Alyssa Wohlfeiler with one of her many viewpoints in the rink. Courtesy of the Connecticut Whale

ALYSSA WOHLFEILER: DISPATCHES FROM THE RINK


At the conclusion of our last interview with our Amazing “Once and Future Whale” #8 Alyssa Wolhfeiler, we asked her if we could catch up again after the playoffs. Win or lose, and unfortunately it was the latter. And Alyssa was true to her word, and we last week we discussed with her our game in Boston vs the Whitecaps. And, a lot more! For context, immediately after the game, we posted our Fast Take as per usual. It read:

Tough loss to a tough opponent. Some really tough puck luck. Much respect to the ‘Caps, & an absolutely hot goalie. Thanks to our Pod for a great effort, and as all of the citizens of Cetacean Nation know, Season Seven will be the Year of the Whale! Fins Up to that!

So, we began by asking Alyssa about March 26th in Boston, the start of the Isobel Cup playoffs. She told us

“I’ve never played a game like that in my entire career. We had nothing, absolutely nothing, going for us. It was kind of bizarre. I’ve never played in a game like that. Not at all taking anything away from Minnesota, they were the better team, they deserved to win. But I don’t think we deserved to lose seven nothing. And the explanation of the disallowed goal was as clear as mud. That goal would’ve made a one to one, and a couple of shifts later they scored. So that ends up being a two goal swing. But here’s my problem with it. There should not even have been video review. Because there was no video review up in Lake Placid. And it should’ve been consistent throughout the whole tournament, if we are going to say the playoffs were a continuation of the whole tournament. It should have been the same. Because we had a goal called back in Lake Placid. They called it a hand pass, which it was not. And if we had had a video review, it would’ve shown that it was not a hand pass. It just bounced off our player."

"But we didn’t have video then, so they should’ve kept that consistent, and should not have used video review in Boston. So we got the short end of the stick both times. That goal changes the whole game. I’m not saying we would have won., I’m not saying that goal being called back prevented us from winning. But it definitely change the whole landscape of the game. It just seems like every mistake that we made ended up being a goal.Right on their stick and in front of the net. It was just crazy. Anyone who watched the game knows it was NOT a seven to nothing game. There should have been video review in Lake Placid, I’m actually surprised there wasn’t. If we’re trying to be professional here, what can’t we have video review? Either way, it should have been consistent, and it wasn’t. It’s frustrating that it came back to bite us twice.”

Alyssa added  “I think that with the exposure with the NBC Sports lost when Lake Placid got susspended, they wanted to be really, really sure a winner was crowned. And that it was on national television. So I was pretty confident that was going to happen. I didn’t think the league was going to go two years without a champion. I’m not surprised they made it happen, and obviously I’m grateful that they did. I think it turned out well. For other teams!  she laughed.

Alyssa continued her great play in our playoff game, and we were particularly impressed with her speed and quickness. And so we’re the announcers who commented on it during one of her rushes up ice. We wondered why she doesn’t seem to get enough notice for that. Alyssa offered

“I don’t know maybe because I’m bigger. So maybe at first it doesn’t look like I’m moving very fast” she laughed. "Usually with the smaller players, their feet are moving a million miles an hour, I don’t know if that has something to do with it. I’ve always had decent speed growing up, but I was never quick. Getting up to speed was my weakness. But once I got there, I was decently fast you could call it. But it took me too long to get there. So that was always my weakness growing up. All the training I’ve done my whole career, the focus has been on speed and getting faster. A few years ago it kind of clicked with me that all this training doesn’t mean anything if I don’t change my mind and my mindset. So you have to have a speed mindset. You can’t just train to be fast, and then go into a game and expect your muscles to just work faster. It starts with your mind. That kind of light bulb went off for me there, where I was like I actually have to tell myself: Hey, move really fast right now! Just because you train to be fast doesn’t mean your body is going to know what to do. It starts with your mind. So that’s something I’ve been working on, and it starts upstairs.”

We wondered what kind of training she did to get the results she's shown, especially recently. Alyssa explained

 “I’ve always done speed training, but the last couple of years I’ve just gotten more knowledgeable about the science behind it. And not just thinking like: Hey, I want to skate fast, so I’m going to move fast when I train. It’s not necessarily like that. So I’ve got books full of post-it notes and stacks of papers on my table, just writing out training programs. There is just so much science behind it, I could go on for hours about it. I’ve learned a lot. So actually to give the story, this year before Lake Placid I found this book about a new method of training. . New to me, not necessarily new to the world. And I was like: This is great, this is really eye opening! So I thought I would try it the next offseason. We were in season, and I wasn’t going to start changing things now. So then the pause happened after Lake Placid, where we ended up having seven or eight weeks off. So I took two weeks off, and then I had like five weeks to go. So I was like: How can I hack this new training philosophy I’ve found to fit into five weeks, as an abbreviated offseason training program. And so there’s a guy at my gym who is super knowledgeable, so we went over it and wrote out a quick five week training program with this new philosophy. I felt great, and apparently it translated to the ice. So I am excited to try it for a full off-season to see what it does for me.”

 “It would also help us to know when they plan on starting Season Seven. Last year before they announced the bubble they planned on starting in November, which was later than normal. So I don’t know if they plan on doing that again, or if it’s going to go back to the normal hockey season, where it’s October. That’s how I write out my training program, I work backwards. So whenever the start of the season is, I start there. And then I count the weeks backwards to see how many weeks I have to train in order to peak for the season. So I kind of need that starting point.”

We talked about that downtime and how that’s an important part of any training program. And we asked where Alyssa was in terms of that

 “I am in the middle of doing nothing . Especially for me with my personality, sometimes I’m just go go go. But I’ve learned for the sake of your mental health and physical health it’s OK to take a break. Before I would just feel like: Am I being lazy? Am I not working hard enough? But it is OK to take the time off and then hit it hard. So I’ll take a couple of weeks off. I might even take off the whole month of April, depending on when the season starts. If it starts in October, then I will only take a couple of weeks off. But if it starts in November I could probably afford to take the whole month of April off. But it also depends on how I’m feeling too. If I’m like super motivated and ready to get back into the gym in a couple of weeks, then I’ll start. Technically our contracts are October to March. So will sign in the summer but we don’t start getting paychecks until October."

Alyssa in action in Season Six in Lake Placid. Photo by Michelle Jay

And while speaking about downtime, we discussed the possibility that the abbreviated Season Six might have a silver lining. The very short season possibly  inflicted less wear and tear on the players. Alyssa said

“Yeah, definitely I would agree with that, for me personally. But in women’s hockey, I could go the other way. Since because you didn’t play that many games, you might be rusty when the next season comes around. But I agree on the wear and tear. Physically, I feel fine. I could start training tomorrow. For me it’s more mentally, because this was the most mentally challenging season in my career. Just preparing, at least the way I train, and the way I prepare.Training and playing on my program to peak for Lake Placid, and then: Oops! The season’s over. Take two weeks off and I have got to start training again to peak for Boston. So you trained as hard as you could for just one game” she laughed. "It’s just very challenging mentally. But it’s a very good point that the wear and tear isn’t there. But for some girls it could be that their skills kind of diminish because they didn’t play a full season. So for sure, I think it could go either way.”

 But even during downtime there are still hockey activities that a lot of the players are involved with. For example, the Whale and the Riveters have partnered with the New York Islanders to present a “Next Steps” series of clinics for young girls in the their Learn to Play program. Every clinic will be coached by four members of the NWHL,  and Alyssa is one of those players. She said

“I’ve done some of the clinics, three of them so far. They are every Friday on Long Island. So I’m actually doing one tomorrow. It’s every Friday for eight weeks I think. So I helped out with the first three but was obviously gone last weekend for the playoffs. And then I’ll help out tomorrow, and I think I’m on the schedule for at least one more before the sessions end. They’re at the Northwell Ice Center, where the Islanders practice. It’s been the same group of skaters every week, they range from four to probably fourteen maybe. They’re a fun group.”

 It so occurred to Cetacean Nation that some of those Little Future Draft Picks that Alyssa is working with, are likely asking a million questions. So we decided to ask her four questions about her equipment, as perhaps they might. And her answers were all that and a bag of chips!  First we asked about her process to break in gloves. She stated

“Gloves are probably, at least from my point of view, the most annoying thing to break in. It doesn’t seem like it, but I hate breaking in gloves, more than any other piece of equipment, to be honest. You really can’t do too much. You can’t really do what you do to a baseball glove when you put oil on it or something. Nothing like that. I just have to kind of bend them back-and-forth to try to get them to loosen up, and not be so stiff. It takes like two weeks of use probably, for them to feel OK. It’s funny when we all get our new equipment at the start of the season, If everyone’s got new gloves, practice is awful” she laughed. "No one can do anything! So when we get new gloves, we will tell Colton: Hey, just so you know, we all have new gloves!”

We also asked Alyssa what stick curve she would recommend for those LFDP’s?

“For young kids? Hmmm, you don’t really realize what you like until you get older.. Like in college where I played four years, used three different curves. So going into college, I used a flatter blade, not much curve to it. It was just easier to handle passes and shots on your backhand. Then going into my sophomore year, I switched to a curve that I noticed a lot of NHL guys used. It was a pretty drastic change. But it really improved my shot, so I liked that. With the sticks we were using the following year, that curve wasn’t available. So then I had to switch again. So I switched to a pretty popular curve that everyone uses. And then when I was playing in Sweden a few years ago, stick companies started coming out with a newer curve. It was similar to the one I was using, but it had a slight adjustment where the toe is curved a little more. Which I really liked in terms of puck handling and shooting. So I have been using that curve for the last four years. So for youth kids, I would probably suggest using a flatter curve. So they are not relying so much on the actual stick blade. They then have to actually learn the technique of shooting. Instead of being aided so much by the curve of the blade. But you know kids, they just want to shoot it high: top shelf, bar down.” she laughed "so no one would listen!”

While we were talking sticks, we wondered about Alyssa’s preferences for taping her stick. And we got an unexpected reply

"You’re going to laugh" she said, "but I don’t use any stick tape whatsoever! I am probably the only player in the league who doesn’t use any stick tape. So for the end of my stick, the knob, it’s a rubber adhesive knob that I slide onto the end of my stick. And then when the glue dries, it’s just there until I take it off. I’ve been using this a couple of years because I was getting annoyed with tape. For one thing, it ruins your gloves faster. I would always get a hole in my left glove from the knob of my stick, so I was annoyed by that. Then I just came across this product, they are called BUTTENDZ "(https://buttendz.com/). "So it’s just a rubber grip that you slide over your stick, and when the glue dries it’s stuck there. It really saves my gloves, and the stickiness doesn’t really wear off. So I like that because I can have control. Some girls, they don’t like that. They want there to be more slick up there which, I don’t know why. But they do, so there’s that.”

Alyssa continued "And for my blade, last season I started using almost like a sandpaper sticker. It goes on the front of my blade and the back of my blade. So there is no stick tape whatsoever. I want to say I don’t use tape, I do use something, but it’s just not stick tape. I do get a lot of questions about the sandpaper sticky on my blades. People go: What the heck! What is that? And I’m like: Look, feel it, it’s like sandpaper. They’ve just never seen it before. And now I’ve got two teammates who are trying the same thing. The company that makes it is called Rezztek (https://rezztek.com/) They are actually not sold in stores, they are only available for professionals, I don’t know why. I think it’s a Slovakian company, because I think Zdeno Chára is part owner, or part investor, so he uses it. So a few NHL players use it. My teammate knows a rep for them, so he got me a whole stack of them. They are custom made. They have the Whale logo and my number on them, it’s pretty cool. So I’ve got teammates skating around now with a #8 Whale sticker on their stick blade!”

Here are the butt end & blades of Alyssa's sticks, showing the BUTTENDZ and REZZTEK products she uses as described.

During our interview with Whale trainer Paul Fernandes, he gave us break down of skate sharpening, and the different hollows the players used. Sasked Alyssa about her preferences

“Nothing against Paul" she laughed, "but I don’t use the machine he uses, because it’s automatic. I’m old-school. I like a human to do it. So I don’t use the machine he uses, but the hollow that I get my skates sharpened to,I don’t think I’ve met any other female hockey players that use it.They might, I don’t know, but most girls skate on a half inch hollow. And I skate on a full inch, one inch. A few years ago that’s what goalies used to use. So what that means is it’s more shallow so there’s more glide on the ice, where my skates aren’t digging into the ice as much. So a half inch hollow is a deeper cut and your blades are going to dig into the ice a little more. So players that use a half an inch hollow can probably stop faster than me, and maybe change directions quicker than me. But my skate is more on top of the ice, and not in the ice. But I can get away with using it because I’m a little bigger and a little heavier. So the heavier you are, the more you can get away with using a shallow hollow. Because you’ve got more weight on your skates so you don’t really have to worry about slipping. But some of the smaller girls, it might be tough for them to do.”

“So the last few years I’ve kind of messed around with my hollow, and changed it up. It’s actually been pretty eye opening. Like: Shoot, I wish I had done this ten years ago! I think most girls don’t realize what the hollow actually means, and what it is, because I didn’t. Half inch is kind of the main stream hollow that everyone gets, that’s like the default. So I would get that, but I wouldn’t like my skates until like two weeks after they got sharpened. So I was like why don’t I just get them sharpened at a different hollow? So people think that a half inch is sharp and a full inch is dull, but that’s not the case at all. A half inch just has more bite into the ice. An inch is still sharp but it just has more glide on top of the ice. So I was at a half inch a few years ago, And then I went a little more shallow to 5/8 inch. And I said: Oh, I like this, it’s such a difference! And then I went up again and I was like : Well, I’ll try 3/4 of an inch, and I said: Oh yeah, I like this! And then I went up to 7/8 of an inch, and I was like: Oh yeah, I like this too, might as well keep going! So now I’m up to an inch and I probably won’t go any lower than that. As I said, I don’t think I’ve met any other girl who uses an inch hollow.”

Cetacean Nation has heard the rumors about the NWHL possibly expanding to Montreal, and we asked Alyssa for her thoughts on that as well. She stated

“I’ve heard that too. I’m kind of mixed on it it. I think if we expand too quickly, it kind of waters down the product. I also don’t want to have an odd number of teams in the league” she laughed."Because every weekend one team is off. So I hate that. But if there’s private ownership that wants to bring in a team and treat it professionally, then I guess, go for it. But I mean, the NHL was six teams for how many years? I don’t know why we would be adding a team every single season. We don’t need 12 teams yet! " she laughed  "So I’m not sure how I feel about it."

We had also heard some talk about roster expansion, and thought that was a good idea. Alyssa concurrent, saying

“Yeah I agree. We expanded from last season. So last season we were only allowed Yeah I have done some clinics yeah I have done some clinics yeah I’ve done some clinicsto have 18 maybe and this year it was 20 or 21. And I guess you’ve got to have three goalies but when roster spots are scarce, it makes it harder to justify keeping three goalies and keeping a skater off the roster. But that’s why I’m not a GM” she laughed.

In her last interview, we had talked with Alyssa about her reputation for chirping. We followed that up by asking about her chirps possibly directed at refs. She responded

“Oh, man, I like to say I’ve gotten better. But yeah, the refs just do a number on me" she chuckled. "It’s just really tough to keep my mouth shut around them. So I think I’ve gotten better. I have gotten ten minutes penalties before for yelling at the ref. But that was a long time ago. Sometimes they are just a little overly sensitive she chuckled, they get mad at me too easily and give me ten minutes, so… I’m very competitive and passionate, and if I feel that a ref is taking over or not being fair, that’s when I start getting mad. I’m like: Just let us play, just leave it alone. When I feel like a ref is just too involved, that’s when I start mouthing off. I just also get mad because I:ve gotten so many penalties where it’s a 50/50 race to the puck and me and this girl are going for it and we collide, she falls down and I don’t, and I get a penalty. I’m like: Why are you penalizing me for that? It’s not my fault she fell down! It’s frustrating to bust your butt in the gym so hard, and basically get a penalty for it."

We mentioned that her Whale teammate Laurel Hill had a couple of similar calls calls go against her last season. Alyssa revealed

"Actually she took a penalty against me. We were going for a puck and I did not have the right angle on her, so I tried lean into her but she had a step on me. So by trying to lean into her I was leaning too far forward. And so I was already off balance, and so then I ended up falling and going into the boards head first and they did call that a penalty. And that should not have been a penalty. So I remember that play well, it should not have been a penalty, I’m surprised they even called it. Because I don’t go down easily, unless I’m off balance. So that the reason I went down so hard on that play. I was off balance and didn’t have the right positioning. I totally agree with her. Something like that should not have been a penalty. There’s some refs where you know, you’ve got to be careful. But actually Katie Guay (the ref in our game vs Minnesota), she’s one of my favorites she actually let’s stuff like that go. Because she can tell it’s just a hockey play, and nothing malicious." (You can learn more about Katie’s in her own interview here on our website Katie Guay: From Wrist Shots To Whistles)

Before we wrapped things up with Alyssa, we had to ask about something we learned when we interviewed her father, Chuck, for our "All In The Family" series: Alyssa's once had a pair of pink skates! 

"Not by choice" she laughed. "Yeah, I know, Dad spilled the beans on that one. They weren’t all pink, I think just a plastic part of them ended up being pink. It wa almost like peach, even. I think it was my first pair of rollerskates. I always joke that that was before I had a conscience, and made my own decisions. Because at that age you don’t know you just want a pair of rollerskates.To my Mom’s chagrin, it was probably my last pink thing. I kinfpd of go either way on that though. I see a lot of girls with like pink stick tape or pink laces, pink helmet.I’m like, God, you don’t need the pink,ir doesn’t matter. But I’m like: You know what? They’re five! If they like it, then go for it! If they’re doing it when they are twelve, you’ve kind of got to draw the line" she laughed.

We thank our "Once and Future Whale" #8 Alyssa Wohlfeiler for sharing these thoughts and opinions with us, and look forward to hearing more from her. And, to see her hoisting the Isobel Cup when it completes it's journey to Connecticut next season. Fins Up to that and to Alyssa