By David F. Pendrys
The NWHL was gracious enough to invite the media onto a conference call with Commissioner Dani Rylan and Deputy Commissioner Hayley Moore took questions on a wide variety of subjects. So many great questions were asked and I will leave reacting to questions by other reporters until after reading their pieces. But here is reaction to questions I posed to the two officials.
Commissioner Rylan opened the call saying the league hoped to have many exciting announcements to come in the weeks and months ahead. This is both legitimate teasing for the future, as it looks like the NWHL has plenty more to unveil. This also would be a phrase utilized when the league was not ready to announce something. Fair enough.
After the surprise re-brand of the Boston Pride, I asked if any of the other teams branding would be changing, Commissioner Rylan did not issue a denial instead saying again there would be exciting announcements to come. This would strongly suggest there will be at least one more branding change if not more. The Pride’s brand change made a lot of sense. The original logo while good, was somewhat different from the other three. Will be interesting to see if colors or logos change with the other franchises. A lot goes into designs. There is a science to what makes a logo work. Note for instance the staying power of the Hartford Whalers logo versus the quick departure of “The Fisherman” New York Islanders logo.
Another thread pursued was the issue of who was making decisions on player personnel. A fine piece by Erica Ayala on Moore opened up some questions as the league transitioned how “front office” decisions worked for year three.
When asked who the decision makers were on player signings, and who would be making the calls on future player movement. Moore admitted that with the turnover in personnel over the off-season it was “more of a group effort.” She reiterated her role as a resource to all of the coaching staffs, but did suggest more would be shifting to the coaches in terms of player movement authority. It sounds like the transition over the past three years from four teams with four owners, and four GMs to the current model resulted in some improvisation.
For a small league still building itself, the result makes sense in several respects. Rather than having to pay four General Managers, they can centralize those roles, and also Moore has the player development role, which will be covered more in a minute. It makes sense in terms of resources and with two coaching staffs turning over it did create a vacuum that needed to be filled.
On the other hand, I wonder if such a system is maintainable, and that may not be the long term plan. I regret not asking further on that note. Four teams even with the unified goal of growing the game, are still competing. There has got to be times their interests for players will clash. This is not only human nature, but also part of the allure of sports, the competition for talent. Fans enjoy that drama. Just listen to Taylor Sedona Clark’s pleas for NHL offer sheets on The Outliers every week as one example.
It would make sense as soon as the league can make it viable to make the teams far more independent of each other in this regard for both their own sake and for story lines. Now to be fair, if they have worked out a system of haggling and wheeling and dealing under this structure, so be it.
One of the awesome things about Moore’s role (also explained in Ayala’s piece.) is player development, which includes helping players settle in their markets and a lot more. When asked if over the years the league has increased it’s ability to help players find employment as part of the process, Moore was quick to say “Absolutely.” She noted that for former college athletes who had a structured situation in terms of academics and athletics, the post college situation can be difficult. She went on to explain that over the years, the resources available to the league have grown, and more connections made in the various markets.
“Many companies are looking for these players to work for them,” Moore said going on to mention their discipline shown through athletics is attractive to companies.
This is a positive step. Hopefully over time league salaries increase so players can just play, but in the meantime, “day jobs” are clearly going to play a role in who can play the game and where. The fact that the league has a better ability to assist them in this is critical.
It is clear that Moore’s position is a necessary and welcome one and she seems well suited for it by all I’ve seen so far.