The IX Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, February 14, 2020
Everything with Love - Interview with Anya Packer - must-click WoHo links
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Everything with love. We all make mistakes!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Today I want to talk about mistakes. We all make them. I am the Queen of typos (y’all probably know that already). Yes, we all make mistakes. Yes, some mistakes can be more harmful than others. But, a mistake is still a mistake.
As I was riding the high of what I thought was the best NWHL All-Star Weekend yet, it came to my attention that the #WoHo community was having a conversation about criticisms and critiques about the weekend in Boston.
I’ll admit, I was not in the mood to engage. I had a good time and I was recovering from a cold. I’ve had plenty of WoHo drama this season.
Now that I am feeling better, I want to say this: Yes, this was the best All-Star Weekend I’ve worked. Yes, we made mistakes. Both are true. Additionally, both are fair game to discuss in an honest manner.
Yes, it is true that this season NWHL streams have dropped off. It is true that graphics have been wrong and names have been mispronounced (sorry Mariah Fujimagari). As a broadcaster, when these things happen, it is hard for me to overcome the embarrassment and frustration I feel. I never want to get a name wrong. I never want to lose an entire period of commentary to a bad internet connection or a tripped wire.
However, all of the above have happened to me this season. I have done what I can to do better personally, as well as troubleshoot with my colleagues and producers. These mistakes are not always in my control, but sometimes they are.
While I might feel my face burn with the realization of a mistake — or even worse, reading a tweet about it — addressing the mistakes are critical. Sure, I’d like for people to be kind in their delivery. And naturally, I react differently when someone who I FEEL (want to emphasize this as a perception) is not my biggest fan acknowledges my mistake.
However, a mistake is a mistake. It has ever right to be called out and should be addressed and corrected.
I have been critical of lots of things and likely will continue to be. However, as a journalist, my job is to report the news. Some news is great. Some news is terrible. Some news is neither and some news is both at the same time.
What players, teams, and leagues should do when their mistakes are pointed out is … fix them!
I do think things about the NWHL broadcast need to be fixed. I do think things about the league need to be fixed. I have in specific examples done my part to have conversations with people in power to do things like increase the amount of player interviews on the stream, work with broadcasters to get name pronunciations correct, and address stats and data errors.
In the spirit of the holiday, I want to ask us all to receive criticism with love. Now, that doesn’t mean all criticism is given with love or with the best on intensions. I’d implore us all to work on that as well.
But, the truth is: we can’t control that. What we can control is how we move forward. Yes, the All-Star Weekend was amazing! Yes, there were mistakes that the players, the fans, and the staff working games deserve to have fixed. We all work hard with limited resources. However, we cannot be satisfied. We can celebrate the good and accept that we can and in some places absolutely should be better.
Thank you to those who challenge me to be better. Thank you to those who help lift me up from my mistakes. Both are invaluable.
This Week in Women’s Hockey
The Victory Press recaps the NWHL All-Star Weekend.
Upon review, Allie Thunstrom named Fastest Skater Champion.
Colgate alumna Olivia Zafuto chats about her coaching career and the PWHPA. The author suggests the NWHL is on the “brink of folding”.
Penn State freshman Julie Gough and Mikayla Lantto discuss their first season.
Madison Packer (yes, THE Madison Packer) gives her top six women’s hockey players hailing from Minnesota.
Annual Valentine’s Day puns with The Ice Garden.
Potential WoHo expansion areas with a Buffy The Vampire Slayer reference.
Anya Packer talks new NWHLPA opportunity, how the WNBA CBA immediately impacted the NWHL maternity policy, and if unionization is up on her ‘white board’.
An overview of NCAA standings as we get closer to the postseason.
Northeastern wins Women’s Beanpot Tournament in dramatic fashion.
Team USA wins Rivalry Series, draws record crowd in California.
Denna Laing realizes goal of earning driver’s license.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Anya Packer
Part of a conversation with Anya about the NWHL All-Star Weekend, Harvard Crossover into Business program, how the WNBA’s new CBA immediately impacted the NWHL maternity policy, and whether the Players Association is considering unionization.
On the fans getting to skate with the All-Stars ahead of the All-Star Game
That was so much fun. So there was so many fans … people that were taking pictures with all their favorite players. So it’s just a really fun way to like connect the communities because a lot of times you feel like there’s this huge schism between pro and learn to skate. And in reality, we’re all doing the same thing. So when we can get on the ice and just experience hockey together and skating and having fun and hanging out with non-hockey people or people that just like to skate and just want to feel the wind in their hair, there’s so much good to be to be had with sharing your passion. And I think that’s what that skate around was. It was really light, really fun, really goofy, but it also was just very connecting for the groups of people.
You and I have talked about this and you always try to find that mix between having a product, something that you can put out there and having it be a genuine community. And I think that this weekend overall just felt like a really good blend of those things.
And I think it’s huge. I think when we start to see sponsors interface with one another and how they’re going to support the growth and development, you know, each sponsor, stepping up for specific events, or donations are coming through to get the youth involved with products that we’re using every single day. There’s so many things that are firing that are just showing a real synergy between what we’re doing. You take that and then you couple that with the fact that fans that are engaging on Twitter every single day, but (who) don’t know one another are connecting and we have these unique opportunities to connect hockey lovers. So I think that what we do very well is giving these people the ability to connect … if they want to watch a game, they want to co-stream it and they want to do their own commentary they can and they can become as integrated with our group as humanly possible and a lot of us actually started as just family of women’s hockey.
I really want to get your thoughts on the WNBA CBA because … it’s a groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement. But in this agreement, they actually are getting to a 50-50 revenue split for next season, which is something that the NWHL has been able to do (this year).
It was something that was kind of both groups were firing and both groups were doing so many good things and where they’re able to accelerate things like cap and accelerate things like marketing budgets and creating a uniform women’s organization that’s benefiting off of its own successes and profiting off of its own hard work. That’s something that they’re trying to build. And I think that that’s a monumental in women’s sports, because that’s where we need to be going. And I think that, you know, different pieces of their cause that are investing in marketing budgets or players in the offseason are really trying to create this home for these players so that they’re living in market, they’re growing in market and they’re becoming fixtures. I think that’s extremely important work. And then you look at what they’ve done on all of the different rights for motherhood and pregnancy, and anything that they can do to help infertility or any of those processes, like they’re making it, okay to be both. And I think that that’s something that we’ve seen back when, you know, we started watching companies make carve outs against maternity benefits and it’s so challenging but watching a group of women innovate and power through that, I think is extremely motivating because we, you know, then share a little bit of that.
Now we have Brooke Stacey who’s going to go on maternity leave or has since gone on maternity leave because our sport is so physical. And she’s going to get 100% of her pay and past it was 50%. But because of that CBA were able to leverage and say, ‘Hey, that’s not industry standard anymore, and that’s not appropriate, and we need to revisit that’. Our league head office was very quick to correct and appreciate the benefits that the W(NBA) has negotiated.
I think that where we were powerful and looking at the fastest growing revenue stream in any sports league is sponsorships. So let’s share it right because there’s not enough money here. But the only way to create money is to share the biggest revenue stream. So I think that there was a lot of positives on both sides.
I’ve been dying to get the details on … the four players, I believe it’s four players and yourself.
It’s three players and myself.
Okay, so three players in yourself that are in this Crossover into Business program at Harvard. And this is something that I’ve seen the Boston Breakers do. They’ve had partnerships with colleges and universities when they were around. Unfortunately they’re not around in the NWSL. I’ve definitely seen the WNBA do this. And now the NWHL has players that are in this program. So not only is it that there’s visibility for women’s sports but now we’re putting women and women athletes in positions of power in business.
I think that you kind of outlined it very nicely … there’s a validation aspect to it just being involved and being included. But what we’ve what we’ve been tasked with, and I think that’s something that we always should be looking for is how to continuously develop our athletes, and a major part of what women’s athletes need to be our business people. They need to be able to understand how to grow, how to scale, what deals make sense for them, what deals don’t make any sense, and how to procure deals.
There’s so many different pieces to the sports business world that a male athlete can so easily afford an agent or agents are chomping at the bit to represent, you know, LeBron James, or, you know, any of the athletes that you could think of … when you look at what women need to do, it’s so multifaceted.
So let me back up a little bit. We have myself, Lovisa Selander, Kaleigh Fratkin, and Allie Thunstrom. So a couple walks of life there but all visiting Harvard, we’re going through the Crossover into Business program which was originally created for the NBA. We were there with athletes from WTA from the NWSL, from NFL, NBA, all these different leagues and just a mind share of these extremely successful athletes to start thinking about what is business for us? How do we invest? Or what do we want to do? Or how do we grow our portfolios to be more than an athlete? Or how do we better negotiate ourselves and how do we better negotiate our deals?
So it’s a crazy cool process. We’re all being mentored by two different students in the second year of Harvard MBA program, and the goal for the NWHLPA and I was able to connect with the NWSLPA is that we want to continue to grow our athletes. Our athletes have to be so many different things and if we can get them the best tools to grow and develop as females and as business leaders and as all of these different things, then we’re doing the right thing by our athletes. So let’s get them to the best schools. Let’s get them the function to go to different jobs and procure new opportunities. And let’s introduce them, let’s be a group of connectors. And I think that that’s something that Harvard and the Crossover into Business program really afforded us the right to do is to be powerful women connecting with other athletes and not feel like, ‘Well, we’re startup leaguer. While we don’t make that much or Well, we’re fighting for all these things’.
Everyone else’s too. And it was a very humbling experience where athletes were able to gain real world continuing education that’s going to make them better.
If you look at the WNBA, the league started up and then about four or five years in they decided to create a union and that’s what we know now as the WNBPA. Now there is a Players Association with the NWSL, but it’s not as a right now a separate entity and it’s not a union. I mean, you and I have talked about this before, but kind of now that you’re going through this program, you have resources, like you said, You have mentors, you have other PA groups that you have access to really kind of stand with that. And, you know, is (becoming a union) up on your whiteboard?
It’s on the whiteboard, we talk about it pretty regularly. Actually, our lawyers are extremely good at letting me know when things are going to leapfrog us into the future and when things are going to handcuff us. And not that this is one of those things, but it’s an interesting dynamic when you look at what goes on between a PA and a league and how they communicate with one another. So our PA negotiates on behalf of all of our athletes, nobody can move without the vote of the PA.
So without collecting dues and without creating those Articles of Incorporation, we function with the full league buy-in. Because we have that, it’s challenging to make the business case currently to start collecting dues to start retracting pay from our athletes, because we’ve created this community of trust. So if we were in a fractured environment within our league, it would make a lot more sense at this time. It’s something that we’re looking at between the seasons, and it will be an offseason conversation. I’m actually really interested to see which way the PA goes. I have no say, I’m only the conduit.