West Bloomfield native, Connecticut Whale forward ‘having fun’ heading into season

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published November 9, 2022

 The Connecticut Whale’s Tori Sullivan will look to have an impactful season with her new team.

The Connecticut Whale’s Tori Sullivan will look to have an impactful season with her new team.

Photo provided by Kaylee Herndon

WEST BLOOMFIELD — A local champion is making her mark in the Premier Hockey League, but also reclaiming the love for a sport her life has revolved around since she was young.

West Bloomfield native Tori Sullivan, who graduated from Farmington Hills Mercy in 2014, is heading into her fourth season as a professional hockey player in the PHL and her first for the Connecticut Whale. Sullivan was the Whale’s final addition, signing in August of this year.

“It’s been great. I would say the drive I’m still adjusting to because I’m commuting from Boston,” Sullivan said. “The team has just been awesome. They’re so welcoming and nice, and just the locker room itself just feels comforting.”

Sullivan, 26, has been successful in every aspect of her hockey career, with three state championships as a staple of the Honeybaked Hockey Club throughout high school, but also a vital piece for Boston Pride during their back-to-back PHL Isobel Cup Championship wins in ’21 and ’22.

Regardless of the success with Boston, Sullivan said she didn’t feel like herself on the ice.

“Last year, I actually think I struggled a lot, in part because I didn’t get to train, skate or work out over the summer for a good five months or so,” Sullivan said. “After the season, I was actually in treatment for six months, so I was just training my mind. I didn’t get to do much physical training or stuff like that, so going into the season I wasn’t really, fully there. Mentally and physically, it was just a tough transition back into hockey and the real world.”

Compared to her rookie year in 2019 with Boston where she tallied 25 points in 24 games, Sullivan earned just six points in 27 games over her past two seasons.

Now, Sullivan is entering the season with a new team and a new mindset.

“This summer has been great; I got to train, skate and do everything I can to get ready for the season,” Sullivan said. “Now, it’s just kind of like putting all that into action and being confident in what I did over the summer, and just utilizing and trusting my skill-set.”

Sullivan was a collegiate star for Boston College’s hockey team from 2015-2016, earning Hockey East All-Rookie Team honors her freshman year with 28 points in 39 games.

In 2017, Sullivan would transfer to Northeastern University, leading them to a Hockey East regular season title and tournament championship. Sullivan tallied 43 points in 73 games in her two years at Northeastern.

Sullivan said Northeastern’s environment made the transition comfortable for her.

“It was a tough transition just being so close to BC and then being in the same league on a new team — it was just a big change,” Sullivan said. “The coaches are just incredible, and they’re just amazing, amazing people. They really, really helped me, and they really took me in and took care as one of their own daughters.”

Northeastern initially tried to recruit Sullivan before she chose Boston College, but a full-circle move for Sullivan turned out to be the best opportunity for both Northeastern and Sullivan.

“It just made us stronger with a player of her caliber and the person she is. I think she just elevated our program to another level,” Dave Flint, Northeastern women’s hockey coach since 2008, said.

Flint said Sullivan is everything Northeastern looks for in a player.

“She’s been a great role model. She does everything to the best of her ability on and off the ice,” Flint said. “She’s always got a smile on her face. She’s just a great human being.”

Sullivan continues to be a role model off the ice, serving as the women’s director of HC Sports Management’s women’s hockey program.

Founded by Christopher Hills in 2014, HC Sports Management focuses on assisting hockey players as young as eighth grade find a suitable hockey program, and then helps with their collegiate recruiting process, as well.

“I just helped a girl, one of my players, she was pretty late in the game, and she committed to Syracuse as a goalie,” Sullivan said. “It was pretty late, but when she called me, it was the best feeling. I was just so happy for her.”

Along with her management career, Sullivan and Connecticut Whale teammate Caitrin Lonergan have worked with 14- and 19-year-old hockey players at Lovell Academy, just outside of Boston.

Lonergan was teammates with Sullivan at Boston College and made the transition to Connecticut easier for Sullivan to handle.

“We’ve been friends for a long time, and she’s just a huge support,” Sullivan said. “We actually both work together even now at a new hockey academy, so it’s been great being able to have her around supporting me and being able to support her.”

Sullivan and Lonergan will look to translate that chemistry onto the ice for the Connecticut Whale as the team looks to make its second-straight Isobel Cup Championship.

Whale lost to Sullivan’s former team, Boston Pride, in the championship last year and will open the season against Boston Pride Nov. 5 at the Warrior Ice Arena.

Sullivan said this season has a different feel for her than past years.

“I think the last couple years, hockey has been a little tough,” Sullivan said. “I think slowly but surely, my passion on the ice and love for the game has slowly gotten back to where it was in college and where I was a kid.”