Shannon Doyle’s Blocks for Books spreading positivity for fans, players

Hockey fans and book lovers, unite!

What’s black and blue and red all over? Shannon Doyle being pelted with vulcanized rubber discs for a literary good cause.

The captain of the Connecticut Whale and founding member of the NWHL is laying her body on the line in the name of charity. Though reading is not typically a contact sport, Doyle is combining her two great loves in life by donating $1 to the Room to Read Foundation for every blocked shot she records this season.

Doyle, a 7th and 8th grade English teacher at Greenwich Country Day School, beams with pride at her “Blocks for Books” initiative. A bibliophile with a master’s degree in British Literature, she explained that it is something she has wanted to organize for years to unite “fans to players and players to players.”

“With everything going on right now, there’s a real misconception of character for players,” she began, alluding to the ongoing tensions between the NWHL and PWHPA. “We’re all fighting for the same thing. I wanted to give people a reminder that when we work together, we can do great things.”

Doyle found inspiration from the Greenwich Country Day School’s “Center for Public Good,” a department focused on charitable functions and community outreach. She was directed to Room to Read, which focuses on literacy and gender equality in education in underprivileged or low-income communities in Africa and Southeast Asia.

“We [players] want to be present in our communities,” she elaborated. “We want to give back. We can be so well intertwined, there’s so many good people in hockey.”

Representation was a major point of emphasis for Doyle in choosing the Room to Read organization. The low cost of literature in the impacted neighborhoods means a dollar can go a long way towards providing appropriate material for children around the globe.

“They don’t just give random books. They give them books and picture books in their own language with characters that look like them. A lot of these countries like Nepal, they get a lot of passed-down books with Caucasian characters. If you can’t see them, how can you be them?”

When presented with how familiar a rallying cry that sounded in relation to women’s hockey, Doyle couldn’t help but laugh.

“Yeah, there’s a beautiful symmetry there. This is what we’re doing in sports and in literature.”

Doyle’s efforts have already captured attention around the hockey community. Both Whale head coach Colton Orr and assistant coach Laura Brennan have pledged to match Doyle dollar for dollar, as have teammates Sarah Hughson and Kayla Meneghin. Former teammates Emily Fluke, Colleen Murphy and netminder Meeri Räisänen have joined in the fun as well. The Worcester Academy girls hockey team in Massachusetts pledged a dollar for every block as a team this season.

“One of the beautiful things about the NWHL is we’re relatable and accessible,” Doyle grinned. “They’re seeing a connection to me as someone who loves literature. They can see me on social media and think, ‘I love literature too!’”

A connection to off-ice interests can lead to heightened investment in the team, Doyle theorized. Tying the charity to on-ice performance gives fans more of a reason to check the box score and follow games. “It’s a chance for someone to check and see, ‘Hey, did Emily Fluke beat Colleen Murphy in blocks this week?’”

The self-professed “old-school” lover of Dickens is extraordinarily passionate. It’s infectious, and fans have already begun to rally around the cause. Doyle’s GoFundMe page has already raised $330 of her $1,000 goal -- a number that would provide not only hundreds of books but a year’s worth of reading and writing education for an estimated 20 children.

Doyle already has nine blocks in her first three games, a mark that leads the Whale and places third in the league. As masochistic an endeavor this may seem, Shannon Doyle is eager to earn more, and she’s doing it all with emphatic positivity.

“Hopefully I’ll be nice and black and blue!” she laughed.