Designated Hitter: Beattie relishing chance to play hockey again

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With the exception of a pick-up game here and there, Hanna Beattie thought she had hung up her skates for good.

Four years after arriving at Williams College and playing hockey, she accepted her diploma in June and began another chapter of her life.

Now, she's a professional hockey player.

"This all happened very suddenly and out of the blue," Beattie said.

Beattie had a tryout and signed on to play with the Connecticut Whale of the National Women's Hockey League. It is a four-team league that has a team in Boston, in Buffalo and in New Jersey.

She is one of two Williams graduates in the league. Michaela Levine, class of 2016, is a member of the Boston Blades. That team is headquartered at the Warrior Ice Arena, which is where the Bruins train. That's where the Whale will play on Friday, Feb. 2, at 6 p.m.

The Whale — and doesn't that look good on paper — plays in Stamford, Conn.

"Two weeks ago, two of my teammates — Caitlin Buckley and Sara Lehman [and I] — went to watch my [Williams] assistant coach Sara Ugalde. She left and now coaches for the Connecticut Whale. We went to see her and hang out," said Beattie. "During that game, one of the defensemen got hurt."

Beattie said she practiced with the Whale players more than a week ago. Within two days after skating with the Whale, Beattie was all of a sudden a professional hockey player.

Her day job is with Octagon, a sports and entertainment marketing company. Octagon's headquarters is conveniently located in Stamford, where the Whale's home ice at the Terry Conners Ice Rink is located.

"The NWHL does a very good job of accommodating people's fulltime jobs," Beattie said. "We practice twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday at 9 p.m., and 8 p.m. There are games once a week on weekends, either Saturday or Sunday."

Beattie has been working with Learn to Play, a hockey program and has been coaching youngsters once a week. So it's not like she's been off skates since Williams ended its season last February.

So what was it like to walk through the door and jump onto the ice?

"I just remember walking toward the ice through a little tunnel to step on ice for the warm ups," she said, when we spoke last week. "Just seeing the girl in front of me with the 'NWHL' on the back of her jersey. It was like, this cannot be real. This is so incredible, I'm honored to be here.

"I just couldn't believe it. It was like this was really happening."

The Whale lost to the Riveters, 4-0, in a game played on the New Jersey Devils' practice ice.

So what was it like to play?

"I was just trying to hold my own. The compete level was like nothing that I've ever seen before," Beattie said. "It was very high paced. I was basically to try to play my game and stay confident, knowing that these are some of the best players in the country."

While Levine plays in Boston and Ugalde is behind the bench in Connecticut, Beattie isn't the only former NESCAC player on her team. Emily Fluke, the NESCAC player of the year in 2015 at Middlebury, has two goals and two assists for the Whale.

The number of ex-Eph hockey players who got paid to play hockey is not a long one. Levine and Beattie join former men's player Alex Smigelski on the short list in the last decade. Smigelski played 31 games for the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL in 2010-11, scoring 12 goals and getting six assists. He earned that spot out of a Pittsburgh Penguins rookie camp.

"A former teammate, Michaela Levine, played and I thought that was incredible. I did not see myself doing that. Once my senior season was done, I was ready to sign up in a men's league and hang up the skates from real competitive play," Beattie said. "This opportunity presented itself, and it's been incredible."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, and 413-496-6253.


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