We recently had the chance to catch up with Anya Battaglino on She Plays: The Podcast. Anya is the Executive Director of the NWHL Players’ Association and a former player for the Connecticut Whales in the NWHL (National Women’s Hockey League) and CWHL (Canadian Women’s Hockey League). Here are a few things Anya shared with us about her role with the NWHL and the best way for new and seasoned fans to help grow the NWHL this season.
Q: What Does it Look Like to be Executive Director of a Players’ Association?
A: I manage contracts, work with a lot of legal scenarios, manage communication with players, help solve problems that arise and negotiate benefits, work with vendors, sponsors, and more …it can be head spinning. And at the end of the day, my goal is to always move the players forward, and never backwards.
Q: What Can We Look Forward to This Season in the NWHL?
- All games are streaming on Twitch! (Learn more).
- It will help people to see the people, meet the players beyond the jersey, and also see the games!
- Having many fans help grow the NWHL and women’s hockey as a whole through things like getting out to games, hosting watch parties, and talking about us.
Q: What’s the Atmosphere Like at a Hockey Game?
A: In any sporting event, it’s fun. But at a hockey game, it’s more communal, it feels a lot more intimate – and it’s usually wild. There are big hits, loud plays, goals, you can actually hear the puck rip off the post in the entire stadium. It is such a captivating thing to be there. To me, going to a hockey game…there’s no better feeling. And as a player on the ice, watching people get fired up about what we’re doing, that fires us up.
Where are the NWHL Teams Located?
- Minnesota Whitecaps
- Boston Pride
- Buffalo Beauts
- Connecticut Whales
- Metropolitan Riveters (NJ)
Q: What Misconceptions Do You Hear About Women’s Hockey? Is it Different Than Men’s Hockey?
A: The main misperceptions are that women’s hockey is boring, slow, and that there’s no physicality.
Women’s hockey is a skill-based sport. It is actually very fast. Passes and shots are very quick and sharp. And there is a lot of physicality – not the center ice huge check that’s usually ending in a penalty. But there’s good hard physicality, a lot of intensity and power from players on the ice.
Once in awhile, we’ll hear someone at a game in the stands say “we thought those were dudes”. And I’m like yeah. There’s no difference – we’re giving fans the same product. Except that at the end of a women’s hockey game, you can meet the players, get their autographs, and get a lot more out of the fan experience. And yet, the women’s game is still seldom appreciated for what it is.
Q: How Can Fans (New and Seasoned) Support the NWHL?
- Buy jerseys with players’ names on the back – the commission for these go right to the players.
- Talk about us. Talk about women’s hockey, about the NWHL.
- Watch the games on Twitch
- Interact with us via Twitter and other social channels. The more engagement and impressions we have, the more we can attract sponsors, get more funding, and continue to grow the league.
- ….Be in touch, be involved, share about us, talk about us.
Q: What Do You Hope Improves for Women’s Equality in Sports?
If people can’t see it, they won’t invest in it, support it, even learn about it. It doesn’t necessarily take millions of dollars right away (Although women’s sports deserves that, deserves more of that). But when sponsors, even on a smaller scale, start to support different opportunities in women’s sports, like a commercial with two women’s hockey players in it, it makes a huge difference. We hope that brands start to invest, on any level, and share our story.
Intro to Hockey Lingo
Anya also shared a few of the common terms that newer hockey fans should know when watching your first few games:
Offsides – When a player goes into their offensive end before the puck does.
Icing – When a player clears the puck out of your own zone all the way down to the other end with no one touching it.
Penalties – Those happen for big checks, hitting people with your stick, intentionally shooting it out of the rink when you’re defending, tripping, knocking out players, etc.
Q: Any Final Thoughts for Fans to Know?
We always want to progress forward. To do that, we need to increase viewership, touchpoints, clicks. Talk about women’s hockey this season. Learn about it, watch it, follow it, and share it.
Follow Anya Battaglino on Twitter @battaglinoa, and listen to the full podcast episode with Anya. Wondering which team you should follow most closely this year? Take our quiz which will help you figure out which NWHL team might be “your team”.