The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, May 1, 2020

Women supporting Women, NWHL-style — Interview with Marie-Jo Pelletier — must-click WoHo links

(Hi! Howard Megdal here. The IX helps build the necessary infrastructure for women’s sports media. In this moment, freelance budgets are being cut, reporters are losing their jobs. Women’s sports always bears the brunt of that first.

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Women supporting Women: The 2020 NWHL Draft

The NWHL announced its 2020 Draft just one day after it announced a new expansion team. While the announcement was exciting, the timing did seem odd. There was not much time for NCAA writers and other WoHo writers to give fans an idea of what to expect.

That said, the great Marisa Ingemi put together a preview for The Ice Garden that serves as a useful guide to who got picked.

Shortly after the draft was announced, a few people in the woho space (including, full disclosure, me) were contacted to help announce the picks. These guest commissioners were asked to shoot a video introducing themself and then announce the pick.

The NWHL brought together many well-known names in hockey, but I was most impressed by the women representing other sports that participated in the draft. The WNBPA was most active during draft week. Coming off the heels of their own successful virtual draft, WNBA players Jazmine Thomas, Rachel Banham, Natalie Achonwa, and Kayla Alexander supported the NWHL.

As you likely guessed, we here at The IX Newsletter believe in women supporting other women. We believe in elevating women’s sports. I personally am of the belief that women shouldn’t prioritize the attention of men over other women.

All that to say, I really liked the mix of women that helped bring attention to the NWHL. It was especially nice to have a distraction from some of the drama in women’s hockey.

For the most part, those who don’t believe in the direction the NWHL is taking remained quiet. After all, the #ForTheGame movement was all about offering women in hockey choices. The young women who were drafted this week spoke to NWHL general managers prior to hearing their name on social media. They made a choice to pursue hockey at the next level in the NWHL.

We don’t know yet if some of the top seniors who weren’t drafted will decide to play in PWHPA showcases, overseas, or elsewhere. However, they too are making choices.

The reality of women’s hockey is, it’s not as simple as believing in the PWHPA over the NWHL, or vice versa. All competitive opportunities at the next level require a choice. Will I be able to relocate? Will I be able to play where I have a job and housing? Will I be able to manage competitive hockey and a full-time job or course load? Will I ever make a living playing hockey?

None of the choices women have right now will start them at the same place, financially or otherwise, as their male counterparts. That scenario sadly doesn’t exist in hockey or anywhere else. Empowered women empowering women is the key.

Sidebar: Diana Taurasi agrees with me and for the first time ever, I’m hella excited for her to retire.

Overall, the NWHL Draft was an excellent social media production. Yes, it would have been nice to have a major network pick up the coverage, but even long-time WNBA partner ESPN found a way to short change a three-round draft.

The league elevated its Draft game compared to its own history — which should be the point of comparison, not the history of the NFL Draft or even the wildly successful WNBA Draft.

That is progress, people. It might not be sexy, but skipping important steps early can really screw you later on. And the NWHL already knows that.

Good on them for making changes.

This week in Women’s Hockey

A round-up of NWHL Draft coverage:

Other news from the WoHo World

The NWHL has interest in Montreal, but former CWHL personnel is not interested.

MJP aka “Mighty Mouse” re-signs with the Buffalo Beauts.

With pro sports paused, a women’s hockey league expands.

Get to know Boston Pride GM Karilyn Piltch.

Women in China eager to hit the ice, earn a spot on the host team for the next Winter Olympics.

Steve Dangle invited Anya Packer (16:30) and NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan (40:00) on the show to discuss NWHL Draft, expansion, and more.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Marie-Jo Pelletier

The Notorious MJP re-signs with the Beauts. We spoke this week about why she’s returning, her thoughts on expansion to Toronto, and more! Photo from NWHL/Mike Hetzel.

You were able to really make your mark in the league your rookie season. What did you make of your first year?

I didn’t really know what to expect. Especially coming out of UNH. I felt like I wasn’t on the scoresheet. I wasn’t as much as I probably would have liked to, but it also I felt like wasn’t nearly as much my style in a way. It was so much more than I expected out of myself, which was something that I wasn’t expecting. It was a lot more than I expected, and I had a lot of fun doing it with my teammates.

You say you produced offensively in particular more than you expected. But at the same hand, you were also named one of the captains of the Beauts as a rookie. What do you remember thinking when you were told that you were asked to represent the team in that way?

It brought me back to when I was told in my sophomore year at uni that I would be a captain. I was kind of in shock, I didn’t expect it. But at the same time, I was super excited for the opportunity to be a leader for this team and to be a leader alongside of Corinne Buie and Taylor Accursi. I was just super excited to learn from them as well. But it was pretty surreal that knowing that, you know, my leadership follows me with Buffalo and that I was able to show that.

You talked about at UNH, your role was maybe a little different than with the Beauts. For you, what is the sweet spot? Are you a little bit more offensively minded leaning? Are you a little bit more stay at home?

I would say I’m more of a two way defender in the way that I love to get involved in the play. I love you know, being in the zone, blocking shots and things like that to make sure the puck doesn’t go on the net. But as soon as there’s an opportunity to get the puck out and get the rest going, I get really excited. And I want to be involved in that and join the rush. So I say I’m more of a two way defender.

When you were given the opportunity to re-sign, what were some of the top things that that made that decision for you an easy one?

I think one of the biggest things was just like the feeling that Buffalo gave me all season and even postseason. Fans come to the rink every game and they even travel to New Jersey or Boston. I love playing the game and another reason why I do play is to inspire others and I feel like that’s something that I was able to do in Buffalo.

Not only did you re-sign, not only do we have the the draft that’s coming up today and tomorrow, but also we got news that Ontario is going to have a team. What was your reaction to their now being an NWHL team in Canada?

I was really excited when I heard the news. I think it’s it’s huge for the Toronto-area, but also just Canada in general. I know when I was younger and I heard of the CWHL. I was always a Habs fan growing up so when I hear Les Canadiennes de Montréal, I started dreaming of maybe one day playing for them. When Montreal and Toronto didn’t have a team anymore — I mean, there was the NWHL, but for those Canadian girls growing up you always dream to play in your country growing up. So, I think for the young girls in the area, but also across Canada, it’s gonna be pretty special for them to want to play in Toronto. And I think it’s gonna be really exciting for Buffalo too, because it’s gonna be a big rivalry in the upcoming season. I’m pretty excited for that.

That does beg the question, at the time that you were we’re looking over a contract for the sixth season, did you know about the Toronto team and had you considered going back to Canada to play?

It was in the back of my mind a little bit with the rumors of having a team coming to Toronto. Right now, I’m still living on the Canadian side and they travel to the US so it was a possibility for me. But Buffalo was good to me, the fans of Buffalo. And I think there was still some unknown with the extension team in Toronto. So for me, it was a bit easier for me to decide to return to Buffalo. I thought it was the right fit for me for for my second year in the league. They got my heart and so to leave them for another team would be difficult.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon  Freelance Tennis Writer
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