Danielle Marmer’s hockey-playing career ground to a halt at age 22. When she began working in the Bruins organization in player development last year, she couldn’t stop thinking about how that did not have to be the case.
“In Providence, we would talk about a player at 22 years old and how much room for growth they had or how much more development that they could have and what their career could look like,” said Marmer, who is now 29. “And I would be laughing, because in the world that I just came from, in NCAA women’s hockey, 22 is considered the most elite, the most developed, the most matured player.”
Marmer believed that women’s hockey careers should be considered the same way as men’s, and that 22 shouldn’t be the end of a career if someone wanted to continue playing. A year removed from that revelation, Marmer is now actively doing something about it.
As the Professional Women’s Hockey League’s Boston team took the ice last week for training camp at Wellesley’s Boston Sports Institute, Marmer is leading the team as its general manager. Now she is giving those who thought their careers might be done at 22 a chance to see how far their games can go.
“These women have an opportunity to continue to develop their game,” said Marmer. “There’s so much untapped potential, and I think we can really shift what the landscape of women’s hockey looks like, and what the landscape of national teams can look like.
“Players can come into themselves and find their game at 25 or 26 years old instead of having to figure it out at 21 and 22.”
As Marmer’s playing career drew to a close in 2017, she thought law school would be her future. But after graduating from Quinnipiac, where she won the ECAC hockey championship as a junior, she wanted to see whether she might have a future coaching hockey. After all, she had grown up in the rink; her mother, Susan, ran Riley Rink in Manchester Center, Vt. Law school would always be there.
She joined the coaching staff at Division 3 Connecticut College, under the tutelage of longtime coach Kristin Steele. Marmer’s time there laid an excellent groundwork.
“She has actually a crazy number of assistants who are now head coaches,” said Marmer. “They call her ‘The Coach Whisperer.’
“I was really fortunate to be a part of that experience and to have her as a mentor. She gave me a lot of responsibility. There’s only two of you on a staff in a D3 program like that, and so she really had no other choice but to trust me and allow me to take the reins on some things and get my hands involved in a lot of different parts of the game.”
That prepared Marmer well for the startup nature of the PWHL. Since taking the general manager job at the beginning of September, she has worn many different hats. As the league establishes guidelines, regulations, and plans, Marmer’s to-do list changes, accordingly. There are days she’s been able to get a ton done, and other times where she is in a holding pattern waiting for leaguewide decisions to be made.
“There are days where you feel like, ‘Hey, we’re all caught up, we’ve done everything we can do,’ ” said Marmer. “But then there’s so much to do. So it’s an interesting place to be in, figuring out what I have to do today. What’s important now? Because it can be overwhelming if you look at the big picture and everything that we have to do.”
As she lays the groundwork for the new team, Marmer has worked hand-in-hand with her first hire, head coach Courtney Kessel. The two knew of each other from their NCAA coaching careers, but they had never worked closely together. The former Princeton assistant is impressed by Marmer’s transparency.
“She’s super collaborative and a great communicator,” said Kessel. “She just makes me feel super-involved and is willing to share all the details with me.”
One thing Marmer has stressed in every position in her career is skill development. It was the main role of the director of player development position she held with Quinnipiac from 2019-22, and that emphasis made her a perfect choice to join the Bruins’ player development staff in July 2022.
In that role, she absorbed a wealth of knowledge, especially from director of amateur scouting Ryan Nadeau and former Bruin Adam McQuaid, who is the team’s player development coordinator.
“[Nadeau] fought for me to get that job with them,” said Marmer. “He taught me so much about what the men’s game looks like and how they evaluate and project players. Adam helped me understand what the development path looks like for players.
“I heard about his AHL and then NHL career and about the parts of his game that translated, and why he wants to help other players do that. That is the skill-development piece that I really want to emphasize in my team now in Boston.”
Marmer already has earned kudos for her handling of the PWHL Draft in September, when she was so excited that she stood up early for Boston’s picks. Now, as she gets her draftees and free agent selections on the ice, she is ready to give them the chance to grow their hockey skills and prove that a women’s hockey career hasn’t peaked at 22.
“I think about who I was as a 22-year-old, versus who I was at 25, versus who I am at 29,” said Marmer. “There’s a world of difference. So I think allowing these women the opportunity to improve is something that I want to make sure we provide the resources for.”
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Kat Cornetta can be reached at email@example.com.