COVID-19 hits women’s hockey world hard — An Nguyen talks PHF Fantasy, hockey stats — Must-click women’s hockey links

The IX: Hockey Friday with Anne Tokarski, December 24, 2021

Last Thursday, the PHF announced the cancellation of the coming weekend’s series between the reigning Isobel Cup champion Boston Pride and Metropolitan Riveters. Earlier this week, on Monday, just hours before puck drop, USA Hockey announced the cancellation of the final stop of the “My Why” Tour that was set to take place between the United States and Canada in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Two days later, Hockey Canada announced the cancellation of the 2022 U18 Women’s Worlds selection camp — less than one month before the tournament gets underway in Linköping and Mjolby, Sweden.

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(Editor’s note: this is the final issue of The IX this year. We’ll be back with Soccer Monday on January 3!)

All three contests were cancelled due to concerns around surrounding COVID-19 cases in both the United States and Canada; the events’ cancellation comes amidst dozens of cancellations in the men’s professional hockey world, and serves as evidence that no sport or athlete is protected from the unpredictability of the pandemic.

And now, just last night, ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reported that the IIHF is cancelling all January tournaments as a result of the pandemic.

It should be simple: shut sports down until the surge subsides.

But for some reason, it’s not.

The cancellation of Team Canada’s U18 Women’s World Championship selection camp and potential cancellation of the tournament itself tells an ominous tale, especially as the men’s U20 World Championship (aka World Juniors) gets underway in Alberta.

I’m not asking for governing bodies to sacrifice the health and safety of their female athletes to the same degree they sacrifice that of their male athletes, because, honestly, I don’t think the U20 tournament should be going on right now either. What I’m asking for is the same priority to be given to both the men’s and women’s tournaments at all levels.

The U18 World Championship on the women’s side and the U18 and U20 World Championships on the men’s side are both crucial for the development of young hockey players. Tournaments like U18 Women’s Worlds are critical for putting a spotlight on the next up and coming women’s hockey players. More than that, though, young women deserve the same opportunity to compete at the highest level, and deserve the same type of prioritization, as their male counterparts.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: women’s hockey players deserve better.

They deserve to be kept safe and healthy during times of international duress. They deserve to have their tournaments — crucial benchmarks of their development and progress — rescheduled rather than cancelled. They deserve to be a priority.

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This Week in Women’s Hockey

Q&A with Mio, designer of t-shirts for the PHF (The Ice Garden)

Minnesota’s Crystalyn Hengler practices with NHL’s Minnesota Wild (Nicole Haase on Twitter)

Robert Morris announces the reinstatement of men’s, women’s D-I hockey programs (Robert Morris Athletics)

Upper Deck partners with the PHF for first ever women’s professional hockey trading cards (Sportsnet)

3x Olympian Gigi Marvin retires (Team USA)

Nashvhille Sports Authority gauging interest in pro women’s sports franchise (The Tennesseean)

Around the rink in the PHF: Week 6 (The Ice Garden)

Five at The IX: An Nguyen

An Nguyen is a hockey analyst with a focus on women’s hockey. To spring board off of last week’s edition of The IX, we chatted with An about the site she made to keep tabs on Mike Murphy’s PHF Fantasy competition.

Question: First off: What were your thoughts when you saw Mike Murphy launch the first full (i.e. non-COVID), official season of PHF Fantasy through The Ice Garden?

An Nguyen: I was thrilled! I think PHF Fantasy is a super fun, additional avenue of engagement with the PHF besides just watching the games and cheering for teams (Go Beauts!), plus they have a statistical aspect I dig. For me personally, I am slowly but surely getting more into ice hockey, so I like it as a way to have a batch of players spread across the PHF for me to learn about and follow. I’m not super competitive, though, so I don’t really care as much about the points and winning aspect of it all? For the last two fantasy leagues through The Ice Garden (this one and the one for the 2021 Worlds), I’ve actually just (mostly) randomly selected my players.

Q: You recently created a website designed to share the results of the PHF Fantasy project with the teams competing. What went into the decision to take on this project, and how do you think it helps the fans and participants in fantasy?

Nguyen: I had actually planned on doing this project, or something like it, before PHF Fantasy was even announced. This semester, I took essentially an independent study-esque class that involved learning some new programming skill, and the way I decided to learn and demonstrate my learning was through building a website for fantasy hockey. My plan was for the site to not just be for tracking stats for players and teams throughout the season, but also for registering teams initially and managing that team as the fantasy league progressed. It originally made use of TIG 2021 Worlds fantasy stuff, but switched to PHF Fantasy when that was announced. That project will never see the light of day (because I don’t particularly want to leak my poorly-stored Twitter credentials), but I showed some screenshots to Mike and he was super excited by it.

Plus, another class I took this semester, Interaction Design, involved building release-ready websites. I wasn’t doing much over Thanksgiving break and figured I could leverage what I had been doing in Interaction Design and my independent study to make a website people could actually access, so that’s what happened! (Fun fact: the actual released website does have the back-end infrastructure to support creating teams through the website and reusing the site for multiple Fantasy seasons, so…) I think it’s helpful because it gives fans and participants an easy way to follow along with how their team and various players are doing based on their current stats throughout the season whenever they want and really encourages engagement throughout the season, with both PHF Fantasy and the PHF itself by extension.

Q: Have you noticed any statistical trends in the players that have topped the fantasy scoreboards so far this season? Do these trends adhere to your expectations for the players this season, or is anyone surprising you?

Nguyen: I’ve noticed that goalies have consistently been topping the point charts, but I think that may just be an artifact of not currently having all the stats for skaters like shots on goal that could help skaters catch up and balance out the leaderboard. Otherwise, I think the general trends are about in line with what I’ve been expecting. Our favorite statistical touchstone, Miklya Grant-Mentis is currently the top skater for fantasy points per game, so. Seems right to me!

Q: Who do you think has the best team name in TIG PHF Fantasy?

Nguyen: Best team name: The Ives of Marchment. I think it’s just super delightful.
Best team concept: Hockey (Taylor’s Version). Turns out the secret to being in the top 10 of TIG PHF Fantasy is simply to have nine Taylor’s on your team.

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, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Anne Tokarski