The Boston Blades welcomed forward Casey Pickett back to the team with open arms this season, a forward the Blades drafted in 2014 alongside Rachel Llanes, a fellow 2013 Northeastern University graduate. In the two years that Pickett was on the Blades she notched 23 points (15 goals, 8 assists) in 43 games and was part of the roster that won the Clarkson Cup in 2015.
Her record at Northeastern was similarly strong; Pickett captained her team in her senior year and graduated 11th on Northeastern’s all-time record list for career points with 125. With the announcement of the NWHL, Pickett left the Blades for a position as a practice player on the Pride last season, where she faced limited ice time. Her production reflected that; Pickett played only a handful of shifts through three games and posted zero points, an unusually low number for the forward.
Although she was asked to return to the Pride as a practice player, Pickett told Today’s Slapshot the limited nature of the practice player position left her looking elsewhere for ice time.
“Leaving the Pride was a tough decision for me,” Pickett said. “At the end of the day, I wanted the opportunity to play in games and I didn’t see that opportunity presenting itself with the Pride. That team is so deep. It’s kind of a hard role there, to know you’re only going in if someone is hurt, and even if someone’s hurt, you’re forward number ten,” Pickett added.
“At the end of the day, it was a decision to join a team where I could potentially see game time.”
While Pickett could certainly be a difference-maker for the Blades, given her natural scoring ability, her work schedule will only allow her to make six or seven of Boston’s home games this upcoming season, which makes her role on the team difficult to define. It’s something she and general manager Krista Patronick have not yet discussed, she said.
Although the number of games she can dress for is limited, Pickett is enthused about re-joining the Blades after a season away, ready to contribute in any way possible, even if that just means pushing her teammates in practice and giving them the chance to hone their skills.
“I can’t wait to be with this group of girls and the coaches, take on whatever role Krista will allow me to,” she said. “I wasn’t able to make any games [last season] but I have a couple of former teammates and friends who were playing for the Blades last year,” Pickett said. “I think that was the big selling point to coming back, was how much fun they had as a group.
“On-ice, it wasn’t the most successful season but it seemed like a really successful season for them off-ice, which I think is kind of an exciting thing to be a part of, to have a group that just really enjoys being around each other,” she added.
The Blades’ weak season in 2015-16 has left openings for skill players on the ice, such as Pickett, and the dressing room atmosphere has been very welcoming, something she was focused on.
Pickett’s priorities have shifted, when it comes to hockey. While once she might have hoped to make a living from it, she now teaches, coaches and works as an assistant athletic director at her alma mater of St. Mark’s Prep School and finds that takes priority over a career in hockey.
“The hockey piece is important,” said Pickett, “but not quite as important as supporting each other in other areas of life.”
Her limited availability aside, Pickett sees positive things ahead for the CWHL’s Boston-based team, citing the offensive depth as a big step up for the Blades in addition to the warm atmosphere between teammates. She may not be able to be a part of every success on the ice but, off the ice, she has found a group she can connect with on a personal level.
“I think there’s definitely some potential for this team to surprise some people,” Pickett said. “I think there’s definitely potential to make a run. We’ll definitely have a more successful season on-ice.
“Off-ice,” she added, “I think we’ve come together really well. It’s an environment I’m really excited to show up to practice every week and I have teammates that can make me laugh and just really enjoy hockey for what it is. [They] remind me what it is I want from hockey these days, and that’s just to be a part of a group that wants to have fun together and loves the sport for what it is.”