The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, April 2, 2021
Isobel Cup Recap, Looking ahead - Interview with Karilyn Pilch - must-click links
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Mission Accomplished, Looking Ahead
After two COVID-19 delays, the Boston Pride finally hoisted the Isobel Cup. Although the Isobel Cup was played at the Pride’s home ice (Warrior Ice Arena), 4th seeded Boston was the away team in the semifinals and final.
The Pride earned a 6-2 win over the Toronto Six and a thrilling 4-3 win over the Minnesota Whitecaps to become the first NWHL franchise to become two-time NWHL champions.
The NWHL ended the regular season in Lake Placid under a cloud of controversy. Between a ridiculous spat with Erika Nardini and poor communication and decision-making surrounding COVID protocols, the #NDubble seemed like a bust.
The league returned with slightly better communication and even announced there were no positive tests upon team arrivals to Boston ahead of the playoffs.
Overall, there was a feeling of good will after the Isobel Cup Playoffs. The league accomplished its goal of playing on national television. It was unfortunate that the first two games weren’t that competitive, but the final was thrilling.
The league also announced a few personnel changes. Kelsey Koelzer has returned as the Advisor to the Commissioner on Diversity and Inclusion. Koelzer left the NWHL and joined the PWHPA after the 2018-19 season. The Arcadia head coach will now, “design of strategic plans to support diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, to build awareness of the NWHL’s commitment to its communities, and to partner internally to implement these strategic plans” per the release.
While the focus on diversity is welcomed, it is disappointing that this will not be a full-time position. The NWHL seriously lacks diversity when it comes to full-time staff. The latest hire is Lisa Haley, who was named the Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations. This position replaces the role of Deputy Director most recently held by former Riveters captain Michelle Picard.
Hayley will be responsible for “facilitating the annual player draft, scheduling, player development, managing and establishing key partnerships, plus overseeing and building on the league’s relationships with national governing bodies and collegiate hockey programs.”
Respectfully, white women don’t change the status quo, we need only pull statistics from United States elections to see that.
And similarly to the latest U.S Presidential Election, a different white dude does not mean progress. Perhaps it takes the knee off our neck for a time, but the jubilee is far from “arrived”.
In the NWHL, there are no staff members of color. There are no coaches of color. There are no social media managers of color. The only person remotely melanated outside of the players and now Koelzer is yours truly, as an analyst.
The same can be said for the PWHPA. Sarah Nurse was only recently added to the player advisory. She is also the only Black player and Brigette Lacquette, Abby Roque, and Jocelyne Laroque are the only other players of color (to my knowledge, please correct me if I’m wrong – erica@ericaLayala.com).
The PWHPA has been working with Dr. Courtney Szto to discuss race equity, but there is much more need and as Black Girl Hockey Club says, the one foolproof way to move towards equity is to:
HIRE BLACK WOMEN
Women’s hockey has yet to do this, even as women of color go on to do some pretty dope stuff throughout hockey:
Angela James – Retired, 2021 Order of Canada honoree
Jasmine Bazinet-Phillips – Brown Bears Hockey
The Los Angeles Kings – Blake Bolden
Natalie Wolgemuth – Scotty Gomez Foundation
Kendall Tyson – VP of Strategy & Business Intelligence, Seattle Kraken
Kaliya Johnson – Former professional player
Arcadia College – Kelsey Koelzer
Kianna Scott – Scout, Erie Otters
Sydney Kidder – Auburn University, athletic trainer
Cherie Stewart – USA Ball Hockey coach
Although this list is far from exhaustive, it does show women of color are already in hockey and more than qualified to serve a wealth of roles in women’s hockey.
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This Week in Women’s Hockey
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2021 World’s Rosters (well some of them) are out!
Aerin Frankel win 2021 Patty Kaz Memorial Award.
Czech Olympic medalist Karolína Erbanová trades in Speed Skates for hockey skates.
The Mind Behind: Getting to Know Lara Stalder.
Check out the third installment of Rise & Grind.
Saroya Tinker on a mission to empower the next generation. Here is a story about her fundraiser for Black Girl Hockey Club and here is her new mentorship website!
St. Louis will invite fans to watch the PWHPA Dream Gap Tour in-arena.
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Five at The IX: Karilyn Pilch, Boston Pride General Manager
Karilyn Pilch took a break from Izzy Cup celebrations to chat with me about the road to the team’s second championship and her first as general manager.
What were the main things you focused on to get Boston not just back to the ice but also keep everyone healthy?
Yeah, I mean you want to talk about like peaks and valleys like what a whirlwind experience. I actually talked to somebody about this this morning, this pandemic has been so hard on everyone for so many different reasons … before I realized how bad the pandemic truly was and was going to be … I was absolutely devastated (when the 2020 Final was postponed) and obviously so much has gone on between now, it kind of puts things in perspective. But, the immediate feeling of this immense loss after what you know. How do you come back from it?
That being said, I don’t think anyone lost the taste of what was supposed to be like and clearly that motivated the group that we brought in here. Even our rookies, I think that was really special. You know it’s such such a good group of people. So that kind of gets us from March to this season. And then with this (2021) season, at the beginning we didn’t know what to expect. We thought we were going to start in January, and then the bubble came about as the pandemic didn’t get better. I think the bubble was what it has to be at the point that we schedule it … the bubble made a lot of sense and then you put all this work, you shift gears, you get into the bubble, then COVID gets into the bubble and you’re just like, oh my gosh, how can I be happening again?
So, I have all the appreciations in the world for the league for figuring out how to put these games on and I’m so thankful to NBC Sports for still believing us. It’s absolutely amazing to me that we’ve hit so much turmoil, but we raised the cup 2021. I think that’s definitely something to celebrate.
Boston didn’t have a great regular season in Lake Placid. What adjustments did the team make, especially after losing players like Jenna Rheault, Mary Parker, and captain Jillian Dempsey?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean those are huge losses. I think anyone going down from our team is a huge loss because I think our depth is one of our biggest strengths so when all of a sudden you have holes.
I think this past weekend there were players that completely broke out of their shells in terms of rookies like I look at Tereza Vanisova and this weekend where the hands down the best I’ve seen her play for us. She had a sense of confidence with her, she actually left yesterday to go back home right after because she had to quarantine before she goes to National Camp. So she was not going back without a cup and she told me that!
I know you have the Izzy Cup beside you right now. What stands out to you throughout your time with Boston that has now culminated in raising and probably drink out of the cup?
Lots of electrolytes (laughs)! But no, honestly Erica it’s an unbelievable feeling. If you ask me if I ever thought that I was going to be the general manager of a professional women’s hockey team, that was gonna play a game on a national network for a championship, and raise a cup, I’d be like, “What are you talking about?!”
It’s so overwhelming that it is extremely difficult to find the words. I still feel like we’re out on the ice, we’re celebrating and I’m like how did this happen? How did we get here, you know? I’m thankful for everyone on this path. It took so much work from so many people and specifically on our team. I think back to the draft and the hours and hours that you know, Paul (Mara) and I put in.
I laugh about one night being on the phone with one player we wanted to draft till 11pm and then trying to call Tereza in the Czech Republic and it’s 4am … he sets the example for what a coach can and should be in this league. It goes right down the line with our organization were so well supported for miles and obviously Haley (Moore) was a huge part of our success here even though she’s moved on.
I don’t even know that it’s actually hit me yet and I think I’m waiting for that moment where it’s like the dust settles and I can reflect a little bit I think I’m still very much just living it right now. I think is the best way that I can put it, and you know even. We’re so lucky to be in Boston and the support that we have here support from the city support from our other professional sports teams like we’re so so fortunate in so many regards, that it makes all of the hard work and sleepless nights and extra work absolutely worth it.