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Whale sign deal to play in Simsbury for another three seasons

From left, Adam Westhaver, ISCC owner and Business Development Director, Kelle Becconscall, ISCC owner and general manager and Tobin Kelly, owner of the Connecticut Whale. (Photo courtesy PHF)

SIMSBURY, April 19, 2023 – The Connecticut Whale are solidifying their presence in Simsbury at the International Skating Center of Connecticut.

The team announced a three-year deal on Tuesday to continue playing at the ISCC through the 2025-26 Premier Hockey Federation season. Beginning next season, the Whale will practice full-time in Simsbury and play all of their home games at the ISCC.

In addition to practices and games, team events will also be hosted at the facility and the facility’s state-of-the-art gym will allow the team to expand its strength and conditioning staff. Additionally, the Whale’s administrative and support staff will have office space on-site at ISCC. The facility already has a dedicated locker room for the Whale.

Connecticut played 10 of their 12 home games in Simsbury this season but they practiced at the Milford Ice Forum. The Whale are the first professional team to call the Farmington Valley home since the Hartford Foxforce, the World Team Tennis squad that played at Blue Fox Run in Avon for four seasons from 2003 through 2006.

“ISCC bent over backwards to create a great experience for our players, fans and staff in our first season in Simsbury,” said Tobin Kelly, owner of the Connecticut Whale. “This long-term partnership with the rink means that our players and staff can really put down roots and allows us to be fully engaged in the local community while holding all of our practices, games and team events at ISCC.

“With a brand-new gym, warm-up areas, new locker room and office space for our staff, the Whale will be at the top of the women’s hockey world in what we can provide our players in one building, Kelly said in a release from the team. “There will be no other home in pro women’s hockey like it when we are done.”

Connecticut finished third in the PHF last season with a record of 14-8-2 before being eliminated by eventual PHF champion Toronto in game three of their best-of-3 semifinal series. The Whale went 6-4 in Simsbury.

The Whale just completed their eighth season as a team. In their history, they played three years in Stamford in two different arenas, one year in North Branford, two years in Danbury at the Ice Arena and one month in Lake Placid when the league tried to hold a tournament in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Having them has just been an honor to have a professional women’s team at our rink,” said Kelle Becconsail, owner and general manager of the ISCC. “This was something we had aspired to since day 1. We couldn’t be more thrilled. Their presence here couldn’t be more exciting.”

The Whale players noticed the difference when they got to Simsbury. They had their own locker room. The team’s logo was painted at center ice and displayed prominently in the building. There was post-game food available for the teams.

“It’s a huge thing to be wanted,” Connecticut forward Taylor Girard said. “As a female hockey player to have your logo at center ice might seem like what is so great about that? But it shows that this rink wants us here. They want to showcase that we actually belong here and are a professional team. It’s awesome to see.”

Becconsail said her team is working with the town of Simsbury to expand the seating capacity for the Whale. There are two rinks at the ISCC and the Whale’s rink seats around 500 fans.

It’s part of the plan to revitalize the rink that opened in October 1994 as an international figure skating training facility. Olympic figure skating champions Oksana Baiul (1994) and Victor Petrenko (1992), who both grew up in the Ukraine, were here at the beginning.

“When this facility was built, it was put on the map for a very different reason and I wanted to get this back on the map,” Becconsail said. “As a woman, we couldn’t be more proud to get back on the map with a women’s professional hockey team. I can’t do enough to make these girls feel appreciated. Because to me, it’s a win/win for the community and for them.”

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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