FanPost

Favorite Players Across Women's Hockey

These FanPosts seem kinda lonely lately. And also since it’s getting to be the slow point of ice hockey offseason (the dreaded month of August for ice hockey fans), I thought I would write a little TIG FanPost about my Top 10 favorite hockey players in women’s side of hockey the reasons why they make my list. I'm sure everyone has their personal faves.

Hopefully this post will be as fun for you to read as much as it was for me to write, especially considering there ain’t much ice hockey going on right now. Also note: the storyteller in me takes over at times. Normally I would post this stuff on Twitter and tag The Ice Garden, but I don’t have one at the moment and I’m not sure I’ll get back on anytime soon, so if you read this and want to share it on the Twitter: feel free, and thanks!

Top 10 Favorite Current Players

Nicole Hensley

This list is in no particular order, other than that this player is #1. The players I’m a fan of the most-most are the ones who helped me discover something I had not known about previously. In this case, it was the same hockey season in which I became a fan of the new NWHL, the league which instantly made me a full-fledged WHKY fan. After following the inaugural NWHL season, I became interested in the IIHF Women’s World Championship, which was being held in Kamloops that year (2016). I get on my phone to take a look at the USWNT roster, and behold, the first words I see are "Lindenwood Universty." My jaw dropped.

There was this goalie named Nicole Hensley from Lindenwood dwelling in the goalie slot that I thought Brianne McLaughlin would have been in. And this was on a team consisting of players who were playing in the Northeast, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Nicole was the only one on the team not of those three areas. Anyway, that’s how I discovered there was a D1 NCAA women’s hockey team at Lindenwood in my own hometown. (I later found out about the D1 ACHA Lindenwood Lynx after Stephanie Mock signed with the Whale in ’17-’18). Hopefully more hockey fans have knowledge of the D1 Lady Lions after that Gold Medal thing happened.

Jincy Dunne

While Nicole is from elsewhere and played at Lindenwood, Jincy is actually from St. Louis (more from the St. Charles/St. Peters/O’Fallon area, where most pro hockey players from the GSTLA are from). Like most St. Louis hockey fans, I found out about her when she scored that Golden Goal in that U18 game. And she’s like this really good hockey player too. I’ll root for her to make China ’22. It’s fun hear about the other Dunne’s as well, like Jessica (who’s also plays at OSU), I heard Josie committed to the Gophs, and reports came out saying Josh did good at the Blues prospects camp. Get ‘er Dunne, Dunnes.

Devon Skeats

Like many of us, I became a WHKY fan slowly through the Olympic Games, and once the new NWHL formed, I finally became a huge fan. My only speculation at the point was: whichever NWHL team has the most US players will win it all, and I held on to that idea for a little bit. But then, one day I’m watching a Beauts game and I see this player Devon Skeats flying down the ice going crazy, and I’m like, "WHO IS THIS PLAYER?!" And that’s when I realized that it wasn’t just about the Olympians, just like in most other sports, it’s never just about the Olympians.

I’m sure there’s that player for everybody that made them realize that there is more to this than game than just the Olympic players, and that player is Skeats for me. And either way, you can’t not like Skeatsy: wins championships in both North American leagues, and she seems to have those fun awkward moments happen to her. Such moments I compare to when Jennifer Lawrence tripped on the steps going up to get and award, and the reaction to one of my Facebook friends was, "Now I just love her more!" It might just be me, but I feel like Skeats has a lot of those moments, and it makes us Skeats fans like her more!

Lara Stalder

I actually found out about the superstar Lara by reading an Ice Garden article about her killer senior season at UMD, which was helpful for me, as I had been planning to go to Women’s Worlds in Plymouth since it was announced after Kamloops. I wanted to learn about as many players as possible heading into that tournament, and that article about Lara’s season at UMD helped a lot. Not only that, but I was thinking on buying baseball caps of every national team at the USA Hockey arena in an attempt to get as many autographs as possible.

So when I finally arrived at the USA Hockey arena, they allowed us to go through the doors 15 minutes early to let us see the USAHA Shop. I was so excited to see all the gear from all the national teams in the shop, but there was a slight hiccup…there was only USA gear in the shop…meaning the shop looked exactly as it does all year—no Swiss hats, no German hats, and not even Canada hats. And that was the reality of the shop for the entire event.

So I was watching the first game between the Swiss and the Czechs, and I saw a lot of Swiss fans sitting in a certain section, and I figured, "Well I don’t know much about either of these teams, so I’ll just sit by them!" And the game was fun—it went to a shootout and all. So after the game ended, I went to the bar-restaurant that was inside the arena. Having that bar in the arena was a great arrangement, considering Plymouth is a small town, and not to mention it was happy hour each day after the first game! So anyway, I’m at the bar chillin’, and guess who walks in? Lara Stalder. Lara was in there for just a minute talking to either family or friends at the nearest booth, and I was bitter as I was thinking to myself, "If only the USA Hockey Arena Shop had other gear besides just US gear."

So anyway, Lara left the bar. But then, not even a minute after this Swiss fan couple, whom I had recognized from the stands, walked into the bar and they sat next to me. So I start talking to them and I tell them what I was just thinking about, how Lara was just in there and if I had a hat I would have got it signed and all. But then the lady, whose name was Regula, said, "Oh, well our daughter has a hat and she said she doesn’t want it, so she can get it signed by Lara Stalder and give to you." And I was like, "Well that’s cool!" So yeah, they are the parents of one of Lara’s teammates.

So a couple game days later, I hang with my new hockey fan friends Bruno et Regula during the Germany-Switzerland game, and then I continue to hang out with them in the lobby after the game was over. And at some point their daughter popped in and hung out for a few minutes, and then she left. And then about ten-fifteen minutes later, she comes back, and there it is—in her hands is her Swiss hat, signed by Lara Stalder #7, and she said something like, "Here you go." My face probably lit up, I was like, "What! No way, for real??" So now I have an authentic Swiss hat that briefly belonged to a player who has since played in the Winter Olympics.

I probably would have added Tess to this favorite players list solely because she gave me her hat, but I can imagine she may not like that, you know why? Here’s what I base it on: remember how I mentioned earlier how I wanted to get as many autographs as possible? So even though I didn’t know who she was prior to all that, I pulled out a sharpie and said, "Well, you can sign it too if want to." "No, that’s just for Lara Stalder!" she said, as she was waving her arms like a ref waving off a goal, "That’s just for Lara Stalder!" Tess was a rookie, so her name being on the same thing as superstar Lara Stalder, well, she just wouldn’t have it. Nothing shouts hockey player more than such a world-class stance as that.

Anyway, by this point you might have forgot this was a Top 10 list, but that story is easily my favorite one to tell from Womens Worlds 2017. Couldn’t resist!

So what was I doing again? Oh yeah, on with the Top 10 Faves.

Taylor Girard

Star player at Lindenwood. If you thought the team wouldn’t be the same after Shara Jasper and Nicole Hensley graduated, you now Taylor, Jolene DeBruyn, and others in the leading roles.

Shiann Darkangelo

Certainly helps that she has one of the coolest names in the game. I’ve been a fan of her each team she’s been on (which is a different one every year), and when she was on the USWNT in Kamloops. I was sad that she wasn’t on the US team in Plymouth, as she is from Michigan. But the silver lining for me when I was at those Worlds Championships was that I wore Shi Dark’s CT Whale jersey during games USA played; and because I was wearing a jersey with her name on it, there must have been several people who came up to me and asked me if I knew her or was related to her. Each time I smiled and said, "Nope, I’m just a fan."

One of the guys told me his daughter played with Shi Dark back in the day. Another fun thing about having that Shi Dark Whale jersey, which was mostly blue at the time, was wearing it to Blues games. There’s a player on the Blues named Alex Pietrangelo, who wears the same number as Darkangelo, which is #27. So whenever I went to a Blues game with it on, I never did receive any comments on the jersey, but I surefire believe that people were confused in their heads, associating Pietrangelo #27 with Darkangelo #27.

Also, back when I was a wee young lad, there was this game that came out on my birthday in 2000 called Perfect Dark, where you played as a secret agent named Joanna Dark, who is referred to as "Agent Dark" many times throughout the game. One of my all time favorite games, but I also tend to refer to Shiann as "Agent Dark" a lot in reference to the game, and also because she has been on a different team each year since the NWHL has formed (Connecticut Whale, Buffalo Beauts, and the CWHL’s Kunlun Red Star).

Melanie Jue

Another player who was once at Lindenwood, except she didn’t play at Lindenwood, she was actually a coach. So when CWHL added the KRS team, Mel joined, and not only that, she played for Team China in an exhibition game against the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts. Kind of like Nic Hens, I was in shock and awe when I realized, "Wait, that was the assistant coach at Lindenwood! I remember seein’ her! So yeah, I think she was a player at Cornell, then a coach at Lindenwood, but then when the door opened to the KRS CWHL, she entered.

And now I’m kind of anticipating that she could possibly play for Team China in ’22! I don’t know for sure, but wouldn’t that be awesome?? I think every player who played for KRS and the Vanke Rays has some sort of cool story of their journey to getting to play for those teams when the CWHL and Hockey China formed them, and I’m a big fan of Mel’s story. LU represent!

Alina Müller (Mueller)

15 years old. Olympic Bronze Medal Game-Winning Goal. Empty Net from the Opposite End. At an Angle. That is All.

Wait, that’s not all: she also scored the tying highest amount of goals in the storied opening game against Joint Korea, and she wasn’t even 20! Not only that, she tears it up at Worlds and probably in whatever league she played in as well. Who’s ready for Northeastern next year!

Shannon Szabados

Shannon’s on this list because she just does things a little differently than everyone else. It’s definitely cool that she’s won some Gold Medals. She played for some men’s teams, including the Peoria Riverman…which, despite likely being a bitter experience for her, as a Missouri hockey fan, I like the idea that she played here at least once. But then, this summer, after several years of wondering if a Team Canada Olympic player was ever going to sign in the NWHL, Shannon goes and signs with the Beauts! Do you think anyone else was going to break that ice? Neither did I.

People call Shannon the Queen of the Crease and you’ll see a meme of her sitting on the Game of Thrones Throne every now and then, but I think that she secretly doesn’t like that because I’m under the impression she’s one of the most humble, down-to-earth people. On an unrelated note, I don’t think Game of Thrones has ended yet, so….

Amanda Kessel

Many, many moons ago, Amanda Kessel played with my cousin on the Madison Capitols Boys Team, and they won the State Championship, so I might be a little biased here.

Actually, you don’t need bias to have Amanda Kessel on this list. Heck, I could be a Wisconsin fan from Canada and still have her on this list. She’s one of the greats. I’ve heard people say Amanda was sensational before her concussion issues, and she hasn’t been quite the same since, but I don’t think Amanda Kessel ever thinks about that when she’s on the ice. And I definitely don’t think she thought about that when she went high glove side on Shannon Szabados in the Olympic Gold Medal shootout, keeping USA alive. She’s always been Best Kessel, and still is to this day.

Honorable Mentions

Alex Woken

She’s really good at hockey and she as a really cool name. It’s a shorter name, but her name can give Shi Dark’s name a run for its money in terms of coolest name. Sounds like and action movie character’s name.

Lee Stecklein

I don’t there’s anyone who doesn’t like Lee. The Gopher fans I talk to seem to go nuts over her. She just has one of those likeable personalities. Ever seen that picture of her smiling in the in the penalty box during a championship game? Only Lee. Only Lee. Heck, I’ve actually made her laugh once during a USA game when I was sitting several rows back from the benches. I kid you not, I made her laugh! I’m pretty vocal during USWNT games, but I suppose that’s something that I can cross off the bucket list…making Lee laugh during a game.

The Lamoureux Twins

I know they probably won’t play for a minute, but I haven’t heard of them retiring yet, so I’ll count them as current players for now. After the NWHL formed, when I watched USA games, I was like, "who are all these Lamoureaux people anyway!" since I was focused more on NWHL players. But after hearing about their history about how they jumped ship from the Gophers to North Dakota to help the Fighting Sioux program come up, I just thought you have to admire that. You knew it hit them the hardest when they announced the program had been cut…on Twitter. And then the Lam Twins were sports heroes in the Gold Medal game too. And who knows, their kids might end up being superstars one day as well!

Dana Trivigno

I like Dana Trigs since she’s that tough player who plays hard in the corners and she’s been on the USWNT as well. Entertaining player and personality, and I’ve heard her say stuff like, "Back when I was a pipsqueak…" in interviews before, and I like how she’s a ref as well.

Meghan Huertes

That was a tough pill to swallow as a fan (and obviously for the players) when the NWHL announced their pay cuts a couple years back. But when that happened, a player named Huey came into the league after a few players left, and when she came in she was always smiling and stuff. A light shined right through the darkness. And she’s pretty good at hockey too.

Janine Weber

It’s cool having players like Janine Weber being the first ones to represent their country in North American Pro Hockey. It’ll help you follow the likes of Team Austria, who came oh so close to securing a spot in IIHF Worlds 2019 following the participant team expansion. Perhaps when one team gets relegated next year, Janine Weber and the Austrians will have a good chance of making Canada ’20.

Favorite Retired Players

Manon Rheaume

Obvious one here. And not only did she play for the Lightning in the preseason, but it was also against my Blues! I think my brother might have a ticket stub to the Blues home game against Manon’s Bolts, as my bro is the type who saves tickets and has showed me the collection book in the past. I’ll have to ask him. Also, Manon’s brother (or cousin), Pascal Rheaume played for the Blues in the late 90s. Other relatives of Blues players that I know of include Hayley Wickenheiser (Doug), hopefully Jincy, Jessica, and Josie Dunne one day (Josh), Lauren MacInnis (Al), and the late Mandi Scwhartz (Jaden).

Tara Watchorn

I felt like I many relate to Tara after almost her entire CWHL Blades Championship Team made an exodus to the newly-formed new NWHL. Have you ever experienced those times where you feel like all your friends just left you? I really gotta hand it to Tara for sticking with the team and leading them. I was so sad that she wasn’t on the Plymouth Worlds Canadian Team (she was the player I was looking forward to seeing the most) and I nearly teared up…you know, because I forgot to dust the place and stuff.

Florence Schelling

Obviously a legend. Olympian since Turin. Big role in the Sochi Bronze. I will miss her playing for the Swiss team, but at the same time, I do look forward to seeing how Janine Alder will do as far as going for the starting job. #Alderightmoves

Also, back when Florence took fan suggestions about what to put on her PyeongChang Olympic Goalie Mask, I think she might have used one of mine. Have I mentioned that I’m a big fan of the #FrauenNati?

Dani Rylan

I’m assuming she’s retired if she’s running a pro hockey league. She is the person who got me into women’s hockey, so, I’d say I’m a fan of her.

Brianne McLaughlin

Name twin. Duh. Olympian. And also, that was a good Isobel Cup final game. #BestBMac for sure.

Shelby Bram

She once played hockey like her sister, Bailes. Please come back! Also, apparently her last name is now Bailen…which also makes her…Bailes?

Kelley Steadman

I wish Steadman was still playing, but it is cool seeing her at Lindenwood games when Mercyhurst comes to town too.

Well, if you happened to read this lengthy, story-filled list, thank you! Hopefully it has helped you through ice hockey’s desert month of August a bit. Heck, if you have your own favorite players, you might as well make a post too. Tweets are too short after all, huh?

Brandon McLaughlin