Q&A with NWHL Open Ice Host, GamerDoc

From med school to esports to hockey and Twitch, the self-proclaimed nerd who does it all.

On January 13, the NWHL launched a talk show on Twitch called ‘NWHL Open Ice.’ In the weekly show, fans can livestream a short interview with a new NWHL player each week, get their own questions thrown in the mix, and converse with each other about the weekend happenings in the league.

None of this, however, is possible without the host who goes by GamerDoc. She is quite literally that, a doctor, Youtube content creator, hockey player, Twitch streamer, and show host all in one. We did manage to find some time between all of those things to catch up with her.

The Ice Garden: I know you had mentioned prior to the show beginning that you had a special NWHL connection, what is it?

GamerDoc: I’ve always been a NWHL fan, a lifelong hockey fan. When Dani [Rylan] formed the league, it was very easy to transition to be able to support my peers. I was up in Brooklyn at the time. I didn’t know her when she played but I’m about to marry one of the inaugural Riveter defenders, Amber Moore.

Amber got me to actually play hockey myself, and we went over to a ball hockey tournament in Ocean City, Maryland and who was on my team, but Dani Rylan? The women’s hockey community is a very small world, and I immediately fell in love with Dani. Just a fantastic personality, fantastic human.

So when they announced their partnership with Twitch, I had just started to stream, myself. I host a weekly show on esports health and wellness, gamer health and wellness. I was very excited about it and I wanted to do whatever I could to help out so I made a video about ‘what exactly is Twitch?’

When I explain to anyone what I do that is not a gamer, they are very confused because ‘what is Twitch? what are you talking about?’ so I figured the hockey community would have a very similar reaction, so I wanted to make a video of it. So I spent about 40 hours putting this video together that was like a minute long but I had a great time doing it.

When you have fun doing something, you know you should be in that space. So then after that, people on the team reached out to me to help them out with video on how to use the intricacies of Twitch and how to use it, like chat, following, subscribing, so I made them a video of that and then, you know, the rest was history.

TIG: What is your hockey background? When did you start playing? What position do you play?

GamerDoc: My hockey origin story? I started playing street hockey, ball hockey about three and a half years ago and loved it. Loved it. Loved running around so then I got on the ice in March of 2018 for the first time, and I’m from Michigan and always wanted to play hockey as a kid. Always, always, always. My parents wouldn’t let me, so I played rugby instead.

I was pretty terrible at skating to begin with but, as with anything I do, I just went all in. I started playing like four or five times a week, and joined a women’s travel team so I play on the Washington Wolves, a travel team, in D.C. right now.

I play center, and I think it’s because I’m like...those six-year-olds who play soccer, who just bump around the ball and keep running. That’s kinda how I play hockey, I just see a puck and need to chase it. I think they put me at center because I wouldn’t stay anywhere else.

TIG: How did Open Ice initially come about? Was it something the league approached you about or vice versa?

GamerDoc: It was their idea, Dani’s idea. When they set it up, I immediately jumped on. I said ‘Yes, please tell me exactly what you want me to do.’

TIG: Do you have a favorite NWHL team?

GamerDoc: Are you trying to get me in trouble, here? I will not tolerate this!

I try not to play sides....but I do love a good black jersey, so it’s hard to not be excited for the All-Star Game. Those black jerseys are fresh.

TIG: How about outside of the NWHL, any other favorite teams in different leagues?

GamerDoc: Living in D.C. for the past five years, I’ve definitely gotten swept up in the Capitals madness when they won the Cup, so that was amazing. Outside of that, I’m just a sucker for good dangles, so I just love Connor McDavid. He’s playing at just a different level.

TIG: I know in the first episode you asked Amanda Leveille about any female role models she had within the sport. Growing up or even now, do you have any female role models in hockey or gaming or really any facet of life for you?

GamerDoc: I gotta say the U.S. women’s national soccer team. I have just been so, so absolutely inspired by the things that those women have done. I feel like a lot of times, as a  female in the athletic community, you’re encouraged to smile pretty and look nice and not have a voice, and I think that, that team has found a voice and is using it in such a remarkable, effective way to help everyone.

Every four years, I can remember where I was, watching every match with them. I remember being in Boston when USA played Japan, and they were like destroying Japan. I was like ‘I want this game to go into overtime! I don’t want it to be over!’ and then they tied it up, and I’m like ‘this is my fault!’ and then they go to penalty kicks, oh man.

TIG: Which player are you most excited to interview on the show?

GamerDoc: Madison Packer. She’s a league legend, an absolute legend. Watching her play is so exciting. She’s also just generally a fantastic human, I mean I follow her on social media and...did you see that video of her hugging her wife? It was so cute.

But I also really want to get Dani on the show. I would love to hear it, about the origin story of the league like the whole thing leading up to it, when she first had the idea, how she did it, I would just love the hear that.

TIG: We talked about origin stories before, of the league and such. What is your origin story? In the gaming community and deciding to be on Twitch and Youtube and blogging?

GamerDoc: I have always played video games. It started when I was 6 years old when my grandpa got me a Nintendo 64 and I became obsessed with Legend of Zelda and I just didn’t have the ability to self-regulate. I just always played video games, through elementary school, middle school, high school. College rolled around and I definitely slowed down, it wasn’t very cool in college to be a gamer and at 18 years old, back then, with braces and frizzy red hair, I cared a little bit too much about what other people thought.

So I stopped playing mostly then, and then med school rolled around. That was the first time in my life I really had to buckle down and study and get to work. I was also plunked in the middle of New York where I had little support. It was a stressful time in my life and I found that exercise was just so beneficial to me, so I needed to exercise but I also found that gaming gave me this mental release that I needed to just rest.

So it was in medical school, I started really getting into Call of Duty. So much so that I had a squad I would log in with every night and we would work, like we would practice. It was wild to think about at the time. And then med school went into intern year, and I was still gaming.

The summer between my medical school and intern year, you get like three months off, I was this blue collar kid while everyone was going off on vacations for summer. They’re going to Thailand and backpacking through Europe. I didn’t have any money so I decided I was going to hike the Appalachian Trail. Totally free, all you gotta do is be here. It was the first time that I had truly been alone with myself, like for an extended period of time.

TIG: So you have to think.

GamerDoc: Yeah! You get to think about- there’s things in your life that you think you want to do and then there’s things in your life you actually want to do, and I was just thinking about what I want to spend the rest of my life doing.

Was it being a sports medicine doctor? Was it being one of five sports medicine doctors for a national football team? Was it being on the sidelines and just being one of many faces in the crowd? Is that what it’s about or is it putting together my love of gaming, and...I’m a big component for gender equity. I’ve done a lot of gender equity research, I went to an all women’s college, that’s always been really important to me.

So at the time, I thought I wanted to treat women, a women’s team...and then I thought more about it, because you know, you get lots of time by yourself on the Appalachian Trail, and I kind of came up with the idea of treating gamers [medically].

And at the time I didn’t know there were other people doing it. I broke down my business plan over the next month, what I was going to do, how I was going to do this. And then intern year hit and all of it went out the window, and I was working....90 hours a week. I had no time to do anything, especially gaming, and starting something.

So like two years ago, I said I was going to do this again. I’m going to do this. So I started making YouTube videos and started going into local places in the community and talking to kids who were getting into gaming, and colleges who are getting into gaming. Then about...November of last year, I realized that I could go into as many colleges and local places as possible but I was still regional, just in D.C. So to get the message out more, I started streaming.

And after thirty minutes, that is my story!

TIG: Talking more about gender equity, the communities of sports and gaming and even the medical field are very male-dominated generally. How do you think that has affected you or phased you?

GamerDoc: My start with gender equity started in high school. There was an incident with one of the women in our high school, and it was just unacceptable to me. I got together with other girls and I started this group called ‘Women’s Voices.’ We would get together once a month, and just talk about stuff that was happening.

We expanded and we started going to elementary schools and started talking to fifth and sixth graders about their lives and the stress and pressures. And then I went to an all women’s college and I feel like a lot of times, kids and little girls we’re taught - play like that intro to that Beyonce song  - we’re taught that women are our competition.

I’m going to get so much flack for not knowing the song, but we’re taught if there’s another woman in the room, our voice should be louder than hers. But college did a good job at teaching me that other powerful women are my allies, not my enemy. I feel like that’s a thing that not a lot of people have learned, because of societal pressures, because of how things are. So that has always been one of my strengths, is learning that from a younger age.

Going into the medical field, yeah, the field is very male-dominated. Numbers, not so much but the way things operate. It’s definitely an old boys’ club, you know, deals made on the golf course when I’m not invited to the game. Esports is certainly like that as well. It’s getting a lot better, but esports, like competitive gaming, has always been like that.

TIG: The extent of my knowledge of gaming is basically Pokemon, and that’s it so I wasn’t completely sure on what the ins and outs of the gaming community are like.

GamerDoc: That’s fine! Let’s say you’re really good at Pokemon, and you want to get better, how you do it is you play against other people who are good to get better. You know, if you play against someone who is...trash, it isn’t going to help you. It’s like if Madison Packer showed up to my 3-on-3 game tonight, would she get better from that? Probably not.

So what they do is, they form communities and practice squads and they play against each other but, you know, it’s 16, 17, 18 year old...men. Some of them are very good people but unfortunately a few bad eggs have a platform to be much louder. So it’s traditionally very exclusionary to women and people of color and the LGBTQ community, but it’s changing! We’re getting in there and doing our best.

The NWHL was just kind of the perfect extension of that, of my love for competition and my love for gender equity.

TIG: When most people think of gaming-related injuries, I am sure they think of arthritis, carpal tunnel, tendinitis, etc. What are some gaming-related health issues that more people should be aware of?

GamerDoc: The beautiful thing about gaming injuries, which really isn’t that beautiful, is that is that a lot of them are very similar to injuries to people that sit at desks for a long time get. So if we extrapolate data from office workers to gaming and then extrapolate data from gaming to everyone else.

And posture is so underemphasized in the rest of the world.  We sit terribly all day.

TIG: You said posture and I immediately sat up straighter.

GamerDoc: Exactly! We as Americans just have...bad posture. And posture is so important for everyone. Maintaining the core strength and the strength of the muscles in your back. It’s something that affects so many Americans. So I think with gaming, focusing on your posture, focusing on pinching your shoulder blades together and sitting up straighter...it’s the cause of so many issues but then the rest of the world could also do it too, just focusing on your posture.

TIG: If you could design the perfect hockey video game, what does that look like for you? I know that’s a lot, but some must haves?

GamerDoc: I think it would be 3-on-3. 3-on-3 on a pond. I want to be able to customize my character. I would just make...Madison Packer and just play as her. Then, being able to customize a character is something a lot more video games are moving toward now because the most successful marketing strategy to get people emotionally invested, and intellectually invested is to say ‘let me make a character I can see myself in and then use it to dominate everyone else.’

TIG: Twitch has started dabbling in streaming sports. I know the NBA and NFL got in on it, and now obviously the NWHL. What benefit do you think a sports league has from streaming on Twitch? The NWHL specifically, moving from Youtube to Twitch?

GamerDoc: It’s definitely about who you want watching. I feel like the NWHL is just breaking Twitch’s demographic. It’s just destroying all their records. Like, ‘why are there 40-60 year olds watching Twitch?’ It’s because it’s the NWHL, everyone loves it. But seriously, Twitch has 15 million users, those 15 million are spread out all over the world. Youtube has really good viewership as well, but I think that Twitch’s reputation at providing live action is...I mean, it’s the number one live streaming platform.

One of the remarkable things that Twitch does is, they have this front page. So when you go to Twitch.TV, there’s a video right there playing for you and it’s probably not a video that you’ve ever seen before. Twitch does a really excellent job of tailoring that content, so Monday night, NWHL Open Ice was right there on the front page of Twitch. We had 100,000 unique viewers so [those] kind of numbers, we weren’t getting on Youtube.

I feel like it gives people the opportunity to watch the NWHL who didn’t even know it existed but would be lifelong fans if they knew.

TIG: How many Twitch viewers do you think the league will get by the end of season one, just an estimate for fun?

GamerDoc: “Okay so, we started in October. October to January...have they set a date for the Isobel Cup yet? I’m a very factual person and need to do this math factually. We have about two more months, so I’m going to go with...”

TIG: Two more months but we do have to factor in two more months with the All-Star weekend still ahead of us.

GamerDoc: “Oh true. I’m going to go with 8 million. I’m doubling it from right now even though we have half the time.”

TIG: Now for some more fun questions, I promise. I’m flipping the script on you with your deserted island question but, if you were stuck on a deserted island...that magically has Wifi, and you can only bring one NWHL player and one video game, who and what are you bringing?

GamerDoc: I didn’t really know Ana [Orzechowski] before Monday, she’s a rookie. I followed her on Instagram but I never really knew her before talking to her for the show and she is a ball of positive energy. She is coming with me and we’re bringing MarioKart and we’re not leaving. Sorry Beauts, I’m taking your defender and that’s it. We’re going to go and play MarioKart until the ship comes.

TIG: You don’t have to admit to a team, but do you have a favorite NWHL jersey either this year or all time?

GamerDoc: I loved the inaugural season breast cancer jerseys. The pink ones for the New York Riveters? Pink breast cancer jerseys were awesome....I also love the Whitecaps colors, I just love the black, I said it before I’m a sucker for black jerseys.

TIG: What goalie do you think would be the hardest to face in the league?

GamerDoc: Honestly, Taylor Accursi could stand in the goal with her tiny, slender body and I still wouldn’t be able to score on her. I’m gonna be so starstruck by whoever I face that I’m just going to fall on my face. So that’s my answer, Taylor Accursi as a goalie.

TIG: What NWHL player do you think is the feistiest?

GamerDoc: I was looking up penalty minutes for that stat about Orzechowski- I was trying to look up her penalty minutes and compare them to the rest of the team. I found one player on her team that is like, definitely the bruiser. I feel like she’s like me who maybe has a short temper. I remember watching her play and thinking that I respect her playing style so much.

TIG: Well there’s also that stat, I don’t know if it’s valid anymore now that it’s been a few weeks, but that the Packer household has the most collective penalty minutes in league history because Anya’s two career penalties, or something, put Madison’s time in the box up over Fratkin.

GamerDoc: Okay wait I want that to be my answer. I realize now that just calling someone out for their penalty minutes may not be the nicest thing to say, but I’m going to change my answer to the combined Packer household.

TIG: If you could tell people one thing about esports or the gaming community, maybe addressing a misconception, what would it be?

GamerDoc: The traditional stereotype of the overweight nerd covered in Cheeto dust, in their mom’s basement only eating...more Cheetos has never really been true. It’s kind of the Hollywood stereotype of gamer because that’s funny. A lot of people in the esports industry are really fit. Gamers are athletes, high level esports players are athletes. The muscle memory, the motor training, the high cognitive thinking, what they have to do with their hands is astounding.

The nerds...we’re here and we’re not as lame as you think.

A lot of people in the esports industry are really fit. Gamers are athletes, high level esports players are athletes. The muscle memory, the motor training, the high cognitive thinking, what they have to do with their hands is astounding.

TIG: I know you had mentioned it before that there was a time when being a gamer wasn’t cool, and I don’t want to say we’ve made a total 180 but now it’s a lot more accepted as something that could be totally cool.

GamerDoc: I think that’s because of, do you know Ninja? A lot of people know him. He was there on New Year’s Eve last year when the ball dropped.

TIG: I know he was on the cover of ESPN at one point too, right?

GamerDoc: Yes, he’s an athlete. Esports athletes are a thing even if there isn’t a lot of walking involved.

I think Ninja’s success has made people want to be a gamer now. These little kids growing up that used to want to be astronauts or football players, now want to be gamers. So the culture is changing.

TIG: Finally, if there’s one piece of advice you could give to someone trying to get into any of these things from hockey to gaming to being a doctor, especially someone who may not be the ‘old boys’ club’ member, what advice would it be?

GamerDoc: Being able to take advice is a very good trait but I think the ability to not take advice is sometimes a really good trait. People love to hear themselves talk and hear themselves give advice, and I got a lot of really bad advice over the past couple of years about my career and what I should be doing.

People told me that esports medicine wasn’t going to be a thing, that it was a waste of time and I should put my head down and do sports medicine, and get my NFL job. But you know, you’ve only got one life to live. I don’t want to waste it doing the thing that I’m not truly passionate about. So if someone gives you bad advice, and your gut tells you otherwise, just keep going and do it.

That’s the thing about trying something, you can’t just do it for a weekend and give up because it’s hard, or just do it for a month and wonder why it’s not working. If you want to actually do something, you gotta commit to it. Luck has very little to do with success, it’s about hard work.

You can find more of GamerDoc on Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, and every Monday night at 7 pm EST on NWHL Open Ice.