With 40 minutes until puck drop, Boston Blades general manager Krista Patronick looks at her phone and then down at the ice. The high school team that’s been on the ice since she arrived an hour and half ago are still playing. She looks back at her phone again before grabbing one of the volunteers.
They dash down the stairs, down the hallway lined with numerous locker rooms, and out to ice level. They find a teenage boy at the helm of the clock. Patronick talks to him, the clock changes to a minute, and he scampers away. She taps her fingers on the table as the clock wind down.
She sets 40 minutes on the clock and starts it. Patronick heads back down the hall and up the stairs. Its just one of the multiple trips up and down the stairs she takes on game day. “I checked my FitBit one game and it said 17 flights. Felt about right,” Patronick said.
Chasing teams off her ice time is just one of the duties she has on game day.
Her day at the rink starts about two hours before puck drop. “I like to be the first one here,” she said. “Though I think Brownie [Kristina Brown] beat me today.” She begins pulling hoodies, shirts, hats, and more out of one of the three hockey bags she has on the ground, setting up the merchandise table first, right in front of the doors.
The entrance at Walter Brown Arena at Boston University opens into a balcony, with a bit of room to watch from over the ice. The Blades use as a welcoming area, and the ticket and merchandise table is the first thing you see when you enter the rink. It serves as a way to introduce those that wander in and out of the college arena to the Blades.
Patronick grabs a plastic bag full of orange tape and orange laces for Puck MS night and heads down to the locker rooms. She takes stock of what’s open as she walks past the multiple open doors. Though Walter Brown is home to the BU women’s hockey team, the high school boy’s program seems to have spread themselves out across a few locker rooms. It’s a slight logistical issue — they found out last weekend the showers in the other area were broken, a problem Patronick isn’t sure is fixed.
It’s the team’s first season playing at BU. Walter Brown was the top rink Patronick wanted the team to play at, and the first arena she reached out to when she received her schedule. Last season the team played at a community rink outside of Boston, in an area only accessible by car. She knew that needed to change. “If I wanted to attract better players, we’d have to play in Boston,” she said.
Her ideal schedule fell together nicely, minimizing the amount of games at community rinks and maximizing them at college arenas. Ice time is hard enough to come by, let alone booking the three hours she needs for the games. Playing at college arenas has a side benefit of being able to partner with the home team. Patronick said the BU women’s staff has been great this season, promoting the games and coming out to them as well. Plus, with a team laden with BU alumna, Walter Brown provides a friendly place to play.
Brown, Sato Kikuchi, and Nachi Fujimoto have claimed their usual locker room. Patronick drops off the tape as the three players chat in somewhat broken English.
Back up on the balcony, volunteers start to trickle in and prep for puck drop. Patronick writes out the game sheet while answering questions from volunteers and players.
“I think this season has definitely been easier, just because I know the routine and everything like that. When I first came in getting the game day routine down was just so crazy because I had never done anything like that before,” the second-year GM said. “So just getting all that stuff down and figuring little stuff, like working the clock and all of that and have it all come together was kind of a process. You have to kinda go through it a couple of times. Now it’s like clockwork. When I roll up to the rink, I just kinda do what I do and that’s it.”
With an hour until puck drop, rookie forward Nicole Giannino walks over. She still hasn’t written down who will be getting her comp tickets yet. As her mother is dropping the ceremonial puck for MS night, most of the Giannino family will be here. Patronick oversees her list and collects her tickets.
“People always ask when I’m going to have kids. I say I already have 25,” she says laughing. The last-minute ticket request is just one of the fires Patronick puts out throughout the game for her players.
After ensuring the ceremonial puck drop goes well, she heads back up to the balcony to help out at the merchandise table and watch the game. Often shorthanded on volunteers, Patronick pitches in wherever she is needed. Today, she’s also tweeting from the Blades Twitter account.
The perch above the ice provides what one may think of as a typical GM’s view of a game. Patronick can see the whole rink, watch plays develop or break down.
Though her game day duties may differ from an NHL GM, her non-game day duties don’t. “I get a lot of emails. I feel like I could spend hours and hours and hours on emails,” she says laughing. “I handle stuff with them [the players] off the ice. There’s so many facets to the job: whether that’s game day stuff, dealing with players, recruiting, financial, running events, all of it.”
She cites dropping the puck at last season’s All-Star Game with the four other GMs as a turning point for her. “After that I kinda went home and was like ‘I can’t do the 9-5 desk job anymore and do this. I just can’t give both 100 percent.’” Patronick ended up quitting her full-time job during the offseason to focus on being a GM full-time.
“You don’t see a lot of women working with money, making business decisions, scouting, recruiting. You don’t see a lot of that, and I love that I get to do that,” she said.
And it shows. Patronick is rarely not smiling on game day. There’s a lot of laughter amongst her and volunteers and anyone she interacts with.
The biggest smile might be when the Blades scored their only goal of the game. “I love hearing our goal song,” she said.
Patronick starts to pack up with a few minutes left in the game. Everything goes back in the hockey bags they were brought in. She uses them because they can fit so much, though she realizes she probably should have found something with wheels.
The late third period goal wasn’t enough for the Blades as they fell to the Furies, 3 - 1.
Patronick heads down to the hallway to check on her players after the game. They file out past her, saying goodbye and checking in on the schedule for tomorrow.
Even at 2-17-1 this season, Patronick’s positive outlook comes through on this season. “We’re kind of past what my goal was, which is to do better than last season. I just want to see our team get better and better and stronger.”
Favorite city: Montreal, “for poutine reasons”
Favorite rink team plays at: UMass Lowell, because she’s a Lowell alum
Dream draft: Spooner, Poulin, Lacasse, Chu, Bellamy
“I didn’t go that far back because I feel like when you start to open up that far you start to open that can of worms like Wick [Hayley Wickenheiser], [Angela] Ruggiero, so many. So I just went kind recent.”