again, I could see the potential of this league. It’s not going to be overnight, but that’s why I keep doing it. It’s not because of the money or anything like that. Right now I’m taking a vantage of it a little bit because it’s right in my backyard :) I live in Bethel, so Danbury is only 10 minutes away, so that’s very nice. Very convenient for me:) “

 “I also hope the relationship with Ben Prentiss training and Greenwich Sports medicine continues. that was so awesome. Because you’re all in the same facility. Again, I only get to see them a few times a week: before practice and then games so that’s only 3 to 4 times a week at the most. So for them to get some extra work in was great. That was another great partnership, and I hope that continues it”s sometimes taken for granted but it’s very advantageous to have them, especially a guy like Ben Prentiss who’s been around the circuit for a lot of NHL team. And a lot of other major league sports, not just hockey, and really knows what he’s doing. That definitely helps for sure! The players try to get there to workout, and it is good team bonding. You get to know each other They mess around with each other, get to know each other and that’s the whole idea, to get to be a team at the end of the day.”

Paul added “It really is a part of the core group that Bray talked about bringing back. It was great to have Colton back and it’s great to have Laura back. And for the players that are returning it just echoes the message that they’ve already heard for one year from Laura and Bray and Colton. So they know what to expect and are able to help the new girls coming onto the team. This is what we’ve got to do to get everybody on the same page. They’re not spending a lot of time trying to figure everybody out all over again. Sometimes I think when you change a lot of pieces each year, it can be tough. So this year, having everybody on the same page from the start, it’s going to be great. Also they’ll have some time before play actually starts they’re not gonna be trying to learn everything and get ready in a short little preseason. With a January start it’s going to be a little bit more time to practice and I think that will benefit everybody.” 

We concluded our chat with Paul speaking about this year’s Whale squad. He pointed out that

"There’s a big difference in terms of age of the professionals from the men’s side to the women’s side. There are a lot of 18-year-old girls going straight into college, while on the men’s side, they’re often playing a couple years of junior hockey before going to college. So actually when the girls are finishing their college careers that’s when they’re coming into their prime, so they can still grow as professionals. If they get on board and have somebody teaching them properly, and showing them what to do. To absorb all that stuff and to continue to get better Hanna. Eattie, Grace Klienbach and Kaycie Anderson, those players that you mentioned, have improved dramatically. Even a D1 player like Emma Vlasic, throughout the year improved so much. There are a lot of players that did that, Sarah Schwenzfeier is another one .”

Paul also gave a shout out to another sports medicine professional,who also happens to play for the Whale: our #11 Laurel Hill. He said “When Laurel hill came on the team last year I was talking to her and found out she was at physical therapist (DPT) and I said:Wow, that’s great! And I asked where she was working and she said up in Brookfield and I thought what an awesome spot for her to be in! And now I watch all her videos online, and she’s really working hard! I can’t wait to see her on the ice, because by the end of last season she was already getting back into shape and the rust was coming off. I can’t wait to see her first day back”

Paul concluded with these thoughts on the team, league and players.

“This league is still going to get a lot of turnover every year.Some girls come out of college and maybe they don’t have a job yet and they’re looking for a job in whatever field they received their degree in. Location is a big thing,maybe they want to go back to where they’re from, or maybe want to relocate. There are a lot of women that will do whatever is needed, just so they can play. They hop on a plane and come in to play, for example Colleen Murphy who commuted from North Carolina for games. They do have a great love for the game, they come from all over to play.”

 “Fans tend to think sometimes that the players leave because they don’t like it. But sometimes it is because of a job, or they want to start a family, or something like that. It’s important to look at it from the players perspective.Who doesn’t want to be part of this generation that can say: I’m a female and I got paid to play hockeyL I saw that with Anya (Packer) who is very passionate about i. She said: Hey, I’m actually getting paid! Here’s my paycheck! She was just so happy when she got that check the first time! More and more women are wanting to do that now. With the Whale, Colten is very, very strict about the amount of commitment that they want from the players. If they can’t reach that commitment, then the team doesn’t have room for them. They will take somebody else.It’s just not fair if somebody comes in and is only only giving you half the commitment that somebody else will. Colton and Bray have set standards for our team. They say if you’re not going to hit that standard, you can’t be part of this team, which is great. Everybody should be on the same even playing field The players have to be there learning and getting better. There are only two practices a week for about an hour and a half each, so you want to get the most out of those practices.”

Cetacean Nation is extremely grateful for this chance to take the fans behind the scenes with Paul to see what else has to happen to get and keep our Pod on the ice. The next time you see Paul behind the bench at a Whale game, you’ll have a better idea of what he’s doing, what he’s done, and what he may be called upon to do. Fins Up to our amazing Trainer/Equipment Manager Paul Fernandes, and literally, all he does!