NOT A WHALE BUT...VOLUME II

As you know, we have been sharing input from several of the fans that make up Cetacean Nation. Both in our “Other Side of the Glass Series”  feature in "Whale's Tales" and here iin " Not A Whale, But... Volume One. We continue to add these interviews, comments and content from our fans that your might have missed in this second volume of this fan input series. First up in Volume Two, is Tom Larocca, (@tomlarock27) who told us about why the Whale and the NWHL are important to him..

 

“The NWHL is important to me because it allows me and my girlfriend to grow closer. It’s a bond we share, something in which she introduced me to at the start of our relationship and I instantly took an interest in. I’ve had so much fun at the games whether it was a regular season game rooting for the Pod or the All-Star Weekend in Boston this year. I think it’s also important to me because it really opened my eyes as to how skilled these players really are. Watching them play in person is a whole different experience. The fan interactions are also a huge part of my interest. I have never attended a hockey game and met the players after, so to be able to do that after every game always makes my day. I always ask my girlfriend if we can stay after to say hello.”

“I think the NWHL is important in general because it gives women a platform to play a sport they love. Sports are meant to be inclusive and allow everyone the same chance to play, gain exposure and garner fans. Having a league like the NWHL does so much for women in sports, especially young girls who want to play hockey at the professional level. I hope to one day have a daughter and for her to be interested in hockey and know that there is a platform like the NWHL where she can play."

“What makes the Whale so important is that it brings hockey back to Connecticut and does an amazing job of showcasing talent. I think our players also make the Pod so special. Players like Doyle, Brickner, Orlando and so many others who just have passion for the game and the team. That type of energy on the Whale really is something so special and makes the team really stand out among the others.”

We also asked Tom about how he got interested in hockey. He explained

“I first got interested in hockey at a young age, probably 5 or 6. I always loved sports but I just took extra interest in hockey for some reason. I’m a huge fan of the New York Rangers but just love the game of hockey so much that I enjoy watching most teams and all sorts of leagues. I did play hockey, played for 8 seasons in a dek hockey league. I only just learned how to skate this past year with the help of my girlfriend. I always wanted to learn how to and she showed me, which was so fun. I definitely enjoy playing any chance I get which as of lately, isn’t too much because of the pandemic. Growing up and now, I’m also a big baseball fan and really enjoy watching and playing that sport as well. Love my New York Mets!”

Tom added “What I’m most excited for this season is the Whale. The roster is stacked and we’re riding off some good energy from last season. I’m super excited to see The 6 in action too. I’m glad the league expanded and I think they’ll do super well up there. I’m hoping fans will be allowed to attend this year, but will understand if they aren’t due to the pandemic, I’d love to get back to some games.”

And when we asked about Tom’s favorite NWHL moment, he told us

“My favorite NWHL memory probably is meeting Anya Packer. We drove to ProSkate in NJ to watch the Whale take on the Rivs. I knew Anya was gonna be there so the whole drive down I’m nervous. We finally get there and I’m looking around nervously. Finally, second period rolls around and I stand up (sporting a season 1 Anya jersey) and she sees it and waves frantically. So now I’m waving frantically and I’m like we need to go and say hello. We head up to the broadcast booth and she gives me a big hug. She is such a kind person and so fun to talk to. She was happy to take a photo with me and sign a puck to add to my collection. We ended up speaking after the game for almost an hour and I was so happy that she took the time to talk to us. I mean that’s definitely one of my favorite memories but I have so many more, between meeting the players after the first Whale game we attended, meeting Sam Faber at LIU and attending the All-Star weekend in Boston.”

These experiences and feelings that Tom has are awesome, but here’s the thing. In this league, with this team, you can build a memory bank as full as Tom’s. The other fans in Cetacean Nation already know this, the players love enabling this, and now here’s a perfect outline for any new fan wondering if they should give the NWHL and the Whale a tumble. Short answer: absolutely! Longer answer: See above. Final answer: Do it and pay it forward, and let us share your story too! Fins Up to that idea, and to the great content from Tom. See you around the rink! 

 

 

The popularity of the NWHL (and our Pod) has been steadily rising, and has really taken off in Season Six, and the fan base grown  The next fan we hear from former collegiate hockey star, Jillian P. Nolan (@Jillian122105 Twitter) Jill told us a little about her amazing journey in hockey, saying

“My initial experience with playing hockey was when I put on my first pair of skates at the age of six, in a small town called Happy Valley Goose Bay, Labrador, Newfoundland in the Northern part of Eastern Canada. At the age of 14 I was recruited for a full hockey scholarship to leave my home town to play for the division one hockey team, the Berkshire Bears, a prep-school in Sheffield, MA. From there, it was during my senior year at Berkshire School that I was then scouted again and picked up for another full hockey scholarship to play for the NCAA Clarkson Golden Knights in Potsdam, NY. I played with the Knights for two years (2003-2005) with a solid scoring record. And I then transferred to Utica College, home of the Pioneers, from 2005-2007 at which I was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for winning the All-American Award for women’s ice hockey in 2008. That year I guided the Pioneers to a 18-7-3 record while making it to the finals for the ECAC Women’s West Conference Tournament. I was the only non-senior named a first-team All-American, while earning the ECAC Women’s West All-Conference status after leading the team with 23 goals. I was known at the time to have led the nation averaging 1.10 goals per game and ranked second in the nation averaging 1.81 points per contest as a junior. I currently live in Florida, and I’m playing in a Men’s league for the team the Ice Dogs in order to stay in active shape for each season to come. I will always have a love for the game and respect the players that work their way up to the top! Go Whale!”

Jill continued  "​The NWHL became particularly important to me when my best friend from Berkshire School played for the Boston Pride team in the National Woman’s Hockey League. Currently, Kacey Bellamy is an American ice hockey defender for the American Olympic Woman’s Hockey team and is #22. She was not only a dear friend, but a respectable and excellent player on and off the ice. That is when I took interest to the NWHL and started to support the different teams that play. Secondly, another small town girl, Amy Curlew, also from my hometown, had made it to the team TorontoSix, for the 2021 Isobel Cup as well. I particularly enjoy watching the Whale play above all else because I believe they have a lot of talent and work well together on the ice as a team. They seem to be well coached and have fun and that’s an important ingredient when it comes to the love and respect for the game. I wish the Whale all the luck in the world with the 2021 Isobel Cup. I know this team is capable of winning. They have a lot of talent and when they use it on the ice, the wins from their talent will follow. Good luck, Fins up! Go Whales! You got this ladies!”

Fins Up to that! Jill came up through the same “system” as the players in the league and our national team players. The growth of women’s hockey is not through just one team, or one league,. It is the cumulative impact of the most powerful of natural forces: an idea whose time has come. The players who came before are  the building blocks of what the sport is, and will become. 

Jill's plaque that hangs in the Utica Hall of Fame

Another fan who recently offered content is Andrea Cordova (@ang_dova) who told us this about her life on hockey

“Ever since I was a little kid, I was a fan of hockey. Street hockey ruled my springs and summers, with scraped knees and bruises to go with it. When rec hockey was an option as a club in middle school, I was there. In high school we played hockey on the weekends in empty parking lots until the sun went down or we were too hungry to go on. Those days were the best. Flash forward years, going to NHL games and still being crazy about hockey, I hear that a women's league is coming out. A women's league? And one of the teams is the Whale? They're nearby enough that I can go watch them play? And hello, did you see that cute whale with a hockey stick smile? BRILLIANT. I started following them on all social media outlets to learn about the Pod, the players, and started watching games on my laptop (Cheers to those who were watching on You-tube like I was). I finally made it to my first NWHL game, and was in love. Sitting in the stands, and seeing all of the signs posted up for the players and these young girls wearing jerseys and cheering for their favorite players, and then being able to meet these players afterwards. It was amazing. I wish that this league existed when I was younger. I wish I had these awesome women to look up to, because these are the role models that young girls should have. Now that I have a daughter, I can't wait until things normalize and I can bring her to a game so she can see how fantastic this league truly is. The NWHL has come in leaps and bounds since its inception, and it's been nothing short of fantastic to see how the game is growing. These players are inspiring. They're skilled. They're passionate. They're dedicated to growing a women's sport, and keeping it around for future generations. The Whale have had a rough few seasons, but I have a feeling this one is going to be one to remember!”

Fins Up to that Andrea! Perhaps we will be watching your little Future Draft Pick skating for the Pod one day! 

The next voice from the other side of the glass that we hear echoes all the way from Colorado. The remarkable Annie Kate Goggins (@anniekappleseed on Instagram), is a citizen of Cetacean Nation  who battles through her own struggles, and admires that kind of fighting spirit in our Whale. Annie shared with us

“I’ll start my story as I have for a few years now... Hi, I’m Annie, and I’m an addict. I’ve been in recovery from drug addiction for three years now. I’ve loved any type of sports my entire live. Growing up in Colorado, naturally I would be an Avalanche fan. #GoAvsGo! I had to put that out there. I love those guys! I have to say that if it weren’t my love for sports, particularly hockey, I might not be here today. Hockey is the best role model growing up. That might sound controversial as many think about the fighting and all. I have to say it’s quite the opposite for me. Hockey is the best representation of loyalty and teamwork. Hockey teams work together to pursue the same goal. They understand they need each other. Everyone on the team has a purpose. Players always seem to acknowledge teammates efforts and do not have self ambition. They preserve and do their best to keep a positive attitude. The sport of hockey has had that same influence on a little fan like me.”

“Furthermore, staying home like most of us here during 2020, has done a number on people battling with mental illness like addiction. To stay occupied I watched A LOT of YouTube. It was through there I discovered The Whale! And oh boy, things were taken to an entire different level. Women’s Hockey was becoming a national story. The inspiration the women brought to the ice is refreshing to my soul! These ladies not only show support to their teammates, they also are able to lead healthy lives at home as wives, mothers, teachers, sisters, friends and more. I find the NWHL to be an entire community of incredible people impacting hundreds of young women everywhere. When I read or watch how professional they are in their daily lives and with fans they truly make me want to be a better message to my friends and family. They inspire me to stay well, eat right, and remind me I have purpose on my “team” as well. Women coming together like The Whale will survive no matter what comes their way.”

A Pod sticks together to protect one another. They help hunt for each other and even help to raise each other’s young. I have mad respect for all of the players. Their determination, and commitment is exactly the influence I had growing up with a love for hockey. Even though I went astray, I’m going to be okay. I have deep roots and know where I came from. This type of environment is what gets me through the day. Being a Whale fan makes me resilient!”

“I may be across the country and still navigating these uncertainties we are all dealing with. However, I will continue to share any small expressions of support and love I can. Whether it be simply liking or sharing a post on social media, or sharing the Whale and the NWHL to a stranger. I am a Whale! Fins Up! Love you!”

Fins Up Annie, and we have a feeling that an NWHL neutral site game in Colorado might not be that far off, so keep spreading the word in the Centennial State!