Little girls can’t become what they can’t see.
Interview with WisconsinPrepHockey.com on January 22nd. Read the full interview here.
NWHL defenseman, Alyssa Gagliardi, was born in Pittsburgh, PA before moving to Raleigh, North Carolina where she began playing hockey at the age of 8. Gagliardi transferred to Shattuck St. Mary’s (SSM) in Faribault, MN to pursue her dream of one-day playing college hockey in 2006 After four successful years at SSM, where she won a National Championship, Gagliardi played Division I hockey at Cornell University where she lead her team to four ECAC championships. Gagliardi earned her spot as an assistant captain her junior year and a captain to the Big Red team her senior year.
Her senior year at Cornell was one for the books: she earned 1st team All-Ivy, 1st team All-ECAC Hockey, 2ndTeam All-American, 2nd Team All-USCHO and was a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award. Currently, she sits at number 5 for the all time best +/- in Cornell Women’s Hockey history. She also competed in two Four Nations Cups with Team USA and competed with the Team USA U-22 select team against Canada in 2014.
As if that isn’t impressive enough, Gagliardi finished with a degree in Communications and went on to play professionally in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). Gagliardi also participated in the 1st CWHL All-Star game.
In 2015, she joined the Boston Pride of the newly formed National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). She also participated in the 1st NWHL All-Star game. She was a part of the first-ever team to win the Isobel Cup (equivalent to the Stanley Cup) with the Boston Pride.
She is now entering her fourth season with the Boston Pride and has notched 28 points (3 goals, 25 assists) for the Pride throughout her professional career. She also runs hockey camps throughout North Carolina. You can learn more about her camps here: http://www.ag2hockey.com.
What is it like being in the NWHL?
It’s really special being a part of the NWHL. I think sometimes I have to pinch myself to remember that it’s an amazing time to be a professional female athlete and to be able to still be playing the game I love. Even just a few years ago when I was in college, there weren’t many opportunities after that. To see the way the NWHL has given so many great players places to play at the highest level after college and get to be a professional is pretty amazing.
What does a typical day of training look like for you?
Since professional women’s hockey doesn’t allow us to make a living just off playing hockey yet, I do work full time in addition to training and playing so it definitely adds a little challenge getting all of my training in but to do anything you love takes sacrifice.
We practice two days a week (Tuesday and Thursday) later in the evening, and then I typically try to get 2-3 off-ice workouts in during the week. I usually workout around 5:30am before I go to work, but putting in the work on and off the ice is essential to maintaining strength and conditioning and creating confidence knowing you’ve put in the work and are ready to compete.
The NHL’s Boston Bruins franchise recently announced that they have agreed to partner with the NWHL Boston Pride. Can you explain what types of changes you will be expecting, if any? What does it mean to you to have the support from the NHL?
It’s really huge to have the support the Boston Bruins. I was always hoping something would happen eventually but wasn’t sure it would happen while I was still playing. We have a really great product on the ice for fans and we believe the Bruins see that, too.
In terms of changes, since we’re already over halfway through the season when the partnership was announced, I know the Bruins are helping with marketing and making sure our last few home games are sell outs. We’re also partnering with them on an all-girls learn to play program which is exciting.
Longer-term, I think playing at TD Garden would be a cool next step and hosting some kind of double-header with the Bruins. Also getting to have the same exposure as they do around the community and with TV coverage would be huge.
You’ve played such a large role in the growth of game of hockey for females in America, what is the next step to growing the game?
I think there are a few things that need to happen to continue really growing the game.
First, we need more exposure. We need games on TV, we need coverage on the city sports updates and in the papers. Right now, girls can only be exposed to our game if they psychically come to a game. While we love when that happens, it’s limiting to a certain extent. Little girls can’t become what they can’t see and that’s a really big first step.
Along the lines of media coverage, we really need to change the narrative and coverage of women’s sports. So much of the storylines are worn out. It’s always about the inequality of women’s sports and our lack of pay, and not the actual product on the ice. There’s only so many ways to spin the same story and I think a big next step is changing the narrative to be on par with that of our male counterparts.
Lastly, the obvious financial component is one of the biggest things. If Leagues truly want to put the best product on the ice, women need to be paid as full-time employees to train and compete at the maximum level. We have a few girls on the National Team that get to do that because they’re compensated well and that’s what we’re hoping for all players moving forward.
Where do you see the NWHL in the future?
I’m hopeful the NWHL continues to grow, and ultimately that there’s one league for the best women’s hockey players in the world. The NWHL started at a really perfect time to grow the game and opportunities in the states like the CWHL had done in Canada. There’s clearly a split of players in both leagues and in other places around the world, so the hope is that eventually everyone’s under one League and it’s thriving with the best of the best.
What would you say to aspiring young athletes that are aiming to play in the NWHL?
First and foremost, make sure you’re having fun. Make sure you love coming to the rink and finding ways to get better all of the time. Be coachable. Make sure when coaches tell you to improve on something it’s because they care about you and want to help you. At any level you play at, you have to be a great teammate – be supportive, be encouraging and push each other. You don’t do anyone a favor by not giving it your 100% effort.
Lastly, make sure you’re setting goals along the way! I don’t think people, in general, think enough about setting short-term and long-term goals but it’s especially helpful for kids and something I really encourage. If you want to play in college or the NWHL one day, ask yourself what you’re doing today to get a little closer to that. Then set a goal for what you’re going to do that week, that month, that year, to push a little closer.