Reyes: Flashing the Leather

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Stick n’ Puck in Music City

This past Saturday, Feb. 26, the Nashville Predators hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2022 NHL Stadium Series.

Nashville lost 3-2 to the twice-defending Stanley Cup champs in their own city. Multiple players noted that there was a big showing for the Tampa Bay crowd, likely playing into the mental aspects of hockey and propelling the team to their victory.

“Our coaching staff actually mentioned it before the game,” Steve Stamkos of the Lightning told ESPN. “There was some extra motivation because of all the fans we had there. We wanted to go out and perform well for them.”

Currently, the Lightning strives to close the gap between themselves and the Florida Panthers for the first place spot in the Atlantic Division. On the other hand, the Predators are in fourth place in the Central Division, just one point out of the playoff bubble. 

The NHL chose the Nissan Stadium, home of the professional football team the Tennessee Titans, as the outdoor arena for this year’s Stadium Series. The Predators and the NHL made this a must-see event for the 68,819 fans in attendance. The night included recent number retiree Pekka Rinne, multiple country artists, Commissioner Gary Bettman, dancers and fireworks.

Both teams were given specific jerseys for this game. Nashville’s was highlighted with their normal mustard yellow and navy blue, along with a guitar pick and “SMASHVILLE” written across their chest. Tampa Bay followed a similar route to the 90s Champion’s shark tooth hats and had “BOLTS” stitched diagonally across the jersey.

Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos scored for the Lightning, while Tanner Jeannot and Filip Forsberg scored power-play goals for Nashville.

Ultimately, this game has proven to the NHL and hockey fans that it is possible to have hockey outdoors in a warm climate.

Remember the Name  

On April 8, 2022, Rachel Balkovec will become the first female manager in the history of baseball’s major league-affiliated teams.

As the new manager of the New York Yankees Single-A team, the Tampa Tarpons, she is only adding to her stellar career– which includes becoming the first female strength and conditioning coach and female hitting coach in all of professional baseball. 

After completing her athletic career as a Division I softball player for the University of New Mexico, Balkovec landed her first internship in strength and conditioning with EXOS. From there, she moved onto similar positions at Louisiana State University Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona State University Sun Devils, Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros.

She also gained front office experience interning with the Los Tigres Del Liceya team from the Dominican Winter League. Balkovec was also a hitting coach for teams in the Netherlands. 

It wasn’t until 2019 that Balkovec was signed by the Yankees as a hitting coach and, just three years later, accepted the position of the manager for Tarpons.

Balkovec has faced challenges based on her gender. She even had to change her name to a masculine one just to get her first set of interviews at the beginning of her career,  banking on the fact that she was qualified for the positions as an interviewee. Despite this, Balkovec continues to trailblaze a path for young females in professional sports.

Rachel Balkovec is a name to remember as she continues to make history as a woman in sports. There is no doubt that she will continue to progress through the minor leagues and eventually get her big break in the show.

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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