The Boston Pride: Media Day and First Practice

Yesterday, the players trickled into Allied Veterans Memorial Rink in Everett slowly from the outside world. Forward Emily Field was the first to arrive, showing up around 2pm along with the media contingent; defender Marissa Gedman was one of the last, delayed by an organic chemistry class according to a league representative. In addition to limited press duties, players were outfitted with new gear (including pads, skates, and sticks) and spotted filling out W-4s,  a form for employers in the US to withhold taxes from employee income (yes!) before they hit the ice.

The NWHL supplied press with a detailed roster of the players on the ice; notably missing from both the roster and practice were star players who have been confirmed by an internal source but not yet publicly acknowledged by the league: Kacey Bellamy, Brianna Decker, Gigi Marvin, and Hilary Knight (#knightwatch continues)? Zoe Hickel was also absent. GM Hayley Moore, head coach Bobby Jay, and assistant coach Lauren McAuliffe were also present for the media and player equipment fittings.

Alyssa Gagliardi trying on a new Bauer helmet.
Alyssa Gagliardi getting a helmet fitted.

Representatives from Bauer and Base Hockey were present to fit players from a wide selection of gear and sticks. (Base Hockey brought a heat gun and hand-saw to the party, which was very exciting for this incurably handy blogger.) While clarification is still forthcoming on Bauer’s relationship to the NWHL as a sponsor, Bauer sales representative Tom Quinn confirmed that the league is purchasing equipment for players and it will not be provided outright as part of a sponsorship. A few players declined to be fitting for various items, including Alyssa Gagliardi, who has recently purchased new skates; a league representative said that players are not required to use league-provided gear.

New Bauer bags, gloves, and helmets, lined up on a bench in a locker room.
Some of the new gear, all lined up.

Mid-afternoon, the press convened in a warm side room for two press conferences, one with players and the other with the GM and head coach. (Forward Amanda Pelkey generously brought us a fan in the short interval between the two.) Pelkey, goalie Brittany Ott, and goalie Kelsie Fralick represented the Pride in the player press conference and spoke to their excitement about the upcoming season and the new team. They remained neutral when I asked about future team rivalries: we’ll see how they feel by the end of the season.

 

GM Hayley Moore and head coach Bobby Jay discussed the thrill of coaching and assembling the roster of such an elite group of players, as well as future involvement with the Boston sports community (yes: look for further interaction with the Lowell Spinners and the Boston Breakers).

A league representative also addressed my question about the NWHL’s use of social media.

 

Overall, it was a full day for players and media alike. On a personal level, it was great to meet up with Kat Hemming (@KatHemming), Kate Cimini (@lightsthelamp), and Sarah Connors (@sarah_connors), and I felt the Boston Pride truly made us as welcome as the members of the mainstream media present. The friendliness and positivity energy from the players were also palpable.

Watch the players hit the ice:

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The Boston Pride: Media Day & First Practice from Erin Bartuska on Vimeo.

International Team Camp and Beantown Classic: NWHL in Boston this week

This weekend, the NWHL’s International Team Camp will run from July 23-26, commencing with a skills session on July 23 and continuing with three teams of NWHL prospects competing at the Beantown Classic. Here’s where to catch the action in person; we recommend following the NWHL on Periscope and Twitter if you’re watching from afar.

International Team Camp
Thursday afternoon, the NWHL’s International Team Camp will host a skills session open to the public. According to the camp roster, we’ll see a few US faces alongside Canadian players and a handful of women from outside North America – Lyudmila Belyakova from Russia as well as Hanuka Toko and Nana Fujimoto from Japan.

Thursday, July 23rd:
2:30-4:00pm, Ristuccia Memorial Arena (190 Main St, Wilmington, MA)

Beantown Classic
Starting Friday afternoon, three teams representing the NWHL will be playing in the College Division of the Beantown Classic, a series of hockey showcase tournaments that takes place in eight locations across the Boston metro area and in surrounding communities. The NWHL’s teams are scheduled to play at two locations: New England Sport Center (NESC) at 121 Donald Lynch Boulevard, Marlborough, MA, and Lake (Charles J Buffone Arena) at 284 Lake Avenue, Worcester, MA.

Friday, July 24th:
at NESC Rink 3
12:00PM NWHL 1 vs. No Regretzkies
01:20PM NWHL 3 vs. GEK
02:40PM NWHL 2 vs. Bud Heavy
06:40PM NWHL 1 vs. Seahawks
08:00PM NWHL 3 vs. Eagles (Layo)
09:20PM NWHL 2 vs. PURP

Saturday, July 25th:
at Lake
11:10AM NWHL 1 vs. Goal Diggers
12:30PM NWHL 2 vs. NAHA
01:50PM NWHL 3 vs. Healthy Scratches
08:00 Playoffs commence at multiple venues, schedule TBA.

Sunday, July 26th:
Playoffs continue and conclude, schedule TBA, but looks like these will all be at NESC.

 

The rosters for the three teams representing the NWHL in the Beantown Classic are also available on the Beantown Classic website. Below the cut, some familiar names and some fresh ones…

Continue reading International Team Camp and Beantown Classic: NWHL in Boston this week

The Boston Pride: Draft Recap, Signing Amanda Pelkey

At a Q&A on Periscope after the first NWHL draft on June 20th, General Manager Hayley Moore of the Boston Pride said that the team “wanted to deepen our roster on all levels” and “spread our picks across the board, rather than focusing on a single position.” The Boston Pride had third pick at the 2015 NWHL Draft, but that was third pick of an amazing crop of stellar athletes. In the five rounds of the draft, they chose three forwards, a goaltender, and one defender, four of whom are already based in Boston as rising seniors on NCAA teams. This year’s draft picks will join the Pride for the 2016-2017 season after they finish their undergraduate degrees.

First pick (3rd overall): Kendall Coyne (@KendallCoyne), 23, is a forward and #77 on the Northeastern Huskies whose hometown is Palos Heights, IL. As a member of Team USA, Coyne is an Olympic silver medalist, three times an International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Champion, and twice a IIHF Under 18 (U18) World Champion. In her NCAA career, she’s scored 165 points over three seasons; this year alone, she was a Patty Kazmaier Top-Ten Finalist and a Women’s Hockey East Association (WHEA) First Team All-Star. With that kind of play at the international and college levels, it’s easy to see what makes her such a valuable prospect to the NWHL and first choice for the Pride.

Second pick (7th overall): Emerance Maschmeyer (@emerance_m), 20, is a goaltender and #38 on the Harvard Crimson who hails from Bruderheim, AB. Before she even started at Harvard, she led Team Canada to gold with a shutout in the final game in the 2012 IIHF World Women’s U18 Championships. This spring, she served as alternate to veteran Genevieve Lacasse on the silver-winning team at the 2015 IIHF Women’s World Championships. With a .941 save percentage over her NCAA career, Maschmeyer is a powerful presence in the net, and she’s gotten the recognition to show for it as 2013 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, 2014 ECAC Goaltender of the Year, and numerous other awards and nominations. She’ll be a huge asset for the Pride next year.

Third pick (11th overall): Lexi Bender (@bendy0), 21, is a defender and #21 on the Boston College Eagles from Snohomish, WA. Bender represented Team USA on the 2014 U.S. Women’s Under-22 Select Team in a three-game exhibition series against Canada last summer and has had an impressive career on high school and college teams, playing for Shattuck-Saint Mary’s before she joined the Eagles, where she racked up six goals and 23 assists this year. GM Moore singled out Bender for praise after the draft, saying, “There were very many talented defensemen, but Bender was a staple on the Boston College blue line last season and she was an integral part of their success. She’s got great size and strength, which we’re welcoming in Boston.” I couldn’t agree more.

Fourth pick (15th overall): Miye D’Oench (@me_yay_doench), 21, is a forward and #19 on the Harvard Crimson from New York, NY. D’Oench won silver for Team USA alongside future Pride teammates Coyne on the 2012 IIHF U18 team and the U22 team last summer alongside Bender. At Harvard, D’Oench has lead the Crimson offensively: for 2013-2014, she held first place for both goals (18) and points (39), and this season, with 19 goals, she was the highest goal scorer again, though second on the team with 33 points. Prior to Harvard, she captained her club team the New Jersey Rockets U19 for two seasons. Leadership experience and goal production will be great strengths for D’Oench on the Pride.

Fifth pick (19th overall): Shannon MacAulay (@shanmac04), 21, is a forward and #4 on the Clarkson Golden Knights who calls Mt. Herbert, PEI home. Representing Team Canada, she’s played alongside Maschmeyer and against the rest of her future teammates drafted today, winning gold on Canada’s 2012 IIHF U18 team and playing in an exhibition series with the 2014 U22 team against the United States. At Clarkson, she led the team in power play goals this year and was second on the team with 33 points; she was also a 2015 ECAC Hockey Third-Team All-League All-Star and nominated for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. MacAulay will be an excellent addition to the Pride next year.

As I said in my post in about the Boston Blades and the future of US Women’s Hockey last month, the NCAA is teeming with women with backgrounds as impressive as the NWHL’s 2015 draft picks. The players who will join the Pride next year are only the very tip of the iceberg, and NWHL GM Dani Rylan concurs, saying in the post-draft Q&A that, “The Draft Class was so deep that it was really that every selection was a first-round pick. We could have gone ten rounds.” Indeed.

While Coyne, Macschmeyer, Bender, D’Oench, and MacAulay won’t join the Pride until they conclude their undergraduate and NCAA careers in 2016, the Pride are beginning to sign free agents for the NWHL’s inaugural season as well. The first free agent to sign with the Boston Pride is Amanda Pelkey (@pelkey21), 22, a forward and a recent graduate of the University of Vermont, where she was #21 on the Vermont Catamounts. Read about Pelkey and her signing on the NWHL website.

Boston Pride Summer Training Camp Report

Players on the ice at the Boston Pride Training Camp
Players at the Boston Pride Training Camp, photographed by Erin Bartuska

The Boston Pride’s Training Camp was held this weekend at Ristuccia Memorial Arena in Wilmington, MA. For the regular season, the Pride will be playing at Allied Veterans Memorial Rink in Everett. I went on Saturday morning to check out the players in attendance. While the stands were far from full, I definitely had company, including others snapping photos of the action on the ice.

The roster available at the door was full of familiar names and even more CWHL players than I expected. A breakdown:

Blades: Exactly half of the 30 players on the roster are from the Boston Blades, 14 of them current or former players, one (Brooke Fernandez, most recently of the ZSC Lions of the Swiss Women’s Hockey League) drafted by the Blades in the 15th round of the 2014 CWHL draft.

Olympians: Two-time Olympians Kelli Stack and Kacey Bellamy ( who was present but not skating).

US natives who’ve been playing abroad: Brooke Fernandez, Chelsea Furlani of Bolzano Eagles in the Elite Women’s Hockey League, and Cherie Hendrickson, a former Blades player who most recently played for the Moscow Region Tornado of the Russian Women’s Hockey League.

Team USA: In addition to Stack and Bellamy, the roster features several other players who’ve represented the US at the national level, including Emily Field, Amanda Pelkey, and Marissa Gedman.

All of the players present have played at the collegiate level, most of them for ECAC Hockey or Hockey East schools. All but Kierstin Visser are US natives.

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Boston Pride (NWHL) Summer Training Camp from Erin Bartuska on Vimeo.

The Boston Blades & the Future of US Women’s Hockey

From their inception in 2010 until this spring, the Boston Blades were the only American team in the CWHL. Since the collapse of the Western Women’s Hockey League (WWHL) in 2013, they’ve been the only opportunity for most women who are US citizens to play at the highest level, aside from Team USA. The CWHL does not offer visa sponsorship to players, but because players need to be able to live (and work to support themselves) near their teams, with few exceptions, players for the teams north of the border are Canadian. Exceptions are generally either in school or working for an employer who could sponsor them for a visa. In 2014, a full third of the 21 players Team USA sent to Sochi were from the Boston Blades; this year at Worlds, 5 of 22 players on Team USA were from the Blades. Even with the relationship between the CWHL and the Blades obviously strained, there was no competition for star players like Hilary Knight. Until this spring.

With the advent of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), there will be five professional women’s hockey teams in the United States. This includes the Boston Pride (NWHL) and the Boston Blades (CWHL), making Boston indisputably women’s hockey’s current hometown. While the NWHL and CWHL won’t be in direct battle on the ice, there’s going to be fierce competition for roster spots, and not just from US players. The NWHL has announced their intent to sponsor players for visas, which would allow them to bring in international players and pay them. Sponsoring players for P-1 (Internationally Recognized Athlete) or O-1 (Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement) visas isn’t cheap, so we may not see a bunch of them, but it’s likely that the CWHL will see some roster shakeups across the border as well.

What’s certain is that change is going to happen in the US, starting with the Boston Blades roster. Genevieve Lacasse has already expressed interest; Hilary Knight and Jess Koizumi were spotted at the NWHL launch party in April. The Blades are also losing both their head coach, Digit Murphy, and their general manager Aronda Kirby, who were let go by the CWHL following a legal dispute over the Blades’ logo trademark. While that’s going to make for an interesting 2015-2016 CWHL season, given that the Boston Blades are the 2015 Clarkson Cup champions, that doesn’t spell doom for the Blades by any means. They’re established in the CWHL, they have a short but strong history of competitive success, and women’s hockey is teeming with incredible players at the collegiate level. The Blades may be the main professional team represented on Team USA, the majority of players are actually from NCAA teams: 11 of 21 at the 2014 Olympics and 12 of 22 at 2015 Worlds.

There are so many incredibly talented women in the US right now who use up their NCAA eligibility and have nowhere to play afterward. Even for those who can get a roster spot on a CWHL team, the financial burden is huge. The advent of the NWHL is not only going to provide more women an opportunity to play at the professional level, but the ability to do so sustainably. While we’re definitely going to see an influx of younger players at first, in the long term, if the NWHL is successful, I hope it will also allow women in the US and abroad to have longer playing careers in hockey. Right now, most of the older women who headline the CWHL have spent their careers juggling undergraduate and graduate education as well as coaching and other employment on top of training, play, and family life. My hope for the NWHL is that it will allow players to be super athletes without having to be superwomen as well…

…and also that more support for women’s hockey at the professional level will net Team USA some gold at the Olympics.