Familiar faces in new places: Cailey Hutchison to the Whale

A bunch of NWHL/PHF players were on the move this off-season, which is something I can identify with. Being as how we’re in the same boat I thought it’d be fun series to put together, to see what they’re going through as they prepare for Season 7. Once a week-ish in this space we’ll get the low down on what’s up with a familiar face in a new place. Up next is center Cailey Hutchison, who joined the Connecticut Whale this off-season after two seasons with the Metropolitan Riveters.

Hutchison, drafted 21st overall (Round 5) in the 2018 NWHL Draft by the Rivs, played in 27 games (and one playoff game) over the past two seasons, posting 12 points (4g-8a) while winning 264 out of the 513 face-offs she took (.515 %). The 24-year-old Long Island native was also an alternate captain from day one of her tenure with the franchise.

This season, Hutchison will be a part of what is shaping up to be a very formidable Whale lineup that has been slightly revamped - both at forward and defense - since we last saw them in the Isobel Cup semifinals. What can PHF fans expect to see from her with The Pod this season?

Making a Splash

“I think you’ll see a new version of me; it’s a chance for me to have a fresh start and I know how I want to be identified as a player,” replied Hutchison. “I know my strengths and I really think with the team that we have built in Connecticut, the coaching staff, that I’ll be able to shine and showcase my strengths. I’m really excited, going into the season with an open mind, and I think you’ll see a new, more confident version of myself.”

For two seasons, she was an enemy to the Whale, so just what type of player will the new version of Hutchison be while they are cheering for her now? “I’m a hard worker, in all three zones. I think I create a lot of havoc and that maybe some opponents don’t like playing against me because I go 110% all the time,” she said.

“I kinda like to piss people off on the ice,” Hutchison added with a laugh, “I like to make things happen - I don’t sit and wait for them to happen. I try to make things happen for myself and my teammates.”

She’s definitely in the middle of things often if you’ve watched any of her games, almost like a wrecking ball in front of the blue paint - at both ends of the ice. We aren’t sure how the lines will end up looking just yet in Connecticut, but a 1-2 punch of Emma Vlasic and Hutchison at center certainly gives the Whale a dynamic duo in the face-off dots and on the penalty kill.

“The way our team is shaping up with every signing, it’s all made sense. The team that they are putting together, I think we’re going to be able to click right from the start of camp and I’m really excited to see what we can do this season,” Hutchison said.

Two seasons isn’t a long time in the grand scheme of things, but the last two years have felt like a lifetime for a lot of us (thanks covid). It caught some of us off-guard when we found out that the Riveters weren’t bringing back the valuable center for the upcoming season. So how’d the change from the Rivs to the Whale come about?

“I was drafted by the Riveters, and that’s the team that when I first found out about the NWHL that I wanted to be a part of. My hometown team, who was playing in New York at the time. The two years I was there really gave me the experience in the league that I needed, I played alongside some great veterans, and I was able to kind of make a name for myself,” Hutchison explained.

“I feel like going forward with Connecticut now, this opportunity arose because I needed to have a fresh start for myself, to do what’s best for myself. At this point in my life with my off-ice career (as a registered nurse), and where I’m located, Connecticut just made sense. The staff, the whole organization’s values line up with me and what I believe. In the end, it was a no-brainer for me to go there.”

Friends Are Now Frenemies (on Weekends)

As luck would have it, her first game in a Whale uniform will come against the Riveters in New Jersey, but not at the same rink where she practiced/played. Naturally, we asked what the range of emotions would be for her when she lines up across from her former team on PHF opening day on November 6.

“Honestly I wouldn’t say I’m nervous, I’m excited,” she said with a smile you could hear over her phone. “That was my past and the Whale is my future. I will take everything I have learned during my two years with the Riveters going forward. It’s going to be fun playing against some of my best friends, but I will have some sadness without Packer next to me, or our Wolfpack with Birdie (Brooke Avery).

And what if Packer gets feisty or chirpy out there in a scrum? “If Packer wants to drop the gloves…,” she said with a laugh. “At the end of the day, this was the best decision for me. I’m excited to see them in the first game, and it makes those first two games even more important in the standings.”

Fans can expect to see Hutchison in the same no. 13 this season, just different colors. “Yes absolutely. The first question I had after I signed was: is no. 13 available?! Happy I get to keep that.”

What does she anticipate being the toughest part of the transition from one franchise to another?

“The biggest change will be that I’m not in school anymore, I’m working full-time as a nurse. I’ll be coming from work, a 12-1/2-hour shift standing on my feet before driving an hour to practices. It will be a lot for me - both physically and mentally - so I’ll make sure I’m eating right, and drink enough during my shift,” she explained.

“On the ice, it will be different after being on the same team with mostly the same players for two years, I was an alternate captain there which I won’t be with the Whale. I’ll have to earn everyone’s trust and makes sure they know I’m here to continue building the culture that they have already created and established there.”

Hutch’s Crutches

Changing teams can be scary, or nerve-wracking at times. Bunch of new faces, new routes to the rink, new practice drills, getting used to new weekly routines. Lucky for Hutchison, she won’t have to go through it alone as she described.

“I know Moose (Rebecca Morse), she’s coming (to the Whale from the Rivs) with me. She was one of the first people I met on the team when I first joined the NWHL, and we have an incredible friendship and I know that she has my back no matter what. Having her alongside me makes all of this change a little less scary.”

“Also, one of my good friends Catherine Crawley (UConn), who graduated nursing school with me also signed with the Whale this season,” she said. “We grew up playing against one another our entire careers, we would battle for the no. 1 & no. 2 spots in New York, at USA camps, and we played UConn vs U of Maine. This will be the first time that we’re going to be teammates! She’s also a full-time nurse, so she’ll be going through the same things I am regarding that.”

“So I have someone that knows what I’m going through during this transition - both on, and off the ice. I’m very lucky to have both of them with me.”

Familiar faces in new places: Rachael Ade joins the Rivs