Getting to Know Gaby Ugarte and Perrye Seraphin from “To Hockey, With Love”

min - read
Kirsten Staple
min - read
If you only have a few minutes to spare, here's what you should know:
Gaby and Perrye run the To Hockey, With Love blog as a letter to the sport.
They also run the To Hockey, With Love x The Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) Writing Mentorship Program for marginalized writers.
The newsletter is currently on a short break but will return soon.

To Hockey, With Love

To Hockey, With Love is a hockey newsletter run by Gaby Ugarte (@hockeynuisance) and Perrye Seraphin (@perryedseraphin).

In the newsletter, the two long-distance besties (Gaby is based in Chicago and Perrye is in Toronto) discuss hot hockey topics, issues in hockey culture and use fun pop culture references.

Gaby and Perrye also run the To Hockey, With Love X The Professional Hockey Writers Association Writing Mentorship Program for aspiring writers from marginalized groups.

HoT: What inspired you to create the newsletter?

Seraphin: I have a background in Journalism but I'm doing my Master’s in Communication and Culture. We were active a lot on Twitter, screaming into the void with our tweets and then we realized that nothing was really happening so we wanted to do an active change.

We had so many ideas initially; we were like “maybe we could do a podcast” but we felt for the vibe that we had, it would have been just us ranting for the whole episode. I was not doing as much freelance work and Gaby always wanted to explore that venue so it kind of fell together. 

We started talking about it three months before we launched and we're not sure if it was gonna be a real thing. We're just like “maybe someday” and during the 2021 holidays, we're like “let’s do it.” For most of our life, white men can speak into the void and talk trash so why not us?

Our topics cannot be as nuanced on Twitter in tweets. We wanted to have a platform to be able to talk about what we think about sports and have the space to have lengthy conversations on specific topics. 

When we started, we saw it as letters to the sport so whatever was happening at that time and space was what we wanted to say that we could never really say. Initially, we were like “we have to plan what to talk about” and over time, it became less strict and more time-sensitive with the specific topic going on in the current sport.

For me, it was also trying to find a hobby or a passion that was not linked with what I was currently experiencing.

I feel like during the pandemic, we kind of lost track of what we love to do so Gaby and I used that opportunity to develop love for something. For us, it was really important to try to find something to put joy in it. 

Ugarte: A chunk of the news at that time [in 2021] was writing about the sexual assault scandal of the [Chicago] Blackhawks so for me that was really motivating for the first few pieces but I don't know if there was like one specific moment that led to it.

[Another thing is] the concept of having nuance on the soft side, having the ability to go more into depth on these topics that also allows us to approach topics in an accessible way.

We have some levity so we can talk about serious topics but also still be funny. 

Sometimes, when we talk on Twitter, it sounds like we're really angry about these things all the time and that's not the case. Having a newsletter really allowed us to explore these different things in a way that makes sense. We write this just out of a lot of love, not just for this work, but for a lot of the people that we met in the communities that we've built.

It can be really hard, especially in the past year, where we've been very much involved in the other side of hockey and it can be a really hard space to navigate through but there’s still so much joy in the projects we do. That was really what we wanted when we first started and it worked out pretty well. We just love seeing what can we do, what can we explore and it's joyful. 

Graphic of a newsletter with a hockey player and hands forming heart shape

HoT: Can you describe to me an outline of how you come up with what to write for the blog/newsletter?

Ugarte: We like it without structure. It is really a little chaotic, accidentally on purpose. The only thing we try to do is get in other thoughts, which is just like a summary of things that we're never going to explore in a newsletter but we do want to talk about, so that's really like the most structured thing that we have.

Otherwise, it's just like whatever is on our minds or a hot topic at that time. A lot of it is just like us exploring our interests in a way that we can apply to hockey. [For example], I really enjoy the sociological aspects of the sport.

We try to find a way to balance that so when we wrote on why all the WAGs are blonde, it was a hot topic at the time but it was also letting us look into the other topics that we were interested in sociology, like beauty standards and other things, so finding a way to marry those two things together.

Seraphin: We started where every week, one of us would have our own week to write and then we realized with our lifestyle, it was just not sustainable [grad school, other commitments]. Even though you're not writing, you're reviewing the other person’s work so you're still involved and it was taking a lot of time.

Sometimes, we wanted to talk about the same thing so we realized, “why not make a joint thing?” I feel like even when you're not writing, you're still contributing to the other person’s work so both of us deserve the spotlight. 

We came up with other thoughts, that was later into the first year; it was not initially in the first few newsletters and then we realized how fun it is to just talk about different topics without having to sit down and create a big outline for those little topics so that's something that we really enjoy and kept around.

There's the fun stuff like hockey playlists and hockey hotties and stuff like this where we want to be a little crazy. We started with structure but we just lost track because life got in the way.

HoT: How did you come up with the To Hockey, With Love x The PHWA writing mentorship program? 

Seraphin: We both wanted to do something that was not just us speaking, we wanted to do proper action. As women of color, we both know how hard it is to navigate the sports world so we were gathering contacts and we're getting a certain kind of popularity so why not use it to make proper change for other people in the sport that are trying to be writers?

I know how hard it is to get your work out there and get known so for us, it was important to create a space for people who probably have a similar experience as us, trying to come up and be a hockey writer. I think whether the PHWA said yes or not, we would still try to make it work, but I feel like having that stamp of approval and being partnered with them made it bigger than we could ever imagine when we initially started talking about it.

Ugarte: I think that's the power of Twitter, which I understand with so many people are upset about everything that's happening currently.

I know Chanel Keenan [through Twitter] and she very gracefully put this in contact with Ryan Clark (ESPN), who sits on the DEI committee of the PHWA, and we presented the idea to him. From there, he brought Arpon Basu (The Athletic) and Frank Seravalli (President of the PHWA) to the table. Everyone was on board pretty quickly and having that stamp of approval from a group was a plus. This idea that there can only be one person of color in the room doesn't ever make sense to us.

We're very community-centered people so it's like “okay, so why can't we all have a seat at the table?” and that's what we ultimately want to hope to accomplish [with the program].

The PHWA and To Hockey With Love partnered up to form a mentorship program for aspiring hockey writers from marginalized communities in August of 2022

HoT: Do you have a favorite newsletter/blog that you have written?

Seraphin: I really liked the WAG jacket rankings from this year, it was our second year doing them. I also really liked the one we did on Kadri and the end-of-season awards from last season.

Ugarte: I also really liked the Kadri piece, I think it was underappreciated.

I think that's one of our best ones and definitely didn't do as well as the other ones that we've written. I thought the one with the WAG jackets was so fun because I started getting really deep into the fashion choices.

My other favorite one was Perrye’s piece on the paradox of being a black hockey fan. I think people in hockey try to write about other people's experiences as black players or as people involved in the game but [her piece] was the first time that we got a perspective from a black woman themselves who grew up in Canada as a hockey fan. It was also really interesting to work on and I remember we talked a lot about the concept of triple consciousness (being black, a woman, and a hockey fan) as well.

HoT: What does the future of the newsletter look like?

Seraphin: It's important to explain that we haven't been active as much because I had a health setback so I've been recovering from it and we felt it would just be fair if we would both take a step back.

We did have some issues already ready so that's why we published throughout May and June, but we didn't have the time to sit down and talk about what's next fully in detail. The second year of the mentorship program is going to be on the way pretty soon. We’ll be back.

Ugarte: We had already done a lot of planning for the mentorship program too so that's what's really going to be our focus for the next couple of months but we're just taking a pause for right now so that Perrye can recover in peace.

Perrye is also finishing up her thesis too, I’m heavily involved in the process of establishing Alphabet Sports Collective, we were also running the mentorship program, Perrye also joined the Black Girl Hockey Club Canada's board of directors too so we’re just taking a little break for now.

We’ll re-assess in a few weeks but we’ll be back.

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