Cleat Geeks

Krista Patronick setting positive tone for rebuilding Boston Blades

Of all the general managers in women’s hockey during the 2015-16 season, none combined enthusiasm, dedication and a positive attitude the way that Krista Patronick did. Taking into account that the Boston Blades endured a one-win season, Patronick’s strong leadership and devotion to the team in the midst of such a struggle represented what may have been one of her finest hours.

Although the Blades captured the 2015 Clarkson Cup, becoming the first American-based team to do so twice, the off-season to come would result in unforeseen change. From player turnover due to free agency, compounded by a transition in team leadership, the Blades entered the 2015-16 season with change as its theme.

BrianMcCloskeyWith such change brought about new leadership, as Patronick became General Manager, while Brian McCloskey, a former head coach with the University of New Hampshire, occupied the same role with the black and gold. Taking into account the number of new faces on the team, it may have been fitting that Patronick was also in her first season as general manager. Not only did it ease any potential nervousness that may have existed with a significant number of rookies in a rebuilding year, it allowed Patronick to be patient and understanding, as she too was also in a position where she was in a transitional phase,

“I learned a lot in terms of operations and management of the team, and the team’s staff. The day to day operation of the team is a lot, it is so much more than just what happens on game day.

As a GM you are pretty much in the middle of the league and the athletes, and you want to make sure league-wide initiatives and policies are implemented but you also want to make sure your athletes and fans have a great experience. It is a balancing act and you wear a lot of hats. It is the hardest job I have ever done but definitely the most rewarding.”

A graduate from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, Krista was not only a fan of hockey, becoming a recreational player at the age of 21; it was the catalyst towards her ambitions of aspiring to a career in sports management. Also possessing a journalism background, Patronick initially paid her dues at the rink volunteering her time by keeping statistics, tracking shot charts and social media. A position at The Hockey Academy in Hudson, New Hampshire would serve as her first rung in the ladder.

Despite the Blades struggles in the win column, the reality was that the club was still mathematically in contention for a postseason berth before the holiday break. With solid leadership from team captain Tara Watchorn and All-World goaltender Genevieve Lacasse (who recorded a league best 1023 saves), both a pair of holdovers from the 2015 Clarkson Cup title team. Along with fellow Cup holdovers Dru Burns, an alum of Boston College, and Megan Myers, who finished the most recent campaign as the Blades leading scorer, they constantly instilled confidence into the team, providing them with a fighting chance.

Impressively, the sense of teamwork and unity on the Blades was a rallying point representing perseverance, resulting in many bright spots and subsequent optimism for the season to follow. Although the losses would mount, there was no shortage of effort on and off the ice. Working tirelessly to make their presence felt in the community, embodying the league’s spirit of being hockey humanitarians, Patronick led the way with some sensational initiatives including a local food drive and a highly successful Teddy Bear Toss.

BostonMilitaryAppreciation2015Among the most special was Blades military night, which saw the team don camouflage jerseys, a superlative tribute that recognized the members of the United States armed forces. An emotional component to the event was the fact that the father of Blades competitor Grace Murphy, lost his life in brave service to the military, serving as a pilot in the Marine Corps.

As the season progressed, Patronick truly blossomed into an ambassador for the franchise. With four members of the Blades named to the 2016 CWHL All-Star Game (Watchorn, Lacasse, Dru Burns and Kristina Brown), she proudly was on-hand to show her support. As a side note, Patronick was also one of the participants in the ceremonial faceoff.

Adding to such jubilation was the fact that a fraction of the Blades home games were contested at the rink of Patronick’s alma mater, an empowering example of how far she had come since her earliest years in hockey. Through it all, Patronick’s efforts were validated by the proud culture of mutual respect among the players, which would also transform her duties with the club into a labor of love,

“I stayed motivated by knowing that the players had an incredible bond off the ice. It meant a lot to me to know that many of them rekindled their love of hockey last season. Sometimes you just need to remember why you play the game you love when it gets tough. So instead of focusing on wins and losses they focused on small victories and loving the game again. That inspires me.”

KellyPatonOn the surface, it would be easy to perceive that such a season did not consist of highlights. From the outset, a shootout win on October 18 provided Kristina Brown with a series of proud milestones. Selected in the first round of the 2015 CWHL Draft by the Blades, the North Andover-raised Brown was a homegrown talent that provided a building block for the future. Playing against the Toronto Furies on the road, a team that defeated the Blades in the 2014 Clarkson Cup finals, Brown would not only log the winning goal in the shootout, it would prove to be her first CWHL goal.

Another significant highlight helped bring the career full circle of an accomplished player with ties to women’s ice hockey in New England. Having once played for McCloskey as a scoring sensation for the University of New Hampshire, Kelly Paton, a 2010 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award actually suited up for the Blades in a road game on November 22, 2015. Taking on the Brampton Thunder (located near Toronto), Paton, who served on the coaching staff for the University of Western Ontario in nearby London, donned the black and gold. As a side note, she also played in the first women’s ice hockey game at Fenway Park (contested in 2010).

BostonBladesFenwayParkThe famed baseball stadium has also played a significant part in Blades lore. After capturing their first Clarkson Cup in 2013, the Blades were invited to take the field for a pregame celebration. Patronick would channel that same spirit into a solid team building effort. With the Blades players donned in their white jerseys, the team was granted access to don the field at Fenway, with Clarkson Cup proudly in hand. In reflecting on the Fenway experience, which also featured the name Boston Blades spelled out on their famous scoreboard located at the base of the Green Monster, such a season highlight was equally a seminal moment for Patronick,

“It was incredible. Even though I was not GM of the team when they won the Cup, it was great to be able to celebrate that win and give that type of experience to the players who were involved in the win.”

With the first pick overall in the 2016 CWHL Draft, Patronick continues to gain the opportunity to put the pieces in place for a redeeming return to glory for the black and gold. Among the prospects that have declared for the Draft, there is some local talent for Patronick to consider.

An alumnus of the North American Hockey Academy, Chelsey Goldberg starred for Boston’s Northeastern Huskies, winning the prestigious Beanpot Title. Having also served as the President of the university’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Goldberg recently volunteered her time with the Care for Kenya initiative, demonstrating admirable leadership and hockey humanitarianism.

Having recently graduated from Boston College, where she earned the Athletic Director’s Award for Academic Acheivement, Meghan Grieves exemplified remarkable character both on and off the ice. With former Winter Games gold medalist Katie King-Crowley as head coach, Grieves was part of their greatest season ever, one that saw the program post the second undefeated regular season in NCAA women’s ice hockey history. Such success may serve as a harbinger of good luck.

For a rebuilding Boston squad, their 2016 Draft class shall be one looked upon with tremendous interest, a key step forward in establishing the foundation towards restoring the glory days of season past. Excited for the opportunity to keep shaping the future, Patronick ponders the possibilities with an optimistic outlook,

“I’m definitely looking forward to adding depth to the team, knowing we will be so much more competitive has me fired up about next season.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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