With espnW naming its Impact25 for 2015, NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan was among such an honored and distinguished group. Recognizing the 25 athletes and influencers who are paving the way by contributing a great impact for the growing role of women in sport, it is testament to Rylan’s vision for professional women’s ice hockey in the United States. Realizing that the game exists beyond its competitive core, she is working towards making it viable and accessible for all females.
In addition to the prestige of being part of the Impact25, Rylan and the remaining honorees were praised in a visually stunning way. Super hero versions of all members of the Impact25 were illustrated by Marvel Comics artists. As a side note, a full gallery of all the renditions is available for viewing on both the Marvel and espnW sites.
With all 25 women given the Marvel superhero treatment, it is a visual commentary that unifies their wide ranging accomplishments. Rylan was joined on the list by a remarkable group of women that included Ronda Rousey, US soccer superstar Carli Lloyd along with NFL female football pioneers Dr. Jen Welter and Sarah Thomas.
Such recognition also included a group of dignitaries whose actions ensure an even more promising future ahead. This featured the likes of US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill (for co-sponsoring the Campus Accountability Act) and US Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her role in the investigation of FIFA.
The honor continues the outpouring of accolades for Rylan, who was acknowledged on The Hockey News’ prestigious List of the 100 Most Powerful and Influential in Hockey. A gala was held in New York City on February 25, 2016 honoring all members of the Impact25, a collective gathering of icons, of which Rylan was proudly in attendance. The framed artwork was presented as a gift to Rylan at the gala.
Rylan’s superhero treatment shows her adorned in a blue outfit, bearing a striking resemblance to Sue Storm from the Fantastic Four. Holding a hockey stick with a kinetically charged blade, she slices through a table top hockey game, convincingly shattering it in half.
There is symbolic depth as the artwork tells a vivid tale where she has shaken the game to its very core. Such historical precedent has not only made professional women’s ice hockey in the United States a reality.
Drawn by Kalman Andrasofszky, the inking and coloring duties were handled by Jim Charlampidis. A Toronto-based artist, Andrasofszky has done cover illustrations for both Marvel and their distinguished competitors at DC Comics. Among his body of work, he is also part of the Captain Canuck reboot from 2015, reviving a cult classic. Charlampidis has worked on several projects for Marvel, most notably Avengers Academy, Generation Hope and a string of Deadpool-related comics.
Adding to such prestige for Rylan and all the other athletes that enjoyed the metamorphosis into superheroes was the bestowing of a nickname. Dubbed the “Ice Queen”, Rylan was the only woman in hockey to be featured among the honored 25. Other neat nicknames included Fever Rising (Tamika Catchings), Full-Court Goddess (Elena Delle Donne), Super Galactic Slam (Serena Williams) and The Mastermind (Becky Hammon).
Of note, Rylan is not the first person in hockey to receive the Marvel treatment. Back in 1990, a special edition comic book called “Skating on Thin Ice” not only starred Spider-Man, but featured Herb Carnegie, a three-time Quebec Provincial League MVP from the 1940s, within its pages. Drawn by Todd McFarlane, not only was Carnegie introduced to a new generation of fans, but the comic book spoke of the dangers of drug abuse. During that decade, other athletes that were depicted in Marvel Comics included WCW wrestlers (in their own monthly title), along with numerous pro football players featured in the NFL Superpro title.
Among Rylan’s heroic achievements, her greatest is how she makes people feel. Such results are not only evident with the remarkable talent pool in the league, all enjoying compensation, health benefits and considerate practice schedules, respectful for the players’ off-ice careers, it is also visible in the absolutely positive fan experience.
From a superlative fan mail concept, to the postgame autograph sessions, which also took place after the NWHL All-Star Game; there is a real sense of belonging and appreciation. That sense is enhanced even further with the young players who dream of one day gracing NWHL ice. During All-Star Weekend, there was a Saturday morning skate with the All-Stars, providing such participants with a lifetime of memories. An appreciation for the future was very prevalent during Opening Day, when players came to the ice and high-fived a group of enthusiastic junior players standing near the benches.
As more and more strong women like Rylan emerge as prominent role models for young girls today, the superlative Marvel artwork brings new meaning to the term hero worship. Whether it be the young players who look up to these remarkable pioneers in the NWHL with wide-eyed admiration, or the major league feeling that adds to the experience of being part of history for the amazing women who grace the ice, it is an extension of Rylan’s desire to elevate the game to an even greater relevance.
Image obtained from: http://marvel.com/images/1010241