Representing the hub of elite women’s ice hockey in the Northeastern United States, the city of Boston has forged an exciting yet continuously expanding legacy, capturing the hearts and minds of fans, while contributing to the composition of a fascinating time in the game’s era. Perhaps more intriguing are the remarkable efforts of the women that have helped shape such a time, creating the history while continuing to contribute after hanging up their skates.
One such individual is Danielle Doherty, whose playing career reached its summit over the course of several sensational seasons with the Boston College Eagles women’s ice program, highlighted by the Athletic Director’s Award for Academic Achievement plus another NCAA Frozen Four tournament appearance, complemented by a nod to the ACC Academic Honor Roll in her senior season. Part of a graduating class that included Emily Field, Erin Kickham, Kate Leary and Emily Pfalzer, Doherty would score the last goal of her Eagles career in a February 28, 2015 playoff match against Providence while demonstrating durability, appearing in all 39 games.
“I miss absolutely everything about BC. I could cry I miss it so much. I was lucky enough to be on the team for five years. Those five years were the best time of my life. I got a great education (undergraduate degree in elementary education and human development and a masters degree in special education), was coached by the best people in the world, and formed friendships that will last a lifetime. Those five years were filled with moments I will never forget: 2011 Hockey East Champions, 2011 and 2014 Beanpot Champions; 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015 Frozen Four Participant.”
Raised in Newton, Massachusetts, Doherty remains close to the game, and more importantly her New England sporting roots. A former national champion with Assabet Valley in 2007 and 2008, along with a stint as the team captain at Lawrence Academy, where she also excelled in field hockey and softball, Doherty is looking to inspire a new generation of competitors.
Bringing a coaching background with the Walpole Express U19 team (inheriting the position from former BU Terriers rival Anya Battaglino), Doherty, who earned her degree in Elementary Education and Human Development at BC, along with a Master’s in Special Education), is ready to engage in an exciting new chapter, incorporating strong teaching values. Part of a strong leadership core with the Shamrocks, Doherty works alongside general manager Bob Rotondo and Academic Coordinator Hannah Irving, all committed in the effort of developing the player as a whole.
“The first thing that really intrigued me about the Boston Shamrocks organization is how professional it is. It makes coaching so much fun. The most enjoyable part of being the coach of the Shamrocks so far has been helping my players advance their game to next level. Every time the girls step on the ice, they get better. That is so rewarding to see and it has only been a month.”
With Doherty at the coaching helm, she is looking to help extend the Shamrocks positive example of shaping the next generation of women’s hockey stars, preparing them for the collegiate level with a full season team, while simultaneously contributing to Boston’s growing female sports legacy. While the efforts of empathic coaches such as Doherty shall help these youngsters develop a fundamentally sound game, ready to elevate to the next level, the commitment towards teaching is enhanced by the instilling of positive values such as dedication, self-discipline and confidence. It is the type of mentoring that shall help such players develop into leaders into other facets of life.
“When I first started my coaching career a year ago, my coaches at BC told me one of the most important things is to make sure your players develop into the best players that they can be. Obviously winning games is very rewarding but if the girls leave you being better than when they started and go off to great colleges to play hockey, that is better than any win.
They also told me to take everything in and that you can never learn enough. Now in my second season as a coach, I have learned that coaching is really not that easy. I have been learning that in order to run a successful hockey program, you must be able to take on various roles and responsibilities.
Being a coach is teaching so much more than just hockey. You need to be ready to be a leader on and off the ice, and a role model to your players.”
Competing in the eight-team JWHL, the Shamrocks are an elite team of players which compete against the likes of the Chicago Young Americans and the Washington Pride, to name a few. With a roster that includes skaters from as far away as Alaska and California, along with a handful of Canadian-born players and Martina Maskova from the Czech Republic, this collection of hockey personalities have enjoyed a very busy opening month playing 10 times in the month of September. Currently, the Shamrocks leading scorers include the likes of Meagan McNeil, Michaela Boyle and Kelly Golini. As a side note, Rose Mroczka is the first NCAA commitment for the Shamrocks’ 2016-17 season.
Taking into account that the number of women coaching in hockey, especially at the Division 1 level, continues to grow, it allows former players an opportunity to share their acumen and perspective on the game. In the process, it allows the transition from playing into coaching a special opportunity to become a role model. As Doherty recalls in her playing career, several former players turned coaches served as positive influences in her career, allowing the privilege to tap into their expertise,
Doherty was privileged enough to learn from a group of exceptional women whose careers included donning the Team USA colors. Among said group was a highly accomplished coach that served as a mentor for Doherty throughout her seasons at Boston College; Katie King-Crowley. In addition to a gold medal with Team USA at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, King-Crowley (a former two-sport star at Brown University) has also served in the IIHF Mentorship and Ambassador Program, working as a coaching mentor for Team Norway.
“I was very fortunate to be coached by three Olympians throughout my playing career. Laurie Baker in high school and then Katie Crowley and Courtney Kennedy in college. It was literally so amazing to be coached by them. Not only are the girls coached by a Division-1 player, they are coached by two!
Amanda Pelkey played D1 at UVM and she is now a member of the US National Team and the NWHL team, the Boston Pride. A lot of girls have D1 aspirations so by playing for two coaches who have played D1 and one currently playing professional is pretty awesome. The girls want to learn from us because we have been there and we want to make them the best players that they can be when they come play for us.”
Having once played for the Shamrocks, the chance to serve in a coaching capacity definitely brings Pelkey’s career full circle. The all-time leading scorer with the University of Vermont, Pelkey coached Ali O’Leary on the 2015-16 Shamrocks team, who recently debuted with Vermont on October 4, 2016. Along with fellow assistant coach Maria Nasta, a UMass-Boston alum, who also serves as the Director of Hockey Operations for the Boston Jr. Shamrocks, contributions to the Shamrocks, it represents an exceptional triumvirate for the organization, one definitely built on mutual respect.
“Amanda is an unbelievable hockey player but an even better person. I have know Amanda for a while now. We played against each other several times in our careers. We have a great relationship so it makes coaching together really fun. Amanda knows the game very well. She brings a lot to the table, the girls are very lucky.”
Considering that part of Doherty’s responsibilities as head coach also involves the recruiting of players, it represents a significant aspect to her position with the Shamrocks. Undoubtedly, a coach does not seek talent alone. A combination of maturity, discipline, loyalty and confidence can constitute an exceptional prospect, one that can help bring a program to higher levels or maintain its standard of excellence.
As Doherty’s time with the Shamrocks progresses, the players recruited shall definitely be an extension of her presence there, all part of a package whereby success on and off the ice shall result in the attainment of goals for player and coach alike. Undoubtedly, such an effort makes coaching a year-long commitment, continuously searching for players that shall be the right fit, while keeping an astute eye open towards unearthing that diamond in the rough. Constituting a labor of love, whose own experiences as a player allow her to be an ideal mentor and educator, eager to make hockey even more enjoyable for the next generation, the love of the game and a proficiency for teaching shall always be an integral component for the distinguished Doherty.
“The recruiting process involves attending as many games, tournaments, showcases as I can and finding players that standout to me. If I see a player I really like, I will have a conversation with her and her parents about our program and what our coaching staff can offer to them. There are times when players will reach out to me about being a potential recruit and I will get their game schedule and go watch them.
If I believe they are a good fit our program, we will offer them a spot on our roster. By being a D1 hockey player at a top three school, I know what it takes to get there and the tools the girls need to be the best that they can be. When you have a coach that played at such a high level you value and respect them so much.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Boston College action shot by Melissa Wade
For more information on the Boston Shamrocks, please visit: http://www.bostonshamrocks.net/