How Does a GM Prepare for the Draft?

I’ve been getting some questions lately about how exactly a GM prepares for the CWHL Draft. I love answering people’s questions about my job, so if you have any, send them my way at kpatronick@cwhl.ca or tweet at me @KristaPatronick.

So, preparing for the CWHL Draft really starts as soon as the season ends. Of course it’s always nice to give yourself some time to breathe between the last games of the season and recruiting but I like to get a head start on it.

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At last year’s draft with three new draftees and Blades captain Tara Watchorn.

On Twitter, I was asked if I draft/recruit for need or just take the best player available. This season Boston needs depth in pretty much every area. I’m looking for more of a scoring touch up front. But we also need to run more than 4 or 5 D. Last season some players were getting such heavy minutes, it’d be nice to give them a break with some depth players who can step in and make plays happen. So when you have such big needs, you just recruit for every position. That said, Boston has the first pick of the first round, so I will be taking the best player available 🙂 I suppose if our situation were different, though, I might recruit around need.

For us, scouting and recruiting has a lot to do with a combination of finding talent on the ice, character off the ice, and a player who finds it feasible to move to or stay in Boston. (For those who aren’t familiar, players enter the draft with which locations they’d like to play in, ranked 1st choice, 2nd choice, 3rd choice). When you get all of those, you hit the jack pot.

FullSizeRender (13)On Twitter, I was asked what my #1 criteria was for choosing players in the draft. In addition to those three things above – I look for players with workhorse type attitudes. A player who is mentally tough, who will always be ready for their next battle, is the type of player we will take any day.

So, most college players, we go out and watch toward the end of their season. We will ask them to enter the draft if we feel they would be a good fit for our team. We try to visualize where they would fall in our line up. Sometimes players like to keep their options open. Maybe they’re considering playing in Europe or in the end they decide they don’t want to come to Boston for whatever reason. You have to be prepared for them to make the best decision for themselves, even if it means it’s not your team. Sometimes you lose players you really hoped you’d get; that’s part of the job.  I’m not going to lie, it sucks when that happens. But it’s not always about us; it’s about making the best choice for them. You just have to let it roll off your back and remember that everything will work out the way it is supposed to, no matter what. Life – and your season – goes on.

Other players enter the draft of their own accord. I’m usually pretty thorough in my recruiting but sometimes you get a diamond in the rough with those who enter themselves. With so many draftees with the potential to come to Boston this season, it puts us in a really good place. It fosters competition during tryouts. It makes everyone work that much harder; nobody’s jobs are safe here. If you want to be on our squad you have to earn it during tryouts. That’s the kind of culture we want.

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Brownie – aka Assistant Captain Kristina Brown – was my first pick last year at the draft.

The draft is definitely one of the most exciting events of the year. It marks a new beginning – a new season, new professional hockey careers starting, a chance to wipe the slate clean and start again. Nothing feels better than that.

Be sure to follow us on twitter at @BostonCWHL for draft updates. Post-draft I’ll share more about the event and about the draftees coming our way. Can’t wait for you all to meet them!

 

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Summertime Hockey Happenings

Hi everyone! Hope everyone has been enjoying summer so far. I sure have been!

For those of us in the business and operations side of hockey, there really is no such thing as an off season. Actually, the off season is busier because that is when the majority of the work for the next season gets done. Recruiting, scheduling practices and games, budgeting, planning, organizing, ordering equipment, ordering merch inventory…you get the idea. But during the season it’s really difficult to focus on anything else, so this is a really nice time to try to get a leg up on making plans.

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This past weekend we had the Beantown Classic, which is the biggest women’s tournament in Boston. Literally hundreds of girls and women’s teams from across the US and Canada come to the tournament. It’s amazing and even a little overwhelming at times because of how crowded the rinks get. But it is a great reminder of how quickly our game is growing.

This weekend we used putting in a team as an opportunity to watch and evaluate some potential prospects. For us it’s a tournament that is much less about the win/loss column and more about watching how individuals perform, and who on the team might work well together this season. It was definitely beneficial from that perspective and the team did snap its losing streak, even if it was during a tournament 🙂

 

FullSizeRender-9The team released its home game schedule  and as you can see we’ve moved back to Boston (for the most part anyway). It’s pretty exciting, hopefully everyone can make it out to the games! We’ll start practicing on September 1 and be more than ready for the season to start.

Off ice, we are working on a lot of exciting things for the fall – our annual season kick off party, a fall golf tournament, a November ball hockey tournament, and a fan bus to Montreal to name a few – so stay tuned for all those details.

IMG_1509In the mean time, I’m getting ready for the CWHL draft and I just can’t believe what a difference a year makes. Last year around this time I was going absolutely crazy. I was a new GM trying to recruit players into the draft, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. When sh-t hit the fan, I had to work extra hard to put the pieces back together. This season, the CWHL has 60+ in the draft, which is awesome. I’m kind of sitting back and relaxing about the draft at this point because I know we will have so much talent coming our way.

I can’t wait to introduce you all to our 2016 Boston Blades Draft Class on August 21 🙂

 

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Closing Time: Top 15 Moments of 2015-2016

It is so strange to wake up on a Monday morning knowing your season is over.

It has been an incredible year for the Blades, and while the scoresheets may not have shown it, it was full of learning experiences and fun times on and off the ice.

The funny thing about the “off season” is that for me there really is no off season. All the *actual* work for our team happens in the off season. We have some events we will be announcing shortly so be sure to stay tuned for that. But in general, all the planning, preparation, recruiting…all the things that go into making our team function for the year start happening now. It’s a time for me to put my nose down and work. I’m more than ready to get started.

But first, here are my top 15 moments of 2015-2016.

1.  The Blades Kickoff Party at Bantam Cider.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love cider, so I was pumped to hold our season kick off party at this amazing and unique space. People got to interact and meet the new Blades, and get excited for the upcoming hockey season. The Road Dawgs absolutely rocked and tons of people came out to support the team, including so many of my personal friends. It was an amazing night!

2. The Tour de Clarky.
We got to spend some time celebrating around the city with the Clarkson Cup, and brought it to some our favorite places around the city. It was a great day with the team to build memories and celebrate the organization’s accomplishments.
3. The time we brought Tara Watchorn to Men’s league and she owned. And it went viral.
Definitely one of my favorite all time moments from this season. From the planning to seeing it on TSN and NBC Sports, the attention that it got was definitely unexpected, but a lot of fun.
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4. The win! 
I wasn’t on the road with the team during the first roadie because I had to attend a wedding, but I remember watching the Saturday game during the reception (thanks to CWHL Live). I was so nervous and anxious wondering how this team would stack up in the league. Then, on Sunday came the shootout win. I was so proud of them. I didn’t think a win would come so soon. (I also didn’t think that we wouldn’t get another one, heh, but it’s all good.)
5. The home opener.
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It may not have been a win, but they looked good, and really that’s all that matters.
6.  Playing at my alma mater.
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It meant a lot to me that the Blades could play a handful of home games at UMass Lowell, my beloved alma mater. I fell in love with the game here (Go River Hawks) and it was so awesome to bring my team to this place that has so much meaning for me.
7.  Ice boys.
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It was a joke, you guys. But part of me thought, “……could be fun.”
8. Military Appreciation Night.
This game was one of our best attended games, but it meant a lot to us for so many reasons: the personal connections, the crowd, the amazingly close game. We also debuted our Operation Hat Trick hats! This was definitely one of my favorite games.
9. The opening of Winter Skate at Gillette Stadium.
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Lacasse and her nephew Ethan

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Cutting the ribbon! The Clarkson Cup in the background

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Scout / Broadcast Color Commentator Steve Ventresca and I skating

We were so grateful to be invited to the opening celebration of Winter Skate @ Patriot Place. Lacasse brought her adorable little nephews and took them around the rink for a spin. Even the staff had a great time skating.
 
10. The Teddy Bear Toss.
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We weren’t sure it was going to happen, but Shea saved the day and scored the teddy bear toss goal with only minutes to go in the third period. THANK YOU SHEA.
11. Ugly Sweater Game.
Who doesn’t love an ugly sweater?
12. The All Star Game.
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Boston’s All Stars

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Signing autographs for so many little girls after the game

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GMs dropping the puck

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Having a little fun at the  All Star draft!

The weekend was incredible and definitely one I will never forget. It was such an amazing experience to drop the puck at the Air Canada Center and be part of such a big celebration of women’s hockey.
13. Denna Laing Tribute Photo with Les Canadiennes.
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Even though we’re on different teams, really, we’re all on the same team. We’re a family. ❤
14. OMGs.
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OMGs, if you aren’t familiar, are a Canadian candy. OMGs sponsors the CWHL (THANK YOU!) and as a result has created an addiction among the Bladies staff members that we cannot quench as we cannot purchase OMGs in the States. Tragic.
15. This picture of Genevieve Lacasse.
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#StraightCheesin
There were so many awesome moments this season, I had a hard time bringing it down to 15.
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To everyone who came out and supported our team this season, a sincere thank you from the bottom of my heart. It truly means a lot to all of us. We’ll be back – like I said, big plans for over the summer and next season – and we hope to see you all again soon.
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It’s Time to Jump: Why I’m Quitting My Day Job

I have decided to leave my day job. My last day will be Feb. 25.  It was not an easy decision to make and it is very bittersweet for me.
I’ve been at the Hockey Academy for about four and a half years and overall it has served
me really well. For those who aren’t familiar with my role, it is largely communications related for the company but also operations related for adult hockey leagues. I’ve made amazing friendships out of it and for so long got to say, “even when it’s my worst day at work, I still work in hockey.” And it was true.
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But about three or four months ago, things stopped adding up for me. I don’t want to get too deep into details but my anxiety level was through the roof…to the point where I could barely function.  I broke down and felt like something was tearing away at my soul. I found myself questioning a lot of things.
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I was conflicted because I still felt like I had something to offer people. I’m obviously still very passionate about hockey. I’m also passionate about living a healthy lifestyle, fitness, and helping others live happier lives. I thought I was accomplishing that at work through my day job but really, all I was doing was driving myself deeper in a dark hole. In order to do what I really want to do – help other people – I had to help myself first. You know how when you’re on an airplane and they talk about how when the oxygen mask comes down in the event of an outage, you’re supposed to secure your own before helping other people? That’s what I needed to do.
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Then I saw this video. It changed a lot of things for me. And listen – I’m not religious at all. I’m not even a fan of Steve Harvey. But in this video, he speaks my soul, and I get emotional every time I watch it.
I looked at Meg Hewings, GM for the Montreal Candiennes. She’d always been a role model for me since I started in my GM job. Meg is a full time GM, and has what she calls “not jobs” to supplement her income (because let’s be honest, GM life doesn’t pay the bills, as much as I would like it to and hope it someday does). These “not jobs” include some real estate and some writing gigs (we both have a journalism background). But what clicked for me was that Meg lives a life by design. She built her life so that she could get income by doing things she loved and enjoyed, and could also dedicate enough of her time to her other love, her team, and be a full time GM.
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Imagine all the things I could do if I were a full time GM, I thought. My eyes and heart would light up just thinking about it. And, I could still help people by exploring my passion for health & fitness as a career too. It would truly be the best of both worlds if I could do both. I took a lot of time to think about this possibility. I went away for about a week, my first real vacation in over a year. And I just thought long and hard.
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 My conclusion: I needed to let go of what no longer served me and design my own life. Financially, I had a safety net for myself. I would be okay. I cried tears of joy. Tears of release. I knew what the answer was. It was time.
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I’m not going to lie, there are aspects of my day job that I will miss. It is a little scary because all the “what if’s?” run through my head on a regular basis. The voice inside that doubts yourself can be the loudest one. But I know that in letting go of something that no longer serves me, I am creating something amazing: my happiness.
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Sometimes you have to jump off a cliff and build your wings on the way down. So that’s what I’m doing. Jumping. It’s going to make me a better GM, and a happier and more fulfilled person. I’m ready to start the next chapter of my life.
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All Star Weekend Recap

This past weekend was the second annual CWHL All Star Game in Toronto! It was a great experience so I wanted to do a quick recap.

I did attend the first annual All Star Game last year, but as a fan. My friend Shanna and I flew up just for the experience and had a great time visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame and sightseeing.

This year was obviously different, attending as a GM and in a work-related capacity. We arrived on Friday, checked into the hotel, grabbed some food and right away had a meeting.

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The CWHL really went all out in terms of making everyone feel welcome at the hotel. Door tags hung on player/staff/coaches doors, balloons decorated the lobby, and logos were put on the hotel elevators.

After the meeting, we had some down time to get ready for the draft.

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The draft included some mingling and socializing before everyone gathered in a room at the hotel. Players were announced and walked in one by one, taking their seats in the front rows. Captains announced their starting line, and Watch was selected by Natalie Spooner as a starter. It was a proud moment because we all know how hard she works and how much she deserves that.

Then the rest of the picks were announced by stick draw. As each players was selected, they were briefly interviewed on stage. Once it was complete everyone took one big photo and then some individual/group photos.

As you can see Brownie ended up on team Black and the three other Blades ended up on team White. Not really sure how that happened but I think it’s always nice to switch things up a bit once in a while, for the players to play with others rather than against them sometimes.

The CWHL also announced at the draft that GMs would be dropping the puck at the All Star Game. This really meant a lot to me because being a GM is allowing me to live my dream working in professional hockey. It’s also allowing me to live a life by design and has helped me to find my true happiness. GMs really put in a lot of work behind the scenes and it’s not always something people see – the day to day operations of the team. So it was nice to be recognized for that as well, and recognize the fact that the CWHL has given all of us, as women, this opportunity that is usually reserved for men in pro hockey.

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Julie Chu and Natalie Spooner take the face off while GMs (left to right: me, Lori Dupuis of Brampton, Chantel Champagne of Calgary, Meg Hewings of Montreal and Rebecca Michael of Toronto) drop the puck (s). Looking back we maybe should have dropped five pucks? 🙂 I did get to keep a puck from the experience though.

Dropping the puck at Air Canada Center was incredible and definitely something I’ll never forget.

From there we headed up to a suite where we got to meet a lot of league sponsors and special guests. It was great to be able to personally thank them for all they do for our league.

Of course we watched the game and you know how that ended, with a Black team win, but everyone had fun and that is the most important part of the All Star Game after all.

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Genevieve Lacasse, Kristina Brown, Dru Burns & Tara Watchorn after the game.

After the game, tons of little girls made their way down to ice level by the locker rooms.  I was outside of the Black team locker room when Brownie came out and she was absolutely swarmed by these excited and energetic little girls. She found a little one she wanted to give a stick to, so she signed it and give it to her, it was adorable. Brownie spent some time signing a lot stuff for so many of those little girls before she headed back into the locker room to get changed. I hope it made her feel like a rock star, and that is an unbelievable feeling that not many people get to experience.

 

After the game GMs decided to meet with each other informally and compare notes. I honestly think that face time is so important in jobs/situations like this because “isolation” can be really tough. Phone calls just aren’t the same, so to get face time and actual time together to compare notes on how we run our organization, is amazing. I think we all came away with some great ideas after that.

Saturday night we all had dinner together – players, coaches, GMs, and the CWHL staff who worked so hard to make the weekend happen – and just enjoyed our time together.

Sunday morning was full of more meetings and then it was off to the airport.

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Billy Bishop is a unique airport in Toronto. Only one airline flies in an out of that one – Porter – and let me tell you, the Porter crew in Boston recognizes us when we fly in and out of there practically every other weekend (or at least it feels that way).

What I love about it is how fast it is, and they only board like 15 minutes before your plane leaves, so you can kind of take your time. Luckily on Sunday that meant we had more time to watch the Patriots game while we were waiting for our flight to board. Obviously it didn’t end as we hoped, though 😦

 

Overall it was an amazing weekend and it just reminds us that we all work for something bigger in women’s hockey. When we get hung up on the little things, the day to day…sometimes it’s just nice to think back about why we are all really here.

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It Takes a Village: 5 Easy Ways to Support Women’s Hockey

They say it takes a village to raise a child; I’m learning that it definitely takes a village to run a professional women’s hockey team.

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Our first round draft pick, Kristina Brown (Boston College). My first draft was such an amazing experience.

It’s probably come as no surprise to everyone that as I accepted a position as GM of the Boston Blades, a professional women’s hockey team in the CWHL, my priorities in life have definitely shifted.

I used to be able to put a lot of time into fitness coaching and I can’t as much anymore, but I’m still striving to live as an example for others when it comes to health & fitness. I will never let that go. I know that I need exercise & I need to take care of my body now more than ever. When our own lives get busy and suddenly we are under so much immense pressure, I think it is so easy to lose sight of your own well being. It has happened to me over and over again and I’m determined to not let myself slip back into bad habits. My own health with always be #1 priority. (I wish more women were able to do this without feeling guilty about it!)

That said, this blog is focused on what is going on in my life at any given time and right now, I’m gonna write about hockey right now.

The girls representing Boston!

The girls representing Boston! Draft pick Eli Tremblay; alumna Tara Watchorn; me; draft pick Nicole Giannino; draft pick Kristina Brown

I have been overwhelmed with support from the people who I’ve reached out to (and who have reached out to me!) in the last three months. Friends, colleagues, people in the hockey world, women who I play hockey with…all people who just genuinely care about the sport and want to support the Boston Blades. They’re willing to get their hands dirty and help however we need help. I’m incredibly humbled by it. So I want you ALL to know how much it means to me that you’ve been so supportive of me and of this team. It makes my heart full & so happy.

If you’re looking to help but aren’t sure where to start or what to do: there are tons of ways to support this hockey team. I realize not everyone may have $150-$180 for Blades season tickets, or be able to make every game, etc.

Here are some easy ways you can support the Boston Blades:

1. Show up! Our fans are so incredibly important but it’s even more important that we see your faces every weekend. So – come to our games. Bring your friends. Support this team because you love the sport and you know how hard the players & staff work to make this all happen. Your presence is validation for us that this sport matters to you. Here is our schedule; and details for each game are forthcoming.

However!! Mark your calendars now for the games you want to make.

In fact, I’ll give you a sneak peak at some of our promotions:

Oct. 31 – Home opener, post game skate with the team. Bring your skates and meet the team! Come in costume if you like and we’ll make it a “haunted skate.” Whatever floats your boat. (We’ll be the ones dressed like bumble bees? #BlackAndGold.)

Nov. 14 –  Military appreciation night, all active military & veterans get in free. Players will wear camo jerseys. Operation Hat Trick hats will be on sale, game worn camo jerseys will be auctioned. We’ll be supporting another great organization, Hockey Saves, which pays for ice time for vets.

Dec. 19 – Teddy bear toss! Bring a new or gently used teddy bear, toss it on the ice after the Blades score their first goal. All teddies will be donated to Salvation Army. Flying teddy bears, what’s not to love?

I’ll get more information out there as soon as we solidify more details but you definitely won’t want to miss these games. Bring your kids, your neighbors, your neighbors’ kids. Help spread the game.

2. Volunteer. If you have some time to give, a particular talent or even just a pair of hands, we can find something for you to do to help us out. You can even volunteer remotely from home by helping us do some groundwork for fundraising. It doesn’t have to be a huge commitment on your end, but if you believe in what we believe in, we know you can help us spread the sport of women’s hockey. E-mail me at kpatronick@cwhl.ca and we’ll get you hooked up.

3. Merchandise. We will have all new merchandise created for this season! Support your team by buying some merch, wearing your fandom proud and helping us raise the money we need to raise to operate as a team. Our merchandise isn’t currently set up for sales yet (because, like I said, new merch vendor…but SOON!) but when it is I will let you know, so you can buy ALL OF THE THINGS!

4. Season kick off party! Come to our very first team fundraiser on Oct 1: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/boston-blades-season-kickoff-party-tickets-17870844176Tickets start at $25 and include two drinks at Bantam Cider, which is really quite a deal. And think of the company you’ll be in! Buy a ticket!

We have to raise a lot of money to make this hockey team happen. I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of daunting, but I know I’ll be leaning my “village” to help me get it done. So you buying a ticket and showing up to this party REALLY helps us out.

We will be having more fundraisers in the future as well (of course) so be sure to keep an eye out and support those. If you have any ideas for fundraisers, send ’em my way! This GM is all ears.

5. Engage with us on social media. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. We are @BostonCWHL on pretty much everything. Download Periscope and follow me @KristaPatronick so you can listen to me ramble about the Blades. You’ll even get to watch some of our practices on ‘scope, etc. Like our stuff and share it up!! 🙂

Another fun thing that we have been planning is a Clarkson Cup tour around the city of Boston to celebrate our win last season. We’ll be hitting some Boston landmarks with the Cup and doing some photo ops the week before our home opener. I can’t give away too many details yet but at least a couple photo ops are scheduled for my birthday. I’m so excited to spend my birthday with the Clarkson Cup, with my hockey family, in my city, celebrating my 28th year of life. It’s going to be a great one.

Huge thank you to everyone who has engaged with the team, supported me & the Blades so far this season. It is only just beginning.

Our practices start in about a week and a half and I’m really excited to get the squad on the ice and watch them gel as a team.

Hope to see you in October 🙂

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5 Beautiful Things About Summer Hockey

There is seriously nothing I love more than playing hockey in the summer.

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Sure, I get to play a lot more in the summer than I do in the winter, because of my busy work schedule. But really – there’s nothing better than summer hockey. Here’s why:

1. When you get out of your game, it might still be light out. Like, you might actually be able to go out for ice cream (or the bar…) with your teammates. How awesome is that?

There is always time for a selfie during hockey.

There is always time for a selfie during hockey.

2. Ice times are usually earlier. Without so many of those little kids around, so much ice time is freed up. I’m secretly a grandma so anytime I can be in bed by 10 p.m., I’m all about it.

3. Walking into the rink is refreshing, and you can stay there for a while without a million layers of clothing. If you’re just watching a game, it gets cold fast in the winter. And those locker rooms? Straight up arctic. In February, you just dread getting dressed. In the summer, it’s not so bad. (I try not to think about those rare times when it’s colder outside the rink than it is inside the rink. That is depressing.)

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4. Post-tournament pool parties. If you’re lucky enough to have a teammate with a pool, summer tournaments always end with pool parties and a bonfire. There’s nothing like getting off the ice and putting a bathing suit on to celebrate your shutout or championship win. Or just drinking to try to forget that your game even happened, if it ended badly…

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5. Tent Sales. Oh my goodness, tent sales. In the summer, hockey stores have humungous sales under a large tent in which they sell hockey equipment (and NHL team swag) at hugely discounted prices. If you’ve been eyeing a new piece of equipment or you just want to stock up on your favorite team’s gear for Christmas presents, the tent sale is where you want to be.

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What’s your favorite thing about playing hockey in the summer?

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