The IX: Hockey Friday (on Saturday) with Erica L. Ayala, October 12, 2019

Women Supporting Women, Interview with Rachel Llanes, must-click links across women's hockey

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Women Supporting Women

Hey everybody! Thanks for being patient with me as I got some much-needed rest last night so I can be back on top of my game for women’s hockey. Also, happy belated #ComingOutDay and #InternationalDayoftheGirl

This week, I want to talk bigger picture. It is natural to think about all the great moments as a season winds down. The WNBA season came to an exciting conclusion and the Washington Mystics earned their first title (Lindsay Gibbs and Howard Megdal are among the many great writers who crushed coverage during the Finals).

One thing I really enjoyed was the support both teams received from other women in sports. College teams, professional teams, and super-famous WNBA fans took to social media to support the league.

Dear to my heart was the support by hockey players. Last week, Kendall Coyne Schofield picked the ‘Stics in five games (winner chicken dinner). Four players from the Connecticut Whale made it to Game 3 (Sarah Hughson, Kayla Meneghin, Brooke Wolejo, and Sonja Shelley).

Two days later, NWHLPA director Anya Packer and Riveters forward Madison Packer sat courtside as Connecticut won Game 4 to force the series to a winner-take-all Game 5 in Washington.

(Goalie Kimberly Sass, standing, Dallas Wings forward Imani McGee-Stafford, left, and Chicago Bandits catcher Krystin Sandberg, right. Photo by Matthew Raney)

This is hardly the first time WNBA and women’s hockey players have connected. In fact, I got to witness a pretty kick-ass photoshoot that included pro athletes Kimberly Sass, Imani McGee-Stafford and Krystin Sandberg.

It was great to see women supporting other women. I also found it interesting that it’s not something that happens more often. It’s often said, focusing on more than one women’s team, league, sport, or individual athlete is somehow has a negative impact on sponsorship or the fanbase. I’ve asked PA representatives, general managers, and others why they don’t partner with other women’s teams more often. Several times I was often told something like, “We’re focusing on ourselves and that will come.”

The sad reality is, nothing is even remotely promised in women’s sports. But most of all, the sports landscape would never have to question IF they should cover the NBA, NFL, and MLB. Even when these seasons overlap, accommodations are made to have media coverage, broadcast deals, and sponsors in place for all.

The lack of women’s sports coverage is a symptom of a nasty mix of ignorance, sexism, and down right excuses. So, stop letting those in charge make us believe we have to choose!

Instead, attach your media consumption, media coverage (that’s for my colleagues), and purchasing power to players, teams, sponsors and leagues that know what is good for one is good for all.

This Week in Women’s Hockey

Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

I got to catch up with Anya & Madison Packer at Game 3 of the WNBA Finals.

Emily Fluke is returning to the NWHL for a new (but not unfamiliar) city.

RMU and Minnesota take it to overtime!

Last week’s Five at The IX guest Kendall Coyne Schofield was straight money for Team Stecklein at the New Hampshire PWHPA Dream Gap Tour stop. This and more stats from women’s hockey from Mike Murphy.

I’ve been enjoying Digit Murphy’s podcast, The Grit. Here is her conversation with Shiann Darkangelo.

Future of pro women’s hockey in North America unclear after summer turmoil by Arabdho Majumder.

I think having been in the league since Day One … and knows what the league is capable of and what women’s hockey is capable of, I think this year is really a big opportunity to put butts in seats.Kaleigh Fratkin to WEEI Sports Radio Network.

Quinnipiac and Mercyhurst head to Belfast, Ireland next year for the second edition of the Women’s Friendship Series.

The Stock Report has your NWHL Week One recap. You can also watch game highlights narrated by your truly here.

Connecticut Whale, Bridgeport Sound Tigers to host a hockey double-header in February.

Tweet of the Week

This is a screenshot of a fun GIF! Check it out HERE.

Five at The XI: Rachel Llanes KRS Vanke Rays

Rachel has played in the CWHL, NWHL, and now the Russian League. The last several seasons, she’s worked as an ambassador to Team China while competing professionally. I caught up with her at the Aurora Games to chat about hockey and fitness & nutrition. You can follow her @RachLlanes91 or @TrainPerformRepeat on Instagram.

How did it feel to get out there with Team World this weekend?

Super exciting. I think all of us have had a long summer, so we’re all ready to compete. We know it’s just a game, but we’re competing out there and trying to give the fans a show. But [it was] just a really good overall experience, playing with different players from around the world.

How much were you thinking about the two-point arc implemented for the first time at the Aurora Games?

Only at the end were we thinking about it because we were down by two and we’re like we need the two pointer. So it’s an interesting rule. But throughout the game, you’re really not thinking about it. Unless you’re like Blake Bolden, and you have a heck of a shot and you can get it every time.

She seemed pretty bummed your team was blocking those …

Oh, we were blocking those. Today she was sneaking some through but we’re like no not happen to happen.

Lara Stalder blocked a big one …

Oh yeah, she came to the bench (laughs) and said, ‘Oh! She’s got a bomb!’

For the past several seasons now, you’ve been playing an Ambassador role in China and really trying to promote the game there. What do you make of how the game is growing in preparation for the next Olympics?

Being in China changes my perspective about things. When we say it’s just it’s a game, it really is just a game and there’s a lot more to it than that. Being in China, being around a different culture and around the girls there, I don’t know, it’s hard to say, but their culture is … so disciplined and structured that you kind of want to break the mold a little bit and let them be creative and express themselves.

So that’s the hardest thing, we’re going over their to train and try and help out because you can’t change the culture. But we can little by little start instilling a North American culture, which is pretty much what we’re trying to do year by year. So I’ll be going there, actually on Sunday. So again, we have another year, different coaches, a new culture, but the same crew that’s been there for the last three years, we’re going to look to just carry on what Digit [Murphy] started. Hopefully, the girls catch on to just expressing themselves and being creative and having fun out there. And, you know, there’s always structure but play within it and have fun. That’s what we try to teach them out there.

I’m curious with what all of this means for you. You’re building up a team for the Olympics. Is that a team that you’ll compete with? Is it a team that you’ll be training for the Olympics? Have you had conversations about what that will look like for you?

I’ve had a couple conversations with KRS management. It’s so far out, it’s about three years out now. So I honestly don’t know. Because I could end up playing on the team or I could end up being a strength coach on the team. Right now, I’m taking on both roles because I feel I can do both.

I want to take a step back and have the Chinese just play their game and find a game. And then with the strength conditioning, I think that’s honestly, that’s my passion. That’s what I’m really strong at. I know that they’ll be the strongest best condition team come 2022. And I’m happy to be part of that process.

As for the playing … I don’t know that whole process yet. It’s still confusing and three years out, no one’s really making decisions on If North Americans and then go or not.

If I’m not mistaken even before the expansion to China, you were doing strength and conditioning with your own business. And Blake [Bolden] has spoken before about you being one of the people that inspired her to get her thing going. Is that something that you’re still able to do?

That’s full time. So it’s called Train Perform Repeat. I started that my last year of college … that was 2014. Every year I’ve been able to build up a good clientele and at the same time growing my game, but also growing my knowledge for the sport science part of it. I’m, I feel very strongly about my knowledge and being able to pass it on to my athletes is huge.

I didn’t have that growing up, I had to find my own resources, I had to make my own programming. No one was there to [ask] me, how you’re going to get better? They would say, you gotta train. I was like, ‘Okay, well, how do I train?”‘

I plan out girls programs, to their in season schedule, their offseason schedule. I’m taking care of every single one of my clients, because I care that much about taking them to the next level, if they want it. I don’t just train kids just to train kids. I have a full plan for them, if they’re ready for it. If they’re not, I’m able to instill mindsets.

I’m able to do that full time while in China too. So I tell them every week, we can have a phone call, and we’ll go over our programming or weekly schedule, stuff like that. Just so they know I’m always a resource and I’m always there to help them. I think growing up you need a consistent role model like that. So I hope they see me more than just a role model. I’d like them to see me as a coach and not base my knowledge off me just being a hockey player, but in me being a strength coach and in knowing what I do is good.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports QUEEN OF ALL MEDIA
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Erica L. Ayala