The Lady Icers' season ended yesterday with a loss to Rhode Island in the ECWHL championship game. And I'm upset. Not so much about the game result, it was still a great season, but about the fact that I still don't know the final score - I think it was 4-1, but that's unconfirmed - or countless other pieces of information about the team from throughout the season.
First, a confession: both this blog and myself are pretty new to women's hockey. Other than a couple of Lady Icers posts, TYT's involvement with the women's game last season was largely via the World University Games, which featured four Penn State players and a coach on Team USA. Through the offseason and into this year, I've tried to expand things to include game recaps, tracking recruits and other stories as they come up. It's still a work in progress, and I sincerely apologize for any mistakes I've made in learning along the way.
Despite some struggles, I've been having a blast writing about it and I'm glad I took on the extra work. I have nothing but respect for the passion the players have for hockey - before college, a typical schedule is something like five games on the weekend with a club team, back to class during the week and a couple more games with a school team. You don't go through that unless you love the game. Every once in a while when I'm up late writing a post and feeling sorry for myself, I think about that brutal schedule. And I think about some of the senseless marginalization and flat-out hatred they receive (go on Twitter and track people addressing @girlhockeyprobs if you don't know what I mean - here's one example). That's not even considering practice, the weight room, team-building activities...basically, everything the men do on top of it.
Finally, I think about the treatment the Lady Icers received from Penn State sports information and media outlets this season. Or, more to the point, haven't gotten.
One caveat before I go further: while I don't know for sure, I suspect that a lot of the basic SID functions (social media, for example) are presently being performed by members of the coaching or support staffs. None of the following criticism is directed at them because quite frankly, they have other things to do and shouldn't be burdened with these activities in the first place. Everything below is placed squarely at the feet of athletic communications and those that hand them marching orders. That said...
I'm sometimes amazed that I was even able to write a post about the Lady Icers. Think about what I was given to work with from GoPSUSports.com: an roster that took more than a month to add transfers Jess Desorcie and Taylor Gross and a bare-bones schedule that only includes the final scores of completed games (even that was taken down literally the day after the season ended, as I discovered when I tried to use it for reference). And...well, that's pretty much it.
News-wise, we did get a release for the signing class during the early period and 6:56 of Josh Brandwene on video, but other than that, there has been absolutely nothing specific to women's hockey since early September when the program officially joined College Hockey America for next year (sorry guys, doing a copy/paste on the Pegula Ice Arena stuff you were doing for the men anyway doesn't count). Since September 17, 2010 - donation day - only five print releases were unique to the women's hockey program. Quite frankly, I would have preferred that the old Lady Icers site stayed up, because it was much more informative.
There was no reliable way to follow games in progress. The Icers, and even the Ice Lions, have UStream channels webcasting games. For the Lady Icers, there were family members of players at the games and on Twitter, if I was lucky (thanks again to Rob Reihl, who really helped out a ton in that regard). Unless, of course, PSU was playing at Neumann, a 3,000-student school that provides live video, or at SUNY-Potsdam, a 4,500-student school that provides live stats. There's really no excuse for gigantic PSU to be outhustled by schools like that on any kind of administrative point.
Varsity status or not, athletic communications took over the responsibility to cover women's hockey this season. And this season was an unequivocal failure in that regard.
The previously-reliable Collegian has dropped the ball as well. After fairly consistent coverage last year and early this year - Christine Newby did a great job last season, but has moved over to the men's beat - only six women's hockey articles have been published since November 7th. It took beating an NCAA Division I team to get a game recap, but don't bother looking for any others this semester.
One had to work extremely hard to follow this team on more than the most superficial of levels, and that's a shame. I hope my increased attention helped someone, somewhere, but I still get frustrated thinking about how much better my work could have been.
Essentially, I scraped by on box scores submitted to the ACHA website and to CollegeHockeyStats.net (when an NCAA team was involved). Except when they didn't get submitted, in case you're wondering why I never did a post about the Cortland series back in November (or why I don't have anything up for this past weekend yet). Unfortunately, it's simply not realistic for me to make it into State College as often as I'd like. It doesn't mean I don't want the information, though.
Yes, I understand that I'm talking about what was still a club team, and I'm sure most (hopefully all) of these issues will be rectified next year. I'm particularly excited for the America One-College Hockey America deal that will include streaming of all PSU home games and in-conference road games next season, even if it involves making tough choices every weekend.
By the way, know who else was a club team this year? Men's hockey. And I didn't see any hesitation on the part of sports information to latch on to that team when it suits their purposes. They dispatched people to Philadelphia to shoot pictures and video of the outdoor game. They work at getting Guy Gadowsky plenty of radio spots. This in spite of the fact that the Icers have done an outstanding job disseminating information on their own for years, without the athletic department's duplication of effort. (Rather ridiculously, the men's team has two different official Twitter accounts - @HockeyValley and @PSUMensHockey - giving game updates.) I'm not asking for treatment equal to that, just a small bit of that synergy everyone boasted about when Brandwene was introduced as head coach.
These women, especially the seniors and any others that won't be on the varsity team, deserved that much. And they were let down by those charged with promoting them.