The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, June 21, 2019


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From Twilight fans to political science majors, the term “Switzerland” refers to being neutral. In the weeks since #ForTheGame, I have tried to make The IX Newsletter the “Switzerland” of women’s hockey coverage. Although, diplomatic is probably more accurate.

To that end, when I was given a copy of a letter written by NWHL investor Matt Arpano, I thought this would be a good place to share it.

On that note, do you have thoughts about #ForTheGame that you’d like to share? What parts of the conversation are missing? I’d love to hear from you, shoot me an email with your thoughts: DMs on Twitter are also open (but screened, lol), @elindsay08.

Here is Mr. Arpano’s take on the NWHL:

“As more and more players continue to sign contracts to play in the NWHL’s fifth season, I wanted to briefly share my story as an investor and why I have great faith in the league, the players and women’s hockey. Many of you have heard from the league’s board, but I thought it might be useful to get the view of one of the other investors who has been around since the first season.

My name is Matthew Arpano, and I am a partner at Silvercrest Asset Management Group in New York City. My investment in the NWHL is a personal one, and it came about accidentally. My daughter Rebecca and I attended the first NWHL tryout at Chelsea Piers in Connecticut and were immediately impressed by the quality of play, the fan support (the rink was packed), and the connection between the players and the fans. It was incredible for us to see upfront and personal some of the best hockey players in the world pursuing their dream and competing for their NWHL roster spots that summer day in 2015.

My wife Courtnay and I are big believers in surrounding our daughter, who is now 14 years old, with role models. The NWHL has outstanding players and role models on every roster. If you read the stories of the more than 25 players who have already signed contracts for the upcoming season, you know what I mean.

I have always worked in my business career to support women’s equality, and being at that first NWHL tryout – and meeting the league’s founder, Dani Rylan, that afternoon – I was inspired to do my part for the advancement of women’s hockey. 

Like every business, especially in its startup phase, there have been ups and downs, for sure. But I’ve watched the NWHL closely, have observed the strides made with each season, and I believe strongly in the overall direction of the league. The NWHL, in my view, deserves our support – financially and every other way.

I’m forever impressed with the commitment level of the players, staff, investor group and fans. Everyone is working to help the league realize its full potential.

I also want to say something about Dani Rylan. It’s startling to see comments on social media about her motivation, about a perceived selfishness. What I see is someone who loves the game and wants nothing more than to prove the value of women’s hockey players and the sport. Dani is a tireless worker and a high-integrity person who is committed to women’s hockey, not herself. It was Dani who lined up the investors, started the original four teams, put All-Star Games in Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Nashville, made deals with Dunkin’ and Twitter, and so much more. The conversation about one league for North America never even gets started if Dani didn’t create the NWHL in 2015.

If anyone out there thinks Dani got into this business to get rich, you have to be kidding me. As someone who evaluates business talent on a regular basis, it’s clear to me that she could be making a lot more money doing other things. Professional women’s hockey is lucky to have her. To those who don’t realize this now, I believe you will over time.

But first and foremost, the NWHL and the game is about the players. In the league’s first season, our family made a connection with the Connecticut Whale’s Shannon Doyle. Shannon is an English teacher, outstanding hockey player, and wonderful role model, and we are so happy to have gotten to know her. As the league continues to sign several players each week since free agency opened, I hope all of the top players who understand the value of the NWHL join Shannon and all the rest in the 2019-20 season.

Four years ago, our family made an investment in the NWHL as another way to support women’s equality and to do our part to advance women’s hockey. It is one of the investments of which I am proudest because the NWHL has made a genuine impact on the rise of both.

My only complaint is that next season doesn’t start for four more months. I love this game, and I’d like to thank everyone involved in the NWHL for making it so special.”

Matt Arpano

June 19, 2019

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!

The NHL taps Kim Pegula and Gary Bettman co-chairs of the Diversity and Inclusion Senior Leadership Council.

The NHL also announces a Female Hockey Ambassador Program for current or former national team players.

Federal judge dismisses UND lawsuit filed by women’s hockey team.

A story about how former USA Hockey player Ellen Hughes raised a top NHL prospect (I spoiled the reveal, but here at The IX, women being stellar at sports it not the hook).

For The Hockey Writers: Rebecca Morse (more from her later) and Jane Morissette land with the Riveters, Whale.

Team Finland legend Riikka Sallinen retires.

ICYMI: 2018 Patty Kaz winner Daryl Watts transfers to Wisconsin.

“Sure the league folded, but I don’t think it was a failure, it was just a step.” Melanie Desrochers on the CWHL and #ForTheGame.

Jillian Dempsey returns to the Boston Pride.

“Enough is enough. I’m done with being grateful,” said Hilary Knight at a gender-equity talk in Paris. France.

Goaltender Mariah Fujigama becomes first player impacted by CWHL folding to sign an NWHL contract.

Here is a review of Glory. I’ve mentioned the play before, but I have yet to see it. It tells the true story of the greatest Canadian women’s hockey team in history.

LISTEN to Glory writer an choreographer Tracy Power talk about researching the Preston Rivulettes.

Tweet of the Week

There are plenty of players staying on the ice this summer. Give @AG2Hockey  a follow to see Alyssa Gagliardi and a few familiar faces in action.

Five at The IX: Rebecca Morse, aka “Moose”

Rebecca Morse re-signed for her third season with the Riveters. I spoke with the Jersey-native about her nickname, her attempt to be the “Switzerland” of #ForTheGame, and what she hopes for Season Five.

Erica L. Ayala: So the first time I met you, I introduced myself, I go, ‘Hey, I’m Erica.’ And you’re like, ‘Hey, I’m Moose.’ And I thought, I don’t remember that name on the on the roster. So, uh, how did you get the nickname moose?

Rebecca Morse: I’ve never told you before? I think that sounds like how I would introduce myself in a hockey environment. But the nickname came actually, when I was like, 11 or 12 years old. I had a girl on my team who had a terrible, terrible speech impediment. And she had trouble pronouncing her R’s. So when she said Morse, it kind of sounded like moose. And then all my teammates just started calling me that even coaches and managers. And it really just stuck. Then I decided I liked the animal also. So I went to I went to prep school in Lake Placid and there are a lot of moose there. However, for the longest time, I never saw a real one. Until my senior year, when there was one in downtown Lake Placid, just outside of the little village Main Street. And I saw one and it was it was kind of like, far up on a hill.

ELA: I lot happened with the Riveters last season and even more happened this offseason for the league in general. What were some of the things you assessed before deciding what you would do for the fall?

RM: My goal every year, any offseason, has always been I want to keep playing, I’m loving this so much, how can I stop, I’m able to balance it so well. And I can’t see myself not being part of the Riveters. So, with that in mind, you know, obviously, there were some bumps in the road throughout the season. And, you know, that’s going to happen. That’s happened every every season I’ve played and every season, the league has been in existence. So you know, that’s what you’re getting yourself into when you’re signing up for a startup league like the NWHL.

And that’s not to say that there aren’t struggles and times where you feel like ‘Do I want to keep playing? Can I keep balancing it with with a full time job, you know, for those who are in that situation. I’ve always said to myself, there’s never going to be a point where I’m going to feel that way and and, you know, confidently be able to really step away from the game. And, and feel like that’s, you know, that’s what I want to do. So. So I really just treated it like any other any other offseason that I’ve been through in the past. And, but but at the same time looking looking at really how the league responded in the offseason, and addressing some of some of the issues that my teammates and I had, with the way things went.

ELA: It’s been a busy offseason, in a lot of different ways. I think we’re also starting to see more recently, the complexity of how people are measuring up what what is available and what their their wants and needs and and truly what what they’re able to do as far as continuing to play hockey. What were some of those things for you? What made you comfortable and confident to return to the Riveters?

RM: Well, obviously when over 200 players are speaking up and supportive that, you know, it’s going to catch people’s attention. As a player, you have to do your due diligence and and listen and take in all the information that you need to make, like I said, make an educated decision. So that’s that’s really what I did.

I kind of was was like Switzerland from the day that that the social media posts first went out announcing the boycott and the Players Association. So it I’ll admit, it was a little bit hard not to post anything. But you know, when you see all your friends and peers doing that, but at the same time, I think that I have so much loyalty to the Riveters and to the NWHL that it was hard for me to make a rash decision like that and put something out there that’s so public, without really taking the time to fully understand what you’re doing, and making that sort of declaration.

So I held off on doing that, and really just tried to learn more, and talk to different people about it. And and really hear both sides. So so that’s what I did … there’s so many things happening all at once. Where I struggled was my heart and my head. So which, you know, obviously that’s any decision big decision you make that that’s going to come into question. And as it moved along, I started to really fall in aligned with the with the league, just based on conversations with the Riveter staff, with other players with people completely outside of the game, who, you know, maybe are hockey fans, but don’t even play or have never, never played.

As time went on, I just realized that I that I wanted to be playing hockey next year. And that’s really what led me to the decision. I want to compete for another championship, for another Isobel Cup. And I still want to be able to engage with the fans who have supported the Riveters for five years, and even even if they’re new fans.

I love that part of being a professional hockey player engaging with the fans, you know, talking with youth youth players … you know, to start at a certain point, you need to realize that … it’s much bigger than just you or even your team or even the league. There’s so many people invested in it. So you really need to take time and care with that decision. And that’s what I did.

ELA: You said you were Switzerland. So that means that, you know, there’s one side and there’s the other and I think that’s how the situation has been billed, you have to pick a side. Is that how you see it? Is it Do you see this as an either, or? Are there conversations happening somewhere in between, or that you wish were happening in the in between?

RM: I think there are definitely a lot of people who are who are still in between. and you just because they posted something on social media might not necessarily necessarily mean that that’s still where they stand, or even, you know, how they felt, with all of their heart and mind at that time when it was posted. So I think that a lot of people are sort of in the, in the middle still.

And, I mean, there’s probably not enough conversation happening, because people people probably do feel like they need to choose sides. I think I did initially and then I realized, no, I don’t have to. Ultimately, I either sign with the Riveters or be involved in the PWHPA. So there is sort of a time where you have to make a choice. And you know, as time as the season gets closer, that’s that’s definitely more at the forefront and, and approaching very quickly.

But I think that just by taking a stance one way or the other, that’s not really the full story. So I think it’s it is very important for for those players to be heard, you know, regardless of which side they’re on, or, or how they’re feeling about it, and for maybe in the middle like I was previously. Because, again, everyone, everyone has the same goal, everyone, everyone wants a sustainable league. Everyone wants to be role models for young girls, and give them a product that gives them and all fans of products that you know, that is viable, and and the most elite it can be.

But I think the difference is on on how to how to do that, and how to get there the quickest way possible.

ELA: Okay, but, you know, another piece of this conversation, and it’s not new to professional hockey, is that, you know, for the foreseeable future, it looks like national team players are going to be elsewhere. And I think that, that there’s another piece of the conversation that I think is more complex, the idea that the league is going to offer players like yourself who didn’t always crack the the roster and get on the bench. So, I mean, do you think it’s fair to have these conversations? Are these some of the things that you thought about going into this season, that roster spaces would be open? Where are you at with that?

RM: Well, I have to be 100% honest, obviously that was a huge consideration for me, why I signed. I’ve sort of been in that role for the past three seasons. And I was never, not really, in that type of role ever previously in my career. So it’s been something new for me. But at the same time, I think my, what’s been really rewarding about it is just, you know, teammates, even even staff members, even members of the media, pulling me aside and saying, you know, what you do for the team in the organization, the league, doesn’t go unnoticed.

For example, my teammates have called out my ability to push them in practice, or just, you know, being a leader, leading by example, and just doing the little things even though I might not always have the most minutes every game. So I mean, that feels good. And obviously, you want to be that top player that your teammates can rely on. And that’s a role that I would like to fill this season.

But at the same time, I value myself as a player and a teammate, and it’s been nice that other people have recognized it and those types of players in any league and any team, they are an important piece to the puzzle.

So I’ve sort of learned how to, you know, fill that role and still get all everything out of the experience that I that I possibly can. Because it’s hard, it’s hard sometimes, you know, when you’re putting in just as much time and effort and doing everything you’re supposed to do. When you know, it might not always come in the form of ice time or playing in the big situations. But like I said, every team needs those type of players and the fact that I’ve been able to play defense and forward you know, I’ve essentially learned a new position, which has been really fun for me. It was very challenging at first, but I was more of an offensive defenseman, so it kind of made sense.

I’ve just enjoyed learning new things and being someone that my teammates can can count on not only on the ice, but but off the ice. So hopefully moving forward, I can still continue to have that role, but also be more of an impact player.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports ThinkProgress
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