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November 4, 2016

Connecticut Whalers, Elena Orlando, Transition from College to NWHL

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Orlando, forward for the Connecticut Whalers in the NWHL. Elena was a dual sport DI athlete at Quinnipiac University. She played ice hockey and rugby for QU and then took her skills on the ice overseas to Sweden where she played internationally for a year until the finalization of the professional women’s ice hockey league back in the US and hasn’t looked back since.

LRT Sports: What was your first reaction when you found out that you were going to be playing in a newly established league as a professional?

I was extremely excited. It had always been a dream to play professional hockey but there was no league. When the NWHL was announced, I knew it was something I wanted to be part of.

LRT Sports: How was the transition from NCAA hockey to NWHL, was it difficult or easy?

In the NCAA, you play with and against some great players and teams. In the NWHL everyone is like that. The speed and skill is top-notch and you’re playing against the best of the best each game. So it takes some adjustment.

LRT Sports:  Did your school help you in the drafting/tryout and signing process?

I was actually a year out of playing collegiate hockey so I did the process on my own.

LRT Sports:  Did you always think or want a professional career following your college years? Did you ever think that you would be able to follow those professional aspirations in the U.S.?

Yeah, I definitely did. At the end of my college career the NWHL hadn’t been announced, so people who wanted to continuing playing had few options. I chose to go overseas and play in Sweden for a bit. I thought I was going to retire after that but then the league was announced and suddenly I had the opportunity to play in the US and get paid for it.

LRT Sports:  Do you think that your choice in the right school in Quinnipiac University had anything to do with you now playing in the professional league? If so, how?

I believe Quinnipiac set me up for success in the league. The coaches really pushed us to be better players and encouraged the competitive nature which is important when you are playing with and against some of the best players in the world. The proof of that is how many QU alum are in the league.

LRT Sports:  What advice can you give to high school athletes about the recruiting process?

I think the main thing is to figure out what you want out of a school. You’re spending four years there so it’s important to understand what you want not only athletically but academically. You should also do your research and understand what the team and coaches are like to see if it’ll be a good fit. Exploring all your options is another big thing. Even if you go on a visit and think that is where you want to go, don’t skip out on other visits because those places might surprise you.

LRT Sports:  What is the most important piece of advice that you can give student-athletes on how to play at the next level?

As cliché as it sounds, hard work is going to get you places. In high school, natural talent helps people stand out and get recruited to college. Once you get to college and you’re playing with more skilled people, hard work and continuing to work on your skills is what is going to set you above everyone else.

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Photo from todaysslapshot.com