"This photo was taken when Alyssa was seven years old. It was taken at an open house put on by our Mounted Unit. I was there with the SWAT display that we were frequently tasked with providing at these events.”

All In The Family #6: Chuck Wohlfeiler

This is the sixth installment of our continuing “All In The Family” series of interviews, with #7 already in the works. Through these interviews with the family members of our amazing Connecticut Whale Pod, we’ve gotten all kinds of unique and interesting content. Their insights about their daughters, are told by those who know them best. These stories, along with the player’s individual interview(s) give us a unique multi faceted look into the life of our Whale beyond their great stats and accomplishments. In this segment of the series, we’ll here from Chuck Wohlfeiler, father of our Amazing #8 Alyssa Wohlfeiler.Chuck provided not only insights and photos of her hockey career, but of her softball, basketball and golf careers as well. Alyssa had mentioned in her interview that her Dad was a golfer. So we asked Chuck about that, and his general background in sports. He told us

“My father was an avid golfer and got me started playing at a very young age. I remember starting out with about four clubs that he had cut down for me. I played with those clubs for many years before I got a full-sized, complete set of clubs. I really enjoyed golf but never got real serious about it. I played all the typical sports that all the kids did growing up: baseball, basketball, etc. But I really loved football. I wanted to be a professional football player for the Dallas Cowboys when I grew up, but that wasn’t going to happen. I couldn’t accept the fact that I wasn’t physically cut-out to play. Not only wasn’t I very big, but I complimented that by being not very fast either. I walked onto my college team for a couple seasons before I came to my senses.”

"I never played hockey but really wished I had. I think hockey was something I would have really enjoyed. I also would have really enjoyed the opportunity to get on the ice with Alyssa and her brother, Tim. After I became a police officer in Los Angeles, I continued my involvement in sports through department athletics. I started off competing in powerlifting while representing the department. After I was selected for and joined the SWAT platoon, I began to box. I would go to a boxing gym in East Los Angeles and work out with a trainer, and I competed for a couple years in the Police Summer Games before I eventually aged out of competition. I also ran a leg of the 120 mile Baker to Vegas Relay, which is a yearly road race open to law enforcement agencies. It was originally started as a relay across Death Valley but had to change venues when it grew too big. The year I ran it we ran in our tactical kit (minus weapons) to raise money for a children’s hospital.”

“Golf team, senior year in high school. She just didn’t have the same passion for golf than she did for hockey.”

As the the citizens of Cetacean Nation know, Alyssa is a pretty good golfer in addition to her hockey skills. We asked Chuck about getting Alyssa started in the sport and he explained  “I got Alyssa somewhat involved in golf when she was in high school. She liked it but was not really into it until she found out that if she played a sport she could get on an early class schedule. Alyssa had a beautiful swing and could hit the ball a mile, but never took it any more seriously than taking a few lessons from a local teaching pro. The pro was more excited about her playing than she was after he realized her potential. But he didn’t have any more luck talking her into getting serious about it than I did. She just didn’t have the same passion for golf than she did for hockey. She just liked to have fun on the golf course. She and I still play when she’s out visiting us in Idaho.” 

In her interview, Alyssa had told us some of how she got started in hockey with roller hockey . We asked Chuck what memories he had of that, and responded

“Alyssa started playing street roller hockey around age 5 or 6. From there she started playing roller hockey at the local outdoor rink. When a new indoor rink opened she started playing in the youth leagues, and then transitioned into travel roller hockey. One of the things that really stood out to me in those early years were her skates. She wore these pink, plastic roller blades. She wore them until we got her a pair of real hockey skates, and it’s probably the last time she’s ever worn anything pink. Even years later when she would run into kids she had started playing with, one of the first things they would comment on was her pink skates. It still bugs her to this day!”

“This picture is from when Alyssa was playing in-house roller hockey, probably around age seven. Unfortunately, she already had her hockey skates so I can’t show you her pink skates.”

We also asked Chuck if he recalled the epiphany parents of great athletes usually have, when their child reaches a point where they are noticeably better than the other kids. We asked Chuck if he perceived that epiphany with Alyssa and he replied

 “I don’t remember one incident that acted as an epiphany for me about realizing her ability, but several things do come to mind. She was successful at an early age in the roller hockey leagues, leading the league in scoring at least one season. But that was just recreational youth leagues. Her ability to play at a high level really showed up on three occasions. The first was when she was about eight or nine years old she got recruited to play for the Orange County Blades out of Orange County, CA. At that time the Blades were one of the top roller hockey clubs in the country, and had something of a mystique surrounding them. Alyssa and another girl from Santa Clarita (about 75 miles north of Huntington Beach) were recruited to play for them. They were playing another Southern California team for the national championship and were down 5-2 very late in the game. Alyssa scored two quick goals and almost got the tying goal before time ran out She also finished second, by inches, in the fastest skater competition at the tournament.”

“There was another time where Alyssa’s skill was apparent. Alyssa was about nine when she attended a hockey camp in Okanagan, British Columbia. Also attending the camp was Mike Barnett and his son, and Ray Ferraro and his son. At the time, Mike was Wayne Gretzky’s longtime agent, and Ray was playing for the LA Kings in the NHL. Alyssa was the only girl skater in the class, and in the first scrimmage scored two goals. She was also selected by the instructor to demonstrate a skating drill because of her skating ability.”

“When Alyssa got into high school they started up the high school hockey league. This was just like any other varsity sport except it was not officially sanctioned by the school district. It was very popular, with thousands of spectators showing up for the games. As you might expect, these were testosterone-filled, ultra-physical games. The first season,Alyssa was the only girl in the league, and she never shied away from the contact, either receiving it or dishing it out. It was funny because the same boys who would chirp her from the stands about a girl playing a man’s game, would be yelling marriage proposals at her and telling her they loved her after she put a big hit on an opposing player! I would say these incidents are where I not only recognized her physical skill and ability to play at an elite level, but her mental toughness and ultra-competitive drive.”

 

“Basketball days, around seven or eight years. Basketball was probably her second favorite sport.”

We asked Chuck about getting involved in youth hockey and the inevitable travel that ensues. He told us

"We had a blast becoming hockey parents. We were with the Cal Selects Girls Ice Hockey program for many years and had a great group of parents. I learned a lot about the game, and even Alyssa’s mom became a huge hockey fan. Alyssa’s younger brother, Tim, also played hockey at a high level. His junior college team went undefeated and won an ACHA national championship while he was on the team. So we had two kids involved in youth travel hockey. I was on long-term disability with a work-related injury during a lot of this time, so I was usually able to accompany the kids on their trips. I would travel with Alyssa on most of her games, and help my wife out on Tim’s games. Even with the drain on our time (and even more so on our bank account), we really enjoyed our hockey trips. We were able to travel to places like Quebec City, Montreal, and Alaska. My mom was Canadian, and my uncle and aunt from Canada were able to watch some of her games. We probably didn’t take a vacation that wasn’t hockey-related for a decade.”

We wondered how the travel aspect went once Alyssa moved East to,play at Northeastern University, and beyond, all of it pretty far from home. Chuck stated

“We were very happy when Alyssa decided to attend Northeastern University. We loved the campus, and we loved the city of Boston. We always tried to attend a couple of her games each season, even after she graduated and played for the Boston Blades of the CWHL. When she had the opportunity to go to Switzerland and play, we thought that was a great opportunity for her to expand her experiences and travel. I think the year she spent in Lugano was one of her best years. I was able to make it out there and catch the final game of her season. It was the deciding game of the series for the league championship. Alyssa scored two goals, and along with Jordan Brickner helped their team win the Swiss League Championship. After that we spent several weeks traveling around Europe. Tim was able to join us for the last week out there.”

“This is when Alyssa played softball, around the same time frame as the previous hockey picture. I remember she made all three put-outs in one inning, and on each put-out the opposing player had to leave the game. I could hear the other team’s parents complaining that she was playing too tough. Her softball career ended soon after that.”

Alyssa told us the great story about her McDonald’s TV commercial with Wayne Gretzky, and we asked Chuck for a little more about that amazing occurrence. Chuck remembered

“A couple of months after Alyssa attended the Okanagan hockey cam, we got a call from a production company asking if Alyssa would like to appear in a McDonald’s commercial with Wayne Gretzky they were filming. After taking about a nanosecond to say yes and then signing the required contracts and such, we spent two days filming. The first day was filmed at one of Wayne’s roller rinks in Irvine, CA. I went with Alyssa and she had a fun day skating around the rink with Wayne and the other kids, and trying to keep him from eating all her fries. At the end of the day I gave Wayne and Mike Barnett a SWAT coffee mug and baseball cap. We saw Wayne a couple times after that at celebrity golf games and he was always a gentleman, asking Alyssa how she was doing.”

Alyssa is an OW (original Whale) and as such was with the league from the beginning. So Cetacean Nation asked Chuck to offer his thoughts on the NWHL and of course, on the Whale. He responded

"Alyssa first heard about the NWHL from Dani Rylan, who she knew from Northeastern University. Although Alyssa had enjoyed her time in Switzerland and had briefly considered re-signing with them, as soon as she heard there was a new professional league forming in the states, she knew she had to be a part of that. She ended up signing with the Whale and had a pretty good season. She was playing with teammates like Jess Koizumi, Kelli Stack, Jordan Brickner, Kayleigh Fratkin, Lindsey Berman, and Shannon Doyle. We were all very excited about the formation of the NWHL, since besides giving the women a place to play after college it would pay them a salary. We knew the league would start out slowly and grow slowly, but we felt the business model the league was following was the best way to grow the product. It is somewhat disappointing that the players can’t present a more united front to how to grow the game, but each player needs to make their own decision."

"I know Alyssa feels very honored and humbled whenever she is approached by younger players asking for her autograph.” “I know Alyssa was initially disappointed when Boston did not re-sign her after last season. But when she was approached by the Whale, that disappointment quickly disappeared and was replaced by a real sense of excitement and potential. She is very excited to play for Coach Orr and the Whale. Although the Whale were winless against Boston last season (Season Five), Alyssa would always comment about how hard they were to play against. Now that she is part of the team, she is looking forward to helping the team achieve the success she knows they are capable of."

Cetacean Nation thinks Alyssa certainly did that in the abbreviated Season Six. And we're sure that Chuck, along with the rest of the citizens of Cetacean Nation are looking forward hopefully for more of the same from Alyssa in a hopefully more normal Season Seven. We thank Chuck for his insightful comments, and look forward to asking Alyssa about those pink skates! Fins Up!

“Alyssa 2011, her senior year at Northeastern. She was captain and team MVP that year.”