Women’s hockey is changing. Within the last few months, fans of the sport have seen the professional arena grow. With the creation of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) set to skate into rinks around the Northeast this coming season; it’s the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) that has made a name for itself among avid fans. With teams in Canada, one US team, and a possible expansion on the horizon, the CWHL is aiming to keep the league front and center.
The reigning Clarkson Cup champion, Boston Blades, will see some changes this season. One change that fans of the team should be excited about comes in the form of newly appointed GM Krista Patronick.
“Patronick’s most recent role was in marketing and operations with the New England Stars and Maine Wild of the NA3EHL,” via a CWHL release naming Patronick to the position. “Prior to this she held roles in marketing and communications in junior and collegiate hockey. Patronick holds a masters in sports management from Southern New Hampshire University.”
In addition to a decorated resume, Patronick possesses a passion for hockey both on and off the ice. Those passions include time defending the crease as a goaltender. Patronick has also been a key contributor and photographer for The Pink Puck.
The Pink Puck had the opportunity to go one-on-one with Patronick to discuss the state of women’s hockey and where she hopes to take the Blades this coming season.
The Pink Puck: Where do you plan on taking this team, and what key pieces are you looking for in a player?
GM Patronick: I really look forward to building on the legacy that the previous coaching and management staff has created – one of success on and off the ice. I’m confident we can continue that legacy but also that I can take the team to the next level in terms of finding a top-notch coach, stepping up our marketing/communications, and securing important sponsorships that the team has been missing in the past.
In terms of what I’m looking for in a player, I’m looking for both compete level and character…a commitment to growing women’s hockey in a sustainable way. Someone who seeks the best competition, and rises to the occasion in tough game situations. I’m looking for a player who is combination of inspiration for her peers in the locker room as well as talent on the ice.
The Pink Puck: What challenges do you think you’ll face with the NWHL being active this season? Has that changed your mindset going in?
GM Patronick: It hasn’t really changed my mindset going in, because no matter what I am committed to bringing in the best team possible to play in this league. I think the NWHL’s presence is an opportunity for us in the CWHL to rise to the occasion, much like I will see our players doing on the ice every single weekend. We are going to work hard to build up our draft so we can bring in talented NCAA players who are looking to play with the best of the best in women’s hockey. We have seen a 30% increase in players entering our draft compared to this time last year, which is a clear sign that players look to our league for the highest level of competition.
It’s both an exciting and challenging undertaking, what are you most looking forward to this season?
I’m looking forward to being creative in our marketing and just having a lot of fun with that this season. I’m also looking forward to our first home game and what that experience will be like for me from a GM perspective as opposed to a team volunteer or a member of the press. It’s going to be really exciting.
The Pink Puck: Hockey is obviously a huge part of your life. But it’s difficult for women to have a place to go after college. How do you prepare a young girl for the absolute passion and devotion she will need to commit when there is currently little monetary gains for all that effort?
GM Patronick: I think you just have to tell that young girl what the reality currently is but that it doesn’t always have to be this way, and she can be part of building the sport’s future. Women’s sports in general have only made huge gains relatively recently. Women were banned from running the Olympic marathon until 1984, if you can believe it. That’s just insane to me because that’s within my lifetime. If we continue to build women’s hockey in a sustainable way, she will get a living wage for playing the game…but it starts with us now, spreading the message that women’s hockey is worth the investment.
The Pink Puck: Could you share your feelings when you found out you were being appointed as the General Manager of the Boston Blades? What was that first reaction?
GM Patronick: I was really happy and excited! I have such a passion for this sport, so for me to be that go-to person for the team, I obviously wanted to jump at that opportunity.
The Pink Puck: Women’s hockey has been getting a little more publicity, especially with the announcement of the NWHL. What do you see as the pros and cons of this attention?
GM Patronick: As for advantages, I hope it inspires women of all ages who love the game, to support the professional women’s game and also start playing the game themselves. Hockey really is a sport that you can pick up at any age and enjoy it. I play hockey with so many women who started playing just because their kids did. The more women who play, the better it is for the sport, no matter what level they’re playing at.
As for cons, the sexualization and objectification of women in sports is something that concerns me. The more the sport spreads, unfortunately those negative things can also come with it. I was a gender studies minor in college and took a course in graduate school called the Sociology of Sport, which really fascinated me. Playing the sport or enjoying the sport sometimes comes with judgements from people. It’s part of the landscape unfortunately and the issue isn’t unique to hockey.
The Pink Puck: What is the biggest misconception of women’s hockey that fans of the sport have? How would you help change that?
GM Patronick: I think the biggest misconception is that because there’s no hitting, it’s not a physical game or it’s not an exciting game. I think the only way to change that is to keep spreading the game, because once people really see it, they’ll see those misconceptions are just that – misconceptions.
The Pink Puck: How did your involvement with The Pink Puck expose you to the business side of hockey and to the plight of women’s hockey?
GM Patronick: Seeing the inner workings of professional hockey organizations from a press perspective definitely helped me as I transitioned to the management side of the business. Because I’ve come from the press side, I really prize our relationship with the press, and I recognize how important it is. Press is how we spread the game. It’s how we draw attention to issues that need to be talked about. It’s tough work, and it’s thankless work sometimes, but it’s vital to growing women’s hockey. You guys are dedicated to that, so thank you for your hard work.