On the afternoon of May 28, 2019, the NWHL announced that Mandy Cronin would be the Buffalo Beauts new general manager. Cronin becomes the fifth individual to fulfill the role since the team’s inception for the inaugural 2015-16 season.
“I am eager and excited to work with the Buffalo Beauts players and staff,” Cronin said in the press release about her signing, “as well as the league, to continue building on the success they have already achieved. I’m also looking forward to learning and growing as a professional in this industry, utilizing my experience from nearly two decades in athlete development and business management to expand and improve the NWHL player and fan experience. I’m committed to doing all I can for the sport of hockey that has given me so much.”
Cronin is the third general manager to be hired this month. The Metropolitan Riveters hired Kate Whitman Annis, while the Connecticut Whale named Bray Ketchum as their new GM.
Cronin Is the Right Choice to Help Bridge the Gap
In what has become a very tumultuous time in women’s hockey, Cronin is the ideal selection for the job in Buffalo. For starters, there is somewhat of an unsettled feeling right now as the fan base and the city become accustomed to the team no longer being owned by Pegula Sports and Entertainment (PSE). After well more than a season of the team being part of the “One Buffalo” family along with the Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bills, and Buffalo Bandits, the Beauts are a standalone team in the “City of Good Neighbors” once again.
This is not a deterrent in the respect that Buffalo fans have supported their teams well before the Pegulas came into play. Have no fear – fans of women’s hockey are still going to support their Beauts here in Western New York no matter who owns them. That is just how Buffalo is – and always has been. If PSE ownership created any ramifications, it is that the casual fan knows that a Beauts game is very enjoyable to take in with family and friends.
What complicates matters though is that there is a very real separation right now between the views of some players on how the path for women’s hockey ought unfold. The players in support of the #ForTheGame movement and the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) – some 200 strong – are refraining from playing professionally in North America for the 2019-20 season until they have brought to fruition what they feel is a single, viable professional women’s ice hockey league.
Since May 1, 2019, every active player from the Beauts’ 2018-19 roster – with the exception of goaltender Julia DiTondo who does not make public use of social media – has demonstrated support of #ForTheGame and the PWHPA. One would have to assume then that none of these same players will be on the Beauts for 2019-20.
This leaves some difficult waters for Cronin to navigate, but the mindset she has shared would indicate that she is more than up to the task. With the opportunity to be hands-on in the day-to-day orchestrations of the team, she brings the necessary focus to build a successful roster that will be both fun and competitive.
“It is important to acknowledge that we are at a crossroads in women’s post-collegiate hockey,” Cronin stated in the release. “I believe we would all like to reach the same goal – to have one sustainable women’s professional league. We need to find a way to bridge the gap in our beliefs of what that looks like, and the correct path to get to that point. I am fully dedicated to playing whatever part necessary to aid in that mission.”
Cronin Brings the Right Credentials as Well
What is most important in Cronin’s undertaking of GM in such a critical time is that she possesses the right credentials backing her to perform the job most well.
A former goaltender, she played a full four-season NCAA career with the University of Maine Black Bears from 1998 to 2002. Additionally, Cronin is the founder and director of M-Power Hockey, which since 2006 has provided coaching, mentoring and consulting services for players in Toronto and neighboring communities.
Furthermore – and most importantly right now – Cronin played in an earlier league also called the NWHL from 2002-2007, and then co-founded the CWHL with an alliance of players that included Kathleen Kauth, Sami-Jo Small, Jayna Hefford, and Jennifer Botterill. She even won the CWHL’s Clarkson Cup with the Brampton Thunder in 2008. This gives Cronin a unique perspective that most who have a stake in the women’s pro game presently do not have. She has been a pioneer, and has seen good, bad and otherwise within the sport that she holds dearly.
The steadying hands of calmness, commitment, and experience often ring true in trying times. All appearances show that Cronin possesses each of those qualities to right the ship in Buffalo amidst any present unsurety, and get the suitable players on board for the upcoming season.
“Mandy Cronin is an important and invaluable addition to the NWHL as GM of the Buffalo Beauts,” said Hayley Moore, NWHL Deputy Commissioner and Director of Player Development. “She’s incredibly knowledgeable and passionate, and it shines through in all she has already done in the game. Mandy was a goaltender at a great program at UMaine, was one of the incredible pioneers in a group of players that founded the CWHL, and she’s the founder and director of her own hockey business. We couldn’t ask for a better person to lead our team in Buffalo.”
The hiring of Cronin is the first step in re-establishing firm footing for NWHL hockey in Buffalo. There is a long ways to go – and a long summer too – but this is a crucial move which has been rightfully orchestrated.
One would hope that Cronin’s enthusiasm for bridging the gap will be paramount in getting players signed to the Beauts’ roster. And from there, hopes for a successful 2019-20 season in the Queen City.