A huge storyline for the Connecticut Whale has been their undefeated streak that ended Sunday night against the 12-skater Boston Pride, who were missing their National Team players. What cannot be overlooked in the melee is the recent loss of their General Manager, Harry Rosenholtz, which likely set the team back a bit in confidence.
George Speirs is the interim general manager for the Connecticut Whale, talking the reins over since Rosenholtz resigned for personal reasons on Christmas Eve. Rosenholtz took over for Chris Ardito in August, eleven days before the free agent signing deadline the NWHL had set for itself. This change means the NWHL’s Whale is on its third general manager before its inaugural season is complete.
The league’s main concern for the Whale is stability for the remainder of the season, according to Speirs.
“I will remain the GM as long as this remains a stable environment,” said Speirs. “Neither Dani or I will GM teams next year, but our main concern right now is stability of the Whale.” As such, Speirs may continue to GM the Whale for the remainder of the season, but should a replacement rear his or her head right away, he could return to his regular duties at the league’s headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Speirs, COO of the NWHL, has risen far in the ranks since I first spoke with him in May at a Boston Pride training camp. Then, he was volunteering as a photographer for the league and had donated some of his own money to the organization, looking at it as an investment in women’s hockey. Now Speirs is Rylan’s right-hand man, helping set up day-to-day operations, deal with visas, and more behind-the-scenes work that culminates in the ability to produce an on-ice product.
Speirs has been working with the league since January when he met Rylan and began volunteering with her organization.
“I think Dani picked me (to GM the Whale for the time being) because she knows I can hold the hat of a GM and hold the hat of a league official when necessary. There are three months left in the season and right now I think my main concern for this team is stability.
“We understand losing a GM halfway through the season can be debilitating for a team and we don’t want that to happen. We want to improve the things that have been working and fix those that aren’t.
“I intend on having a open-door policy with all the players,” Speirs continued. “Working with the league and doing the same thing as the General Manager. It gives them a little more stability because I’m always on the clock. I’m learning about the position from Dani because she’s been doing this all season.
“It has been a very welcoming environment for me,” said Speirs. Players ribbed him a little about being bad luck – the Whale had their unbeaten 8-0-0 streak broken by the Boston Pride Speirs’s first day as Connecticut’s GM – but overall were very glad to welcome him to the team in a postgame meeting Sunday night.
“The meeting was extremely positive. I actually got a round of applause at the end of it,” Speirs chuckled. “Our goal is to have uniformity across the league in how teams are run and deal with players. We have a great team here, and not only from the Whale point of view, but at the office as well.
“It’s not ideal that we’ve had two GMs resign in our first season, but I respect that they had their own personal reasons that meant they couldn’t work with the Whale anymore. I don’t think it will rock ‘the pod’ much at all,” said Whale defenseman Shannon Doyle.
While the league’s main concern may be stability, the Whale seems to have it in abundance, with players taking the news of Rosenholtz’s resignation and Speirs’s appointment to the position in stride. Unsurprisingly, the team dropped its game against the Pride Sunday night. While there were a lot of factors coming into the loss – one being the Pride’s determination to prove they were not neutered without their National Team players and another being the fact that the Whale’s PDO was due for a regression of some sort – the recent upheaval in management cannot be discounted.
CORRECTION: Speirs’ name was previously misspelled in this article and has been corrected.