The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, February 26, 2021
What about seconds? — Interview with Cherie Stewart — Must-click women's hockey links
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What about seconds?
I love seconds!
I think it’s because of my late grandmother, mi abuela! She would laugh so loud when I asked for more food. She liked that I had a healthy appetite and that I enjoyed her cooking. To me, every bite — whether the first or fifteenth — was so satisfying. Food is definitely the way to my heart and soul.
A completed meal, one that you can sit any enjoy is almost a form of therapy for me. So often I’m scarfing down an energy bar or chugging a smoothie. That is day-to-day survival, a necessity.
The meals I enjoy the most are the ones I worked hard for. Like finding a recipe for Cilantro-Lime chicken, or successfully making Farina the way Abuela made it (no recipe, just by taste) for the first time. Truly, these are two of my favorite dishes. Every bite every time is just as enjoyable as the first.
Now that you are sufficiently hungry, let me offer this food for thought:
Why, when celebrating the history of marginalized communities especially, do we disproportionately celebrate the first and none of the rest?
For women’s hockey, we work so hard to even get to that first bite. Blake Bolden debuted for the National Women’s Hockey League nearly 60 years after Willie O’Ree broke the NHL color barrier.
But what if I told you, Bolden wasn’t the only Black player in the NWHL that first season? Cherie Stewart debuted for the then New York Riveters later in the inaugural season.
What if I told you Asian American forward Jessica Koizumi scored the first-ever NWHL goal and there have been several other Asian players, including Olympic goalies Nana Fujimoto and Sojung Shin from Japan and Korea, respectively.
Since Bolden and Stewart became the first and only two Black players in the NWHL in the inaugural season. Here is a list of all the Black women who’ve played professional ice hockey since:
Blake Bolden, NWHL (2015-2017 & 2018-19) & PWHPA (2019-20)
Cherie Stewart, NWHL (2015-16)
Kelsey Kolzer, NWHL (2016-18) & PWHPA (2019-20)
Kaliya Johnson, NWHL (2016-19)
Nina Rodger, NWHL (2018-21)
Sarah Nurse, CWHL (2018-19) & PWHPA (2019-Present)
Kandice Sheriff, NWHL (2019-20)
Briana Mastel, NWHL (2019-21)
Whitney Dove, NWHL (2021)
Saroya Tinker, NWHL (2021)
There are countless stories of BIPOC women in the NWHL and women’s hockey that sadly are never told. The most consistent voice on this has been Bill Douglas via The Color of Hockey Blog. Douglas now writes a weekly column for NHL.com that I strongly recommend, it comes out every Monday.
If you are new here, you should know I utterly admire and adore Blake Bolden. On Sunday, she will be one of the first (if not THE FIRST) Black woman to call an ice hockey game on national television.
I’ll admit, I hoped to be the first, but I’m glad to follow in Bolden’s footsteps. I do hope that Blake calling the PWHPA Showcase with Kenny Albert is truly the fist and not the last we see of BIPOC women calling hockey games. Surely, for my sake but also for the sake of the game. And when I and the other BIPOC women get to the booth, I hope our stories are shared with as much enthusiasm as Bolden will (should) get for being the first.
On Sunday, I will be glued to my T.V to watch history. As good as that first bite will be, its the seconds I look forward to the most!
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This Week in Women’s Hockey
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First, a few archives about the women I mentioned above
December 2016 – Team USA Ball Hockey shine bright at Holiday Bash.
June 2020 – Former Professional Hockey Player Kaliya Johnson on her sports and life journey.
Alright, now back to the more recent news:
The 2021 Patty Kaz Top 10 Finalists announced.
Leafs Nation with a pretty good WoHo recap.
The PWHPA is taking over MSG on Sunday.
Reports are the NWHL is set to restart the 2021 season in Boston. However, Buffalo is out and Connecticut is in. The league offered this statement from Commissioner Ty Tumminia:
“The NWHL has been clear that we are determined to resume the season and award the Isobel Cup in the first-class manner our teams, players, fans and corporate and broadcast partners deserve. We are excited about the progress we’re making and look forward to having announcements to make soon.”I am hoping to get clarification on this seeding. The last 4 teams playing in Lake Placid were: Toronto Minnesota Boston Buffalo Riveters were eliminated b/c they didn’t have enough healthy players. CTW withdrew. Has BUF opted out? Why is CT reinstated & not the Rivs?
Mark J. Burns @markjburns88NWHL seeding heading into the semis and Isobel Cup in late March as the league looks to finish off ’20-21. 1-Toronto Six 2-Minnesota Whitecaps 3-Connecticut Whale 4-Boston Pride On. Feb. 15, Board of Governors “voted unanimously” on seeding, per BOG letter to staff on Feb. 18.
NHL Network & Sportsnet will broadcast the Dream Gap Tour stop in New York this weekend.
Kelly Schultz & WCHA Commissioner Jennifer Flowers about the College Hockey for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative.
For the Junior Rangers, I spoke with Jayna Hefford, Hilary Knight, Megan Keller, and Amanda Kessel ahead of the first stop on the 2021 Dream Gap Tour.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Cherie Stewart
As I mentioned earlier in this week’s newsletter, Cherie Stewart was the other Black hockey player to compete in the NWHL inaugural season. She was a practice player for the New York Riveters and debuted after Blake Bolden hit the ice for the first time with the Boston Pride. Stewart has been a pioneer in ice hockey and ball hockey throughout her career. Stewart talks about growing the greater hockey community and more in our Q&A conducted via email.
You were one of the two Black players to debut in the first paid women’s pro hockey league. What stands out most about your season with the Riveters and the NWHL?
Being “one of the…” or “the only…” has been a common theme in my playing career. I am proud to start seeing more varying shades of melanin at the rink – representation matters. I hope we continue making strides in creating a culture of inclusion and introducing the game we all love to diverse communities and above all – treating everyone with dignity and respect.
I enjoyed my experience playing in the inaugural season of the first paid women’s pro hockey league. This league opened doors for women to continue their playing career post college and compete at a high-level against some of the best female hockey players in the country/world. Playing for the Rivs was a lot of hard work and commitment given that I also had a full-time job. It challenged me in all facets of my life but in return they were also some rewarding experiences. The nerves I got while heading to the rink for media day and meeting my teammates for the first time, the loyal fanbase rocking at the Aviator, signing autographs after games, seeing little girls faces light up when our team walked onto the rink, playing the Pride at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center in Boston – the weight of these moments will forever be with me. Overall, I am very grateful for Dani Rylan for giving me an opportunity to play for the New York Riveters.
2. You are also a pioneer in Ball Hockey locally and Internationally. How did you get into competitive Ball Hockey?
My love and interest for ball hockey was based off of a misinterpretation at first. I was coaching/refereeing youth hockey at City Ice Pavilion in Long Island City and a fellow coach asked me to sub in for her ball hockey team that Sunday and I obliged. I assumed this was a roller hockey game so I brought my roller hockey gear to the rink (basketball court) in the lower east side but clearly I was mistaken when I saw people running after an orange Mylec ball with hockey sticks.
While it took me awhile to adjust to playing ball hockey competitively I’ve had a lot of fun playing this sport and getting to know the ball hockey community across the Northeast and internationally. My hockey circle is filled with dedicated ball hockey players and I enjoy how the sport has grown in the NYC area. A lot of ice hockey players are starting to get introduced to and take an interest in playing the sport too, including many fellow Riv alum.
3. In what ways are you still involved in the hockey community as a player or otherwise?
Prior to the pandemic I had multiple teams I was part of and could be found on a rink at least 3 to 4 times a week. I played in many tournaments throughout the year and am part of the women’s USA ball hockey team. Similar to most hockey players, my somewhat regimented hockey life has taken a hit given the pandemic. Currently, I am not competing internationally or attending hockey tournaments but I do play in ball hockey scrimmages and outdoor ice hockey in the NYC area when I have availability and weather permitting. Of course, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing on the bench.
With vaccines rolling out and restrictions starting to lift slightly, I am entering a new chapter of my hockey career by coaching Team New York U-16 Girls team for the USA Ball Hockey program. I am excited for this new opportunity to coach and teach the game of ball hockey to youth hockey players. I’m already preparing for our tryouts on April 10th at All Star Arena in Selden, New York – more to come on this!
4. As Black History Month rolls into Women’s History Month, what are some of the things that excite you most about the game in respect to equity and diversity?
There wasn’t a lot of representation during my most competitive years or hockey, so I am excited to see more and more black hockey players playing the game of hockey and competing in the highest levels of hockey as well as seeing more representation on the business side of the game too. It is inspiring to see players like Byfield, Bolden, Nurses, PK and raising awareness of Angela James’ story and her place in Hockey Canada on my social feeds. These stories and milestones are so important because we’ve never seen this before and it makes me proud that change is happening. The hockey community has come a long way with promoting equity and diversity initiatives and I hope the NWHL and NHL continue their efforts and keep us moving in the right direction. For women’s hockey, I hope the hockey community can collaborate and establish a sustainable league so the best of the best can play and earn an equitable income.
5. When you think about the future of hockey, what excites you most? What do you hope will have changed for the next generation of ice hockey and ball hockey players?
I am looking forward to playing competitive hockey again once the pandemic is contained and we all can safely return to the rink and play the game we all love. I am always excited to see the technology advancements of equipment and continued use of analytics in the game of hockey, but ultimately, my hope is that by growing the game of ball hockey that the sport will become more accessible to people of all backgrounds. I hope that I have brought the love of the game into the lives of the future generation, and just want people to be excited about the sport I love and get involved in playing and/or watching the sport.