Hockey Season Eve

As I sit here unable to sleep (have you ever been too tired to sleep? I think that’s what I’m up against..nap will happen later)  I can’t help but reflect on the craziness of the past two months.

Meetings, practices, planning, headaches, tears, lack of sleep, plenty of naps (do you see a pattern here?) and also major excitement have just consumed my mind. This job is so much work, especially in the pre-season, but the team hits the ice…it is so rewarding. And it all starts tomorrow.

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I have an 8 hour drive ahead of me to Toronto to continue to wonder: how will this team gel on the ice? What will our first games be like? How will this season be different than last year?

Normally I fly with the team but for this weekend, I gave up my seat (we only get so many and let’s just say it’s a smaller number than our roster) so another player could travel. It actually worked out because Assistant Coach Mike “Dymo” Diamantopoulos and I will be driving together. Of course this means we have a long day and night ahead of us.

But right now I’m trying not to think about that. I’m thinking about meeting up with our #1 little Boston Blades fan, Kaitlyn Young, who lives in Toronto. Check out her awesome story on how she became a Blades fan.

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I’m thinking about all the amazing support I’ve gotten from my friends and family who go out of their way to support me and support this team.

And I’m thinking about this group of girls who will be asked to absolutely grind for the next five months…

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There will be so many highs and lows in the next five months. There will be times when our bodies are so tired we can barely feel feelings. There will be times when the last thing we feel like doing is going to practice. Times when we wonder why we put ourselves through this crazy schedule and insane amount of work.

But there will be times of great celebration on the ice this season. There will be new bonds. New experiences together. There will be little girls in the stands who remind us why we do what we do. There will be friends with shoulders to lean on when things get tough. And it will all be so rewarding when things finally start to click.

And when it’s all over, and it’s March and the ice and snow begins to melt and the games are done, we are going to take a break. And we are going to enjoy it. But a few weeks later we are just going to be wishing we could be back at practice, playing the game we love…Wishing it could be October all over again.

Happy Hockey Season.

 

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A New Season, A Blank Slate

Well, this week has certainly been an eventful one in Blades land, to say the least. I wanted to take some time to write about the draft, our new assistant coach, and of course, the trade. 

The Draft

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The CWHL Draft was on Sunday and it was my second draft as a GM. Last season the draft seemed to go really quickly; it was probably over in about an hour. This year it went the full two hours we’d scheduled for it, thanks to 80+ draft entrants and many players willing to play in different CWHL cities.

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With Kayla Tutino – the first overall pick of the CWHL Draft.

I’m going to through my top ten draft picks and describe them as best possible:

  1. Kayla Tutino (F, Boston University): We will look to her for a lot of offensive power this season. She also brings leadership from BU which will be a great addition to our locker room.
  2. Chelsey Goldberg (F, Northeastern): Another really great forward who will add to our depth. She’s dealt with some injuries (breaking both legs though thankfully not at once) and after taking a year off, she’s ready to get back in the game. Her personality is very laid back (she’s a California girl after all) but her passion for the game is undeniable. Really excited to have her.
  3. Cassandra Opela (D, UConn): Stay at home defenseman, but a player with size and one who can definitely hold down the blue line. It was really important for us to add depth on D and she will be a huge part of this.
  4. Meghan Grieves (F, Boston College):  Her scoring touch will definitely be helpful this season, especially considering she has already bonded with so many Blades given her alma mater. I can’t wait to see what her line is capable of this season. She’s also a very friendly and upbeat personality who will be great for the locker room.
  5. Dakota Woodworth (F, Boston University): Another important addition for depth up front, we really look forward to adding Dakota’s talents to the team. She has a great character and will definitely be a great addition.
  6. Margaret Zimmer (F, UConn): From the first time I saw Zim play at Hockey East championships, I knew I wanted her on the Blades. I love her perserverance and she also has a bit of a scoring touch as well. She’s a good physical presence too.
  7. Kikuchi Sato (D, Japan’s Nippon Sports Science University):  Depth on D was another area we wanted to fulfill in the draft, and Sato is definitely going to help us there. I’m excited to have her on our team. She’s very friendly, outgoing and grateful for the chance to play with us.
  8. Taylor McGee (D, Holy Cross): Taylor is a friend of Nicole Giannino and came highly recommended to us. After watching her play at our prospects camp and in the Beantown Classic, I can confidently say she will be a great addition to our blue line too.
  9. Melissa Bizzari (F, Boston College): I had approached Melissa about playing for us last season but the timing wasn’t right for her. Then she realized how much she missed the game and decided to come back, and we’re very happy to have her.
  10. Lauren Dahm (G, Clarkson): Dahm came out to our prospects camp in May and I am really glad she did. She moves well and even though she graduated college in 2011 remains an incredibly athletic goalie. I enjoyed watching her play and I think she would be a great addition to the team.

So there we have it – of course nothing is set in stone until tryouts and anything can happen but we have picked up a lot of depth in all areas and I’m really excited to see what everyone brings to the table when we start skating.

A New Assistant Coach

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An assistant coach was a need I’d felt we’d had for a while. Coach McCloskey is a great coach though it is hard to manage a roster of 25 by yourself. Enter Mike Diamantopoulos (aka Coach Dymo). I met him through women’s ball hockey while he was coaching, though he has played ice hockey his entire life and in college. When he and Coach McCloskey met, I thought they were a good match for each other. Dymo’s goal had always been to get into coaching ice hockey and I’m really excited to bring him on this season. I think Coach McCloskey can serve as a great coaching mentor – he has such a wealth of experience and a fierce love for the game.

The Trade

If you haven’t read Hannah Bevis’ article on the ins and outs of the trade, go do that now.  No doubt there is no replacing Lacasse and I will miss the laughs she brought to our team.

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Genevieve, always cheesin.

But I want to reiterate that the Blades will still be in a great spot this season. With the number of goalies we drafted and some free agents coming to camp, there is a lot of competition to be on our roster, and that’s a good thing. I have full confidence that whoever we end up rostering will get the job done and then some.

It’s a new season for us, a blank slate. And all of us – players, staff, coaches – will be ready.

 

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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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