An introduction and a brief Beauts check-in — Must-click women’s hockey links
The IX: Hockey Friday with Eleni Demestihas, July 8, 2022
Welcome back to Hockey Friday. I want to take a second to introduce myself before we dive into this week’s hockey news.
My name is Eleni Demestihas (known as @strongforecheck on Twitter) and I’m happy to be here with you. I’ve been in the women’s hockey space for about five years now, and I’ve done a little bit of everything. I started out initially running social media for SB Nation’s The Ice Garden, and eventually I ended up contributing articles on a variety of topics, including interviews with players and coaches, stats-based articles, and some funnier, more lighthearted stuff. For the last year or so I’ve primarily been podcasting at The Ice Garden, where you can still find me today on PHFuture Considerations, a podcast that focuses oh the Premier Hockey Federation. In my free time, I’m a tech attorney and a beer leaguer myself.
I’m excited to bring you a roundup of hockey news every week and hope you’re excited, too!
It’s offseason for college and pro hockey, but that doesn’t mean that things have been quiet.
On June 27, Finnish hockey legend Riikka Sallinen was named as a part of the 2022 Hockey Hall of Fame class. Sallinen, who was in her first year of eligibility, had a long and storied career with Finland, playing well into her forties. She is unquestionably one of the greatest ever to play the sport, scoring at above a point-per-game pace for club and country throughout her career. All that being said, Sallinen will be the only woman inducted this year. According to the HHOF’s election procedures, a maximum of two women can be inducted as players each year (compared to a maximum of four men). (Editor’s note: I just had a stroke reading that sentence.) There have only been two women inducted at the same time once: Cammi Granato and Angela James were inducted in 2010, the first year women were eligible at all.
Several PHF teams inked players at the end of June. Kaycie Anderson, a forward who has played five years for the Connecticut Whale, has signed with the Metropolitan Riveters. The Riveters also signed former Beauts standout forward and University of Alberta alum Kennedy Ganser.
Meanwhile, the Buffalo Beauts re-signed forward Grace Kleinbach, who has provided great depth on their roster. Her versatility means she’s likely play up and down the lineup throughout the season.
Finally, after a nail-biting wait, the Minnesota Whitecaps re-signed All-star goaltender Amanda Leveille. It seemed like a no-brainer from the outside, but Minnesota took a surprisingly long time to re-sign a player that many would consider to be a cornerstone of their franchise. Still, Whitecaps fans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing Leveille will be in the State of Hockey for at least another year.
In college hockey news, Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut announced they will add a Division III women’s ice hockey program beginning in the 2023-2024 academic year. Its men’s ice hockey program launched in the 2019-2020 season.
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Five at The IX: Buffalo Beauts GM Nathaniel Oliver
I also spoke briefly with Buffalo Beauts GM Nathaniel Oliver. The Beauts are the most complete team on paper right now, as they’ve completed most of their signings. Oliver let me know that they do still have a handful of spots on defense and at forward to fill, but at this time they aren’t planning to carry a third goalie.
“I’ve never seen an offseason like this,” he said, when I asked about his strategy. “To put it in perspective, from May first to July first, we’ve been in contact with over ninety players, and we only have around twenty-two spots. The process has been very tedious and arduous and continued to be.”
When asked what he wanted his group to be like this year, Oliver said that the most important thing to keep intact was the team culture.
“We worked so hard on building that and it’s integral to the team,” he said, “but in the same light you have to create a balance, you want to make improvements. We were dead last in the league last year and we were very inconsistent…we needed to get more consistent and more offensive output.”
He described last year’s Beauts team as a ‘score by committee’ team and added, “I have no problem being a score by committee team, but you either need to increase the amount of output or increase the size of the committee.”
The Beauts staff takes a ‘collective approach’ to their signings.
“I don’t want to force a roster onto a coaching staff and say, well, I put this together so you gotta figure it out. Part of our culture is being collaborative and having a team approach, so that includes even reaching out to players.”
As for this being the first summer where two-year deals are an option, Oliver shared that these decisions were primarily based on players’ comfort levels.
“That’s critical to me,” he says, “obviously there are players that I selfishly would like to lock up longterm, even seven or ten years, which obviously isn’t an option….there are other factors involved and while you’d like to lock them up long-term, they’re considering a lot of factors in their decision-making.”
Some of the factors he listed included players with other careers–which is particularly important because only a handful will make a living wage–and personal factors such as family concerns and the locations of players’ significant others. There has been a lot of roster turnover in Buffalo, where only eight of their signings are returning players from last year’s team. We’ll have to see if the staff’s strategy pays off with better results come the fall.
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