Olga, Matt, Hanns & John Beattie rink side after a Whale game

All In The Family #5: John and Olga Beattie

This is the fifth 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, along with the player’s individual interview(s) give us a look into the life of our Whale.  A look well beyond their great stats and accomplishments that are generally known. For this segment of the series, we spoke late last year with John and Olga Beattie, parents of our amazing #16 Hanna Beattie. We knew that among other things, we wanted to talk about Hanna’s days with her youth team the New Jersey Colonials and her visit with the NWHL to Nasdaq. We started with Nasdaq, and that quickly led us to the Colonials. John addressed our question about Hanna’s day at Nasdaq, saying

"That was very fun for her. The player that went with her was a teammate of hers from the Colonials, Kendall Cornine (of the Riveters) We had a great team back then (with the Colonials), the team always went to Nationals, The kids were coming in from all over, but we were still a local club. Not like Assabet, where the girls fly in from Pittsburg. But it was great, and she had some fantastic head coaching with the Colonials too, really, really good. Shelly Looney, who was an Olympian and All-American, she scored the game winning goal against Canada in the ‘98 Olympics, she was Hanna’s Head Coach. She was their Director of Hockey and Hanna’s Head Coach for a couple of years. And then a guy named Don Gould who is the head of USA Women’s hockey was also her coach. She had some really, really great coaches.” Olga quickly interjected  “Including her father! He coached Hanna her whole life!” John conceded “Yeah, pretty much from 3 years old on. I took a year off when she started playing girls hockey. She was playing both boys and girls hockey and I took a little time off. I was coaching her in middle school and her little outdoor club team, the Essex Hunt Club. But I wasn’t doing the travel stuff. But I jumped back into it at the women’s level. I had actually only coached men, and I had done that for 35 years at that point. And then I had the opportunity to be an assistant coach with her team, and I did that for like five or six years. Basically, her whole time with the Colonials, except for her first year of U12. It’s great. I have to say, you don’t have to raise your voice in coaching young women, you don’t have to use the “F” bomb every third word to get your message across, like you do with a 15 or 16;year old midget boy. Just a tiny of sarcasm” Olga added “Not even so much sarcasm, as just a raised eyebrow!” which made everyone laugh!"John agreed “Just a raised eyebrow, the girls just got it. Hanna played with some great kids, they understood the game, and they had a lot of fun. They made Hanna better, and Hanna made them better. And that’s kind of been her modis operandi, all time. When she was a mite, all the boys would look at her, and she would say something and they would listen.“

We mentioned that when we talked to Hanna taking a leadership role she had told us this

 “So yeah, I had experience being a captain and just tried to do my best keeping the team moving forward and staying positive and kind of inspired for the rest of the season. And I’m a relatively vocal person as well, so that helps :)"

Olga and John readily agreed with that self assessment, and John added  “She is, but she also surveys the landscape well. She doesn’t just jump in and start running her mouth. She’s really respectful of her teammates and the situation she finds herself in. She’s definitely got a lot more comfortable with the Whale.I can’t believe it’s her fourth season. We’re playing with house money right now because we never thought this was going to happen. And kind of how she found the Whale and it all worked out, it’s poetic hockey gods, I think.

We also talked a little about something that  Season Five Assistant Coach Mike Bonelli had told us. About the difference in hockey development between men and women. He had highlighted that the girls mostly go right from high school to college, while the guys often have a few years of juniors before ever playing in college. If you think about it, that makes Hanna’s versatility even more impressive.

Olga responded  “That’s a wild perspective. I never thought about it in terms of maturity and experience. I just never thought about that, thanks for identifying it (Mike) Hanna has played all three forward positions. And when she was a Mite, she was a goaltender. I think she was more captivated by the padding, and that she could walk out first, she loved that. And that’s where she started, as a Mite, where she started getting vocal when she was getting lit up as a goalie. During one game, before the puck was dropped after the other team scored, I saw her wave her defensemen in to talk. And then the game turned around. Now this was when she was a Mite, and I asked her: Hanna, what did you say to those two boys? She said: I told them, I need some D here! So I was like: Oh, OK " she laughed. "And it turned the game around. But what I loved, is that she did not play goalie again until the last game of her senior year in high school (Pingry). Their main goalie really, really, wanted to score a goal. So Hanna said: Ok, I’ll play in net, so you can play up and score your goal. And the whole team worked together. The goalie was not an accomplished hockey player, but the whole team rallied around her and set her up. Basically put the puck on her stick so she could push it into the goal, it was awesome. But anyway I loved her just being a teammate and helping out. It was fun for the team!”

Cetacean Nation was curious about other early sports memories they had of Hanna, who as we knew played lacrosse as well as hockey. Olga stated  “She played every sport, if there was a sport, she wanted in. And lacrosse was one.”  John added  “ Hanna played on a little local club team as a 6th, 7th and 8th grader. And then she played in high school also. And she was fantastic, she loved playing. Her coach in high school went to Princeton, and was trying to encourage her to play lacrosse in college. Hanna had this kind of unique shot (in lacrosse) where she didn’t really shoot over her shoulder as most players do. She would shoot it almost more like a hockey puck. She would bring the stick down really low and, whip it low. And the goalie would have difficulty picking it up because it was coming from a totally different angle from what they’re used to. You don’t see that very often at all, and it frustrates the goalie, apparently. She was able to to cradle the ball upside down and keep it in the webbing of her stick and then release it. So it was interesting.” Olga recalled “There was one coach who tried to disqualify the goals that way, but the ref held firm. “ John added When she went to Williams she was thinking of playing lacrosse. But by the time her freshman year ended she was too tired from playing hockey. They had won the NESCAC, she was an All-American that year, and she was tired. She was definitely tired from coming in as a freshman, all the working out and all the success the team had."

Hitting the slopes!

Olga recalled “She did play JV lacrosse, and it was interesting, In the spring of her freshman year we had visited her. I remember we were in the cafeteria and Hanna said: If I’m not going to play varsity (lacrosse), what’s the point? And I’m so glad she reconsidered. You can still play the game and have a joyous time, and just not have the pressure of performance. She did that all four years and she absolutely loved it. It was very low pressure, it was all joy for her, all fun. And it was a nice enjoyable social outdoor activity. You can still have the joy of the game, and not have the intensity around it.”  John added “The hockey season starts the day they get on campus, with working out, and it ends after spring break. And they’re still in the weight room in the spring. So it doesn’t really end for them. Unlike soccer and lacrosse. You could play soccer in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. At a DIII level, probably not at a DI level, but at at DIII level you could.”

Olga also told us "When the kids were growing up, Hanna had an older brother, and when those two were growing up they wanted to play all sports, all seasons. I said no, you guys have to pick ONE per season. And then I finally relented, and said: Ok, you can have two per season. I said this is like having six children! So we had to negotiate down, They could do two sports per season. and I had to declare that their school sport and their club sport, counted as two separate ones. Because otherwise they were going to try to squeeze in another school sport “ she laughed "but it was fun. It’s all about trying to nurture a kid's passions. There are so many ways of expressing one’s self. Music was one. We didn’t have the capacity to take them to all their sports, and also take them to music lessons. But we wanted them to be exposed to music as well. We did take them to piano lessons when they were very little, but it ended up not being a huge part of their lives. But it was important that they get that exposure, and then they could pick. So we started with piano and they could pick their instrument after that, and they both picked guitar. So we had a guitar teacher come to our house, and that worked out great. Because John and I could cook dinner while the guitar teacher was with them. We weren’t driving somewhere, so we could all be home, which was really nice.“ Laughing John added “And rare!”

We were curious if there was an epiphany that Olga or John could identify when they realized Hanna was becoming something special in her athletic ability. John answered

“That probably was with the Colonials when she tried out for National Camp. There are a series of try-outs throughout the country and she was selected to go to a regional try-out for the district. She was playing forward, She always kind of played forward and defense and then she kind of gravitated towards defense. I thought there were more opportunities for a defenseman, long term. So I kind of encouraged her to stick with that. With the Colonials she had played D, but she was playing forward when she was selected for this try-out, and I suggested she try-out as a defenseman. She went as a U-12 and she was selected, and each year she was invited, and each year she went. So I would say as as a first year Colonial U12, was when she realized she was skating with the best girls in the country in the summer. And that really motivated her to do the kind of stuff most girls don’t like to do. Like shoot in the driveway. That’s a hard thing for the girls to do, and Hanna realized it and she started to train out in the driveway. We got a shooter tutor (targets to shoot picks at) on the garage door. She ended up taking that thing up to Williams for the team to use too. So reinforcement for that was from her coach Shelly Looney. Hanna worked out over that summer and shot a lot of pucks. And I think it was the first practice, Hanna was out on the ice and she took a shot and it hit the boards. And it hits the boards with a sound that none of the other girls have in their shot. It just hammered the boards and resonated in the rink. And Shelly whipped around I was like five feet from her when it happened, and she said; Hanna, did you shoot that? And Hanna said: Yeah! And Shelly goes: Someone’s been working out this summer! So her hard work was immediately recognized by a a pretty scary coach, inthe kid’s minds. She was pretty tough, but she recognized it. Hanna saw the rewards of her efforts.”

We suggested that some people think that pro athletes rolled out of bed one day, and they were All-Americans. They don’t realize the amount of work and sacrifice that is required. Olga agreed, stating

“The work ethic is incredible, and a lot of people don’t recognize that. It’s really interesting, when Hanna was going to Williams as an incoming freshman, she was still developing. She was strong but very skinny. She hadn’t done any serious weight training. And she was partnered with this senior named Cristina Bravi, and I think that was a pivotal point in Hanna’s hockey career. It was very, very good insight that their coach had to pair the two. Cristina had tremendous potential, but did not deliver at that level. When Cristina was paired with Hanna, she was great with strength training and she pushed Hanna so hard in the strength training. And when they were on the ice together they had this chemistry where they kept setting each other up, it was crazy. They made each other better hockey players and they both ended up being All- Americans. Each because of the other one.John concurred, adding “It was really, really neat. Cristina was a real good hockey player, but Hanna brought out some untapped talent in her. And Cristina pushed Hanna and brought out the player that we see today.”

Olga also mentioned “ I think at Williams when the team won the NESCAC’s, it was magical! I think it was the first time they’d ever won, and all the stars and moon aligned, it was amazing! That was huge for us, and I know it was huge for Hanna too, Her brother Matt went to Yale, and as a graduating senior he was given his framed jersey by the school. That was D1, and they don’t offer that at DIII, so we offered that to Hanna. She was a two year captain of the team, so she could have had her jersey with the “C” on it be framed. But she chose the jersey from when they won the NESCAC because that was way more important to her. I don’t know, I think that as a family that’s probably the highlight of Hanna as an older player.”

John with Little Future Draft Pick Hanna o and a little shinny out on the pond!

John agreed as well, and then revealed another special moment from Hanna’s early hockey career. He told a story that involved a place that’s on every Whale fan or player’s mind these days.

“We were fortunate enough to be able to go to the Galapagos over a spring break. We went to the Galapagos with a dear family who had booked the trip eight years before. Something happened with the other person that was supposed to go with them, and we were asked if we could go. So we dropped everything, and we went to the Galapagos.” 🐳Olga humorously pointed out “They decided to pick the family that had the most likeable kids, so that’s why John and I got to go along! It wasn’t the most likeable adults, it was who had the most likeable kids, so it was Matt & Hanna!” John continued “So we got to go, and that’s about a 12, 13 day trip, something like that. We were there for eight days, with a couple of days to get there and a couple of days back. So we’re on our way back, we’re in Miami and we have a four hour layover. And the kids both played for this club team called the Predators. And the Predators were headed to Lake Placid (There it is!) later that day for a three day tournament. Obviously we had told them we were not going to make it. We’re going to Ecuador, we’re outta here! So we’re at this layover, and I looked at the kids and looked at my watch. And I’m like: We get in at 7:30-8:00 tonight, we can sleep a couple of hours. What do you think about hopping in the car and driving to Lake Placid at 4:30 in the morning? My wife looked at me with one look, and the kid’s looked at me with a whole other. So 4:00 in the morning we woke up, it might actually have been 2:00 in the morning, and we drove up and got there literally a half hour before the game was starting. We walk into the locker room, this was with Hanna, and her teammates erupted with joy! And it’s all boys, she’s the only girl. They called her “Pink Stick” because she had pink tape on her stick back then. And little Tony Jeffrey damn near died. His whole goal was to protect her and make sure Hanna was all right. So she walked into the locker room and lifted these kids spirits. It was unbelievable how the kids responded, they were just eight years old. So we’re probably the only family that’s literally flown halfway around the world for a hockey game. If anybody can beat thr distance, let me know! So that one really resonates with us, and they both had fantastic tournaments. It was really, really fun.”

Olga said "You can use that story for the traveling question. For me, a favorite closer to home memory, is when the kids were little before we renovated our kitchen. They would set up a little mini-goal in the kitchen. And while John and I were preparing a meal they would play hockey with each other. They were awesome with it! As soon as I said: “Cease fire”; I had to get to the refrigerator for example, they would stop shooting on each other and let me get to the refrigerator and back And then they could proceed again. They had sooo much fun with that, and for me it made dinner preparation fun because of their enthusiasm and engagement, and how much fun they had playing together.“  Fins Up to that!

Cetacean Nation also asked Olga and John about their own backgrounds in sports. Olga revealed “I grew up in central Vermont, so I loved anything outside. My main passion in the winter was skiing. I loved it as soon as I put skis on the first time. That was my passion and continues to this day. I still don’t have enough of it in my life. And then in the summers I went to my cousin’s farm in Maine, not terribly far from Skowhegan, and rode horses. I did both competitively, I did ski racing and eventing (equestrian) with riding.Those were my main sports. I love biking, but I didn’t do it competitively, I just biked a lot. And John was a runner.”

John explained  “Yes, in high school I ran. At St. Geotge’s it’s a prep school in Rhode Island. I played soccer freshman and sophomore year. Then I started running junior and senior year, cross country and then track. I would say that my greatest accomplishment running was in the New England Prep School Championships, I got to race against a guy named Alberto Salazar. Needless to say, he won I did not. I think I came in third, and had by far my best time. So that was pretty cool. That was in track, the two mile. The one mile for him was a sprint, which I guess it is for everyone nowadays. If memory serves me, I had an amazing run. There was one kid on our team Fred King, and he would run the mile and I would run the two mile or vice versa depending on who we were up against." (Olga laughed “Speaking of athletes pushing each other…” ) John added I don’t run anymore, I began riding a bike 35 years ago. I have a bad knee, I broke it playing hockey three or four times, and I’m looking at a knee replacement. I played hockey there too. My uncle introduced me to hockey, I drank the Kool-Aid, and I’m still drinking a quart a day. I play probably three times a week.” (Olga added laughing “And about once a week he comes home and says: That was the top ten best of all time!“) I played last night with a bunch of young kids, sixteen year old high school kids, and one of them is going to the National Development Team next year. All I can say is thank God I was on his side he laughed. I kind of started hockey later in life, I was twelve maybe. I used to skate at South Mountain Arena (West Orange, NJ) at 4:00 in the morning. When I first got my drivers license, that’s where I was heading, and I’d pick up the kids who were 15 or 16 and wanted to go. I played a couple of years varsity at St. George's and then got a little “taxi squad” in during college. The college I went to for two years, Lake Forest College, had a really good hockey program. I was able to dress for a couple of varsity games, but then decided to leave college and try to find my way in life. And about six years later I went back to college in Colorado. I went back to school at the University of Colorado and played hockey, it was a club team. And I have been playing ever since. I like to ride a bike, I like to sail, and I like to follow my wife down the slope.”

 We also discussed the NWHL, and asked their thoughts on the importance of the NWHL.  Olga responded

“I think it’s hugely important. These girls have had hockey their whole lives, and they are coming out of college and they’re not ready to hang up their skates. They are looking to play. They are all highly competitive athletes and they want to be able to play at the highest level and not necessarily join a men’s league right away. To have that opportunity is huge for them, and I also think it’s incredibly inspiring for young athletes, for young girls. To be able to see that this is possible for them is tremendous. It’s funny, we took our nephew to a Whale game, it was his first hockey game, he’d never seen it before. We took him to a Whale game and he was mesmerized. And at the end of the game, he asked if boys could play too. We said: Yes they can, yes they can! she laughed. So I think it’s so important to have this, not only for talented athletes to play at the highest possible level, but also for the young generation coming up.”

Hanna with her brother Matt after her first games with the Whale back in Season Three!

John offered  “Just watching the game, it’s so much fun to watch, it’s such a pure game. You know, when you take a little bit of the testosterone out of it and just watch the skills that the women have. And the bandwidth on the girls is so close. With DIII you knew what the third and fourth lines were out on the ice. Watching these women play, it’s totally different. So for us, having Hanna playing with girls all relative to her ability, is really, really fun to watch.The game is a really nice beautiful game to watch. Not that the guy’s game isn’t, but it’s different because of the physicality in the men’s game. and not that the women aren’t physical, they are. But no center ice hip check type of thing. And the skill level is unbelievable, the skating and the stick handling, I’m floored by it.

Olga added “I remembered Hanna shared this with me right after her first game with the Whale. They were walking in a line and the girl in front of her had these on it, I don’t know if it was on the back of her helmet or back of the jersey, it said said “NWHL”. And Hanna said that just seeing that gave her the chills. I said I hope you never lose that. I hope you never that for granted, that you get to play with the NWHL. It’s just such an extraordinary gift and opportunity. She says she’ll never take it for granted that she has this opportunity. One fun recollections, one of the first games I saw, a member of the opposing team was walking by just before the game, and there was a whole group of girls and the player handed one of the girls her stick. And the girl’s face! She could not believe it, she was holding the stick of a pro hockey player. It just made me very happy. You can imagine! “

John and Olga also shared their thoughts about the Whale specifically. John said “The whole team seems fantastic. The kids all get along really well, they’re all pulling the oar in the same direction. The coaches her whole time have been fabulous. They’ve really been great."Olga added "They experiment and bring out the best in the players. it’s been really delightful to observe that." John elaborated, saying " First of all the experience there has just been fabulous for her. And I think the thing that kind of sticks out the most for us is the team’s work ethic. Colten’s fostered that, but with the previous coach they worked pretty darn hard too. So I think that is something that is ingrained in their culture, and has been. Colten has inherited that and he’s fostered it at a wonderful level.Hopefully they continue and have more goal scoring opportunity, and kind of take their game to the next level. I definitely see that happening. The Whale have been awesome,  Colten saw the potential in Hanna. Colten played a pretty gritty game in his day, he was not a finesse player. And he worked hard to get to where he was and to achieve his success. And I think that he, at some level recognized that in Hanna, watching her play. Hanna is a very gritty player and that abrasion and grit comes out when she can play defense, where I think she’s the most comfortable. She knows the nuances of playing that position, and I think Colten recognized that early on. I think that was a fabulous move by him. I also want to give a little credit too, for being the type of player he was, and being able to adjust to the women’s game. That is not an easy transition at all, and a lot of guys can’t do that. It’s just not in their DNA, especially given how hard he played the game. I really admire that in him. A no quit work ethic on the team, and I love it. There are a lot of skilled players who can get shut down by hard work. Hanna is so excited about the new players. So said I don’t know what’s the first line and what’s the second, it’s like one and one prime! There isn’t’rt a clear first and second, she’s really excited."

We wrapped up our very enjoyable chat with the Beatties by asking their thoughts on the impending bubble season. Olga stated “I’m thrilled that the league didn’t cancel the season, it would have been a lot easier to do that. And it is just a fantastic idea, a creative solution to be able to put these athletes in the bubble in Lake Placid. It’s going to be an extraordinary experience for them. I also see it as a Wow! How cool to be part of history, with professional athletes being in a bubble. It’s such a dark period in our lives with this Covid-19, Yet here’s this bright shining spot. And to get to be part of that, I just think it’s exquisite. And I hugely appreciate the league for figuring out how to make it work. And also for acknowledging that these athletes are also full time employees. And they have enabled players to continue their work, they’re scheduling around pad it. And I think that’s very respectful. And acknowledges that these athletes are more than athletes, they’ve got other work that they’ve got to get done.“ John responded “I’m totally disappointed that I can’t go to Lake Placid and watch the games. We’ll get to watch them online, and hopefully maybe a network picks up a couple of games. That would be a great opportunity! (Obviously we spoke before the announcement of our partnership with NBC Sports to broadcast the semi-final and Isobel Cup Championship Game) We bought our Pod Pass the other day! Hopefully you’ll get to see the favorite fan that we’re going to send in.This is kind of a fun little story. Last year all of the games we went to we would bring our dog, a Corgi named Prucha. Named after Petr Prucha, who played for the New York Rangers. Prucha kind of became a little bit of a mascot for the team last year. I’d put him in my arms at center ice for the national Anthem, and players from both teams would admire Prucha. And I’d kind of have his paw up there waving to people, and everybody smiled. It became something that the Whale players were actually looking forward to. Well, unfortunately Prucha passed away this summer, but he’s going to be there. He’s the fan favorite coming from our family for the bubble experience. And Hanna scored her first goal last year, so she got a pair of socks for Christmas that had Prucha’s face all over her socks. Her brother gave her these socks. She was wearing them in warm-ups and then she actually wore them in the game, and she scored. So guess what? She wore them again the next night, and she scored again! She hadn’t scored in the league in three years, and all of a sudden in back to back nights she’s got two goals and she’s off to the races! Hockey players believe in superstitions and hockey gods and all that, and she attributes it to the socks, and never took them off all season. Her teammates either wanted socks with their dog’s photo on it, or socks with Hanna’s dog’s photo on it. The Corgi became a thing last year for the team! “

Cetacean Nation offers a Fins Up thank you to John and Olga for their insightful behind the scenes look at their daughter, our amazing #16 Hanna Beattie.You can hear more from Hanna herself in her interviews right here on our Cetacean Nation website.

Hanna and the Season Six Pod blue line contingent headed into the Lake Placid bubble!