This is the fourth installment of our “All In The Family” series of interviews with the families of our amazing Connecticut Whale Pod. In these interviews, family members have given us, as only they can, unique insights into their daughters path to the Pod. The stories about each player, told by those who know them best, their families, along with their interview(s) give us a look into the life of our Whale, often well beyond their great stats and accomplishments that are known to us. For this segment of the series, we spoke with Manny Guagliardo, father of our amazing rookie #13 Nicole Guagliardo. On the day we spoke, Manny had just returned from Orlando to the chillier weather of Chicago, actually on the day Nicole was en route, traveling to Connecticut to begin her Whale career. Manny explained
“Actually I was just on the phone with her, and her flight had a stopover in North Carolina. and it got delayed. So her connecting flight had already left .As my wife hung up with her, Nicole was running to the next gate. She was flying into JFK, and there were some available to LaGuardia. I told my wife to just let her run to the gate, and if the plane isn’t there, they will find a way to get her there one way or the other. Hopefully not too long, because one of her teammates is picking her up." he laughed. (Footnote: Nicole did arrive safe & sound!)
Cetacean Nation started things off with Manny by asking about the exact point Nicole became a part of Whale history: Draft Night 2020. He told us
“It was exciting, and as we discussed, we know it was coming, we just didn’t know when. So you keep watching: Next, could it be next? We sat around in our family room and just kind of kept waiting. And I think the surprising thing for me was, even though you know, your hoping that it’s the next thing coming up, and when it does, you’re elated! It’s amazing, and I think my wife had a tear coming down from her eye. We were all like: this is cool, this is amazing! We’re not social media experts, my wife and I, but we did our best blasting it out to Facebook, Twitter, to the few people who follow us and a lot of text messages to people with the link. So that was cool, it was something that, you want to go back to ten, or fourteen years previous, and think: Wow, we never thought we’d get here!” Manny continued “A lot of my close friends, we were all into sports, And I am still close friends with people that I grew up in grammar school with. And we played sports our entire time. And one of my buddies said it best: Well, we finally got one, you’re the first of all the kids to make it to professional sports” We were all at a dinner together, and he was like,: Ah, that’s so cool! And he raised his glass to Nicole. Obviously, from the perspective of a parent, it’s the greatest thing in the world. But sometimes for other people it can lose the luster. They say:Oh, that’s nice. And you wonder how sincere people are. Yes, they are happy for you, but maybe, not that excited. But he was genuinely excited about it, and a few of my close friends have been genuinely excited about it too. Just the fact that she made it. So that’s also cool that you can share that with them.”
Manny mentioned playing sports himself, and we wondered if that included hockey. He explained
“My hockey background is nothing like my daughter’s. Growing up I had just played some street hockey as a kid. We didn’t grow up with a whole lot of money, and I really wanted to be a goalie. So I never did have the opportunity to actually skate or play because of the expense of it. And then when I was 26 years old, I got a phone call from somebody that needed a goalie. But it was on ice, and I really didn’t skate. So just a bunch of guys in their twenties, and we said let’s do this. And the short story is, from that time on, I never stopped playing. I found some old pads that my Dad used, that you would never use in hockey, even back then" he laughed.
"That was 1989, and those were pads from the seventies. I threw them on and I loved it. I wasn’t the greatest skater in the world, but I found out I could stand in front of the net and block shots. I still play today, and outside of some minor injuries, I have not stopped playing for any extended period of time since I was twenty-six. And that was thirty-one years ago! I’m kind of getting to the point where the legs are getting old and tired, and I may have to give it up soon. I kept saying I would stop, and I give credit to Nicole for not letting me. Of course it’s all fun for me. But a handful of years ago I said it’s getting tougher to get up off my couch because, old man hockey starts in the late evening,I thought that when it stops being fun getting of the couch, and turns into a chore, it’s time for me to quit. When I told her, and my daughter is not a crier or an overly emotional person that way, she started getting all weepy eyed. She said: You can’t quit, Dad, you can’t quit! That was a few years ago now, so she’s kind of prodded me to continue my career. It’s fun, she’ll come home sometimes, and play on some of my teams."
Manny added “When we were younger, I used to sneak her onto the ice. You had to be18, and at 14, 15, I’d ask the other team: Hey, it’s my daughter, you don’t mind her playing, right? Then of course they’d end up saying: Oh my God, she’s really good! And then they regretted having her play." he laughed. "So I said I would continue to play until I could play legally with her on the team, so she forced me to continue. So that’s my career, nothing special. I never really learned from anyone, I never joined a club or organization. It was just “old man” hockey, and I just learned to play from watching TV, and I enjoy it. It’s fun and my only disappointment in it that my close friends, who I grew up,playing sports with, are not hockey players. We grew up in a middle class area of Chicago, and nobody really skated. It was the inexpensive games you’d play. touch football,and baseball. It ended up we played baseball in high school together, and even into our forties."
"I didn’t quit baseball until I was in my mid-forties. It wasn’t my love, my extended baseball career was because of my friends, while my extended hockey career was because I loved hockey. I don’t have any friends that I grew up with who play hockey, but some of my hockey friends I’ve been playing with for over twenty years. I think if my old friends played, I’d want to,play every day. There’s such a difference sitting in the stands and being on the ice, it’s a total different perspective of the game, it’s so much more fun. It makes you think twice when you want to go and be critical of someone. You say wait a minute, this is not as easy as it looks sitting in my recliner with a beer in my hand. It gives you a different appreciation for the entire game, A-Z. If you have an opportunity, whether it was what I did or pond hockey, try it. it just gives you a different understanding and you appreciate it more if you played.”