This writer had the pleasure of attending a Connecticut Whale game this afternoon at the temple like Ingalls Rink on the campus of Yale University.
Never before had I covered women’s professional hockey, so I was excited about the prospect of observing an up and coming league that might have disruptive potential.
The game was not actually a league game, but a friendly of sorts against visiting Team Korea.
The atmosphere in the arena was glorious, the confluence of high octane athletes, and a very appreciative crowd gave the NWHL a very fresh face from my perspective.
I have covered the NFL, the NBA, MLB, the list goes on and on.
The @CTWhale_NWHL defeated team Korea today 4-1 in a rousing victory.
Here is my write up on the potential of the @NWHL as whole.
— TastieFish (@TastieFish) December 30, 2017
There is no difference between what I saw this afternoon, and my previous experiences as a sports reporter.
These girls jump off the ice, a clean but sophisticated brand of hockey that could instigate nation wide interest in the sport.
The fans showed up to support the local club, and watch world class hockey, the fact that the athletes were women was incidental, the spectators regarded them as competitors.
As I watched the competition unfold, and absorbed the absolute delight from the fans, I started envisioning the league having 20 teams all over the country, perhaps a few in Canada, and lets say they cut a modest televison deal with a terrestrial network once the league successfully expands.
At that point the league could focus on branding, digital campaigns, endorsement contracts for the athletes.
I spoke with a team official for the Whale, and he informed me that the organization is in the process of revamping itself, including expanding it’s online presence.
In talking to him, I got the sense that the product is actually ahead of the methods, the teams are gaining popularity so quickly, the organizers are actually having to adjust how they are presented.
Which is great! Such a quandary implies growth, progress.
The NWHL as a whole has serious potential as a brand, the product is viable, teams like the Connecticut Whale could captivate young women all over the country, it could provide young hockey players with a domestic destination.
Over the last two years, I have covered the WNBA, and in that pursuit, I spent an extended amount of time with front office figures, chatted with a couple owners, even spent time with the Commissioner.
The biggest problem facing that league is branding, and exposure, the product is consistent with world class expectation, but the league is having trouble reaching the marketplace because of budget restrictions.
In essense, the WNBA needs someone to invest actual resources, it’s a budding plant that needs more water.
I smelled that same scent in the arena tonight.
There is so many people in sports with money to spend, people that dream about building a successful league one step at a time, the NWHL is a surefire bet for anyone that is willing to take the chance, including local television outlets.
The Connecticut Whale, just like any other professional sports team, are a family friendly attraction, the perfect excuse to take the kids out and enjoy a jovial atmosphere.
The Whale players are also tremendous role models, they were superheros to the good amount of children in attendance.
They reminded me of the US Womens National Soccer team, a team brimming with passion and confidence, at various points this afternoon I was reminded of my time with that club.
The players were very accessible to the fans including a series of awesome interactions with the kids that waited outside the tunnel to greet them.
In a hockey crazy state like Connecticut, the team could easily become a massive draw with enough exposure, why local television outlets have not signed on to televise the Whale games is another question for another day.
The team already has supporters all over the place, I had numerous conversations with fans that traveled from a distance to watch the game, and plan to watch more.
Connecticut does not have any notable professional sports teams outside of the Connecicut Whale, The Connecticut Sun, and a couple baseball teams.
The Whale have the athletes, the following, and the swag to become a major league attraction in Connecticut, it will take time of course, but the product is getting closer to being cultivated.