The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, August 30, 2019

It's on all of us — Interview with Mandy Cronin — Must-click women's hockey links, and more!

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It’s on all of us

This week, the PWHPA announced the #DreamGap tour. There will be plenty more in the links below. Here are my initial thoughts:

The narrative is compelling, but not complete

From #OneLeague to #NoLeague to #ForTheGame and now #DreamGap. We have compelling statements for the future of women’s ice hockey, but no concrete business plan or sustainable plan.

PWHPA player are not being paid for their appearances, per Hailey Salvian and Marissa Ingemi. NWHL players are still not being paid a livable wage. Just like under the past with the CWHL, NWHL, and European leagues, women’s hockey talent is fractured and the “best” will not be competing together.

So, what is different so far?

Support in women’s hockey is splintered, but shouldn’t be

The PWHPA has the support of Billie Jean King, Adidas is the lead sponsor for the #DreamGap Tour, and NHL players like Connor Carrick have started to speak more about women’s hockey. All of these resources have been offered, presumably, through the PWHPA (oh, almost forgot that PWHPA players are also verified on Twitter).

On the one hand, these are all very powerful statements. On the other, as a women’s sports fan, I find remain unsatisfied. Even outside of the current state of women’s hockey, I find myself exhausted by what warrants the attention and support of women’s hockey. Multiple world championship titles and Olympic medals and nobody bats an eye.

However, when women sue their federation or boycott and existing league, then everyone is all “I am woman, hear me roar!” I get the optics, but I just don’t trust them. I will admit that because of the connections the PWHPA has through its leaders – particularly Kendall Coyne Schofield and Janya Hefford – they should be able to maintain the support, at least for a a little while.

Despite the insistence that #ForTheGame is not out to end the NWHL, a simple look at the aforementioned evolution of the hashtags tells us otherwise. I would like to see the marketing of the PWHPA focus more on proactively communicating what is different about this opportunity. Akin to the political scene in the United States these days, saying you are “Anti Donald Trump” does not truly say what your true beliefs or political position is.

Moving from feelings to facts

To that end, it does appear to me that some in the WoHo community have committed to be anti-NWHL or anti-PWHPA. However, these voices spin a narrative that lacks commitment or the challenge for players, sponsors, media, and league (current and future) staff to do things differently.

Therefore, it’s on all of us to keep the facts in check. Yes, the NWHL slashed salaries (my exclusive with Molly Engstrom on this very topic remains one of my favorite stories). No, the PWHPA players will not be paid. Yes, BJK and Carrick are tweeting about women’s hockey live never before. No, the PWHPA is not a league or a union and it would appear has no suitors willing to start a new league.

So, where does this leave women’s hockey? I hardly know. What we do know is, despite North American players possibly playing for the Red Stars, no women are going to make a living playing women’s hockey games or exhibitions post-college.

That is the indisputable truth.

Announcing The IX’s Civil Boost!

We’re extremely honored that Civil chose us for its first Boost, a fundraising pathway to help fund vital newsroom projects. This one is straightforward: travel costs to send me to the WNBA Finals. You’ll get daily podcasts, behind-the-scenes extras and both original reporting and the amplifying of others doing the good work on the scene. More details, and how to give, are available here:

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!

As always, Hailey Salvian and Marissa Ingemi are on top of the goings on in women’s hockey.

Adidas is in for the #DreamGap Tour.

Lawsuit brought by former UND women’s hockey players dismissed by North Dakota court.

A look at how The Ice Garden staff arrived at the 2019 Top 25 Under 25 list.

I recap the Aurora Games and what we still need to know before determining the women’s sports festival a success, or a bust.

Buffalo Beauts host Riveters in NWHL Outdoor Game.

Former The IX guest Carolyn Prevost is still going strong in CrossFit.

Former NWHL/CWHL goalie Amanda Makela is headed to Toronto Film School.

Tweet of the Week

Eleni has a few WoHo threads worth your time

Five at The IX: Buffalo Beauts General Manager Mandy Cronin

Cronin is a University of Maine alumna and a co-founder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. These days, Cronin is at the helm of the Buffalo Beauts and a goalie coach in the Toronto area. We talk about how she fell in love with hockey, her vision for the Beauts, and what she hopes lie in the wake for women’s professional hockey. Edited for brevity and clarity.

How did you first get involved in hockey?

Mandy Cronin: I guess I was just born to be an athlete. So I was playing soccer and all those other things, but they started trying to play hockey when I was about five years old because my big brother was. I didn’t actually start playing goalie until I was 12, I beat out a bunch of other boys and made it as a goalie without ever playing before. That kind of told me I was meant to be a goalie.

When I got to high school, I had to give up basketball and then I actually played soccer as a division one athlete for the first year. But then I realized that I really had to focus on hockey. So my last three years at Maine, I just played hockey and then continued to pursue it from there.

In what ways do you try to diversify and bring other elements from other sports into how you teach the game of hockey now?

Mandy Cronin: Oh, man, we have so much fun with it. I … just finished the camp that we’ve been running for about a decade up the up north here in the Toronto area and it’s a lot of younger players that are playing at a lower division level. And so we we try to bring things down to the basics for them and give them a snapshot of what it would take for them to get from where they are to playing at the level that all of our staff are playing at, which is professional and collegiate Junior.

We bring in all kinds of things, we even use just things like tennis balls. And you know, we’ll have them do hand-eye coordination drills, we have to bounce the ball off the wall or face each other and partners and drop the ball and catch it as it’s falling.

We play World Cup soccer where they’re in groups of three against a bunch of other groups of three and they have to play pass because we, number one, we want to make sure that they remember that hockey is a game. And the way you keep getting better is that you work on your skills by having fun.

You’ve been in women’s hockey, a pioneer in women’s hockey, but as you take on this role, you know, what was exciting as far as be stepping into this role as General Manager?

Mandy Cronin: Well, I participated in the former NWHL, the CWHL and now this, and I’ve worn a lot of different hats as a player, as a co-founder, as a captain, I’ve kind of done it all.

When this opportunity came about, I was just telling another gentleman that God or somebody was listening in because … I’d actually had a few people tell me that I should be a general manager of one of the pro teams. And I thought, you know what, I think that’s exactly what I was probably meant to be doing.

Hayley Moore and I were were teammates on the Boston Blades, and she’s the Deputy Commissioner (of the NWHL), and she reached out to me. I think she knew me well enough and knew that this was something I’d be very passionate about. And so, you know, I’m very, very excited to be a part of this.

Given the state of women’s hockey right now, what do you hope that people understand and realize about what it takes to keep women’s hockey going?

Mandy Cronin: I firmly and personally, from my own opinion, believe that we’ve got to get everybody on the same page. You know, the division is, I think, as long as everybody is successful in the ventures that are happening this year, I think that, it can be nothing but positive for women’s hockey.

But I think the way we get back to progress is to get everybody on the same page and put all of our heads together, explore all the opportunities together as one unified group. As a person who is building and leading a team in the NWHL, my vision is just to keep building this. We’ve got we finally got a one professional league in North American League where the players can get paid. You know, sponsorship, revenue is being shared.

I never got paid to go to any any events or anything. It was just you were playing for the honor of knowing that you were playing in that premiere league. But now for these girls to be able to come out of college and have someone call them up and offer them a salary to play. I think the the idea now is to just try to keep the progress moving forward, keep trying to raise the pay and bring in sponsors create real relationships with local grassroots and corporate groups and, and just keep it moving forward as best we can.

You and (head coach) Pete (Pearnin) have established, somewhat, what you want your roster to look like. But when you’re looking for the character in the type of play for a player, what are you looking for?

Mandy Cronin: Honestly, character is the right word. That is the pinnacle of what we’re looking for, the type of character we want. All the players we’re talking to are good players. You know, obviously, you’re going to have your top top top players and you’re going to have some good role players. And for us, it’s really important that we’ve got the right people.

I know that sometimes there can be egos in professional sports, and I haven’t come across one yet, in the players we have signed. And for me, that means a lot because that tells us that if we face adversity, a player gets hurt anything like that, we can look down the roster and say almost any of these players will play wherever we need to put them. And that’s what team is all about.

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