Amanda Kessel’s illustrious career with the U.S. Women’s National Team program hasn’t ended just yet.
But Kessel, a three-time Olympic medalist who also has three IIHF Women’s World Championship titles to her name, has certainly given thought about what she wants to do once the time comes to hang up her skates. The Pittsburgh Penguins have offered up one potential path with a new, first-of-its-kind program that could pave the way for more women and minorities to serve in front office and management roles.
The Penguins announced last week that Kessel will be the inaugural participant in the organization’s new Executive Management Program.
“I know someday my playing career will come to an end,” Kessel said. “That isn’t now. I’m still training and leaving everything open. But it’s really important for me to have a career after playing and I’ve always known that I wanted to stay in the game.”
With a focus on women and minority athletes, the Penguins’ Executive Management Program offers candidates a one-year opportunity to work alongside executives within the Penguins’ partnership, marketing, communications and broadcast departments, in addition to hockey operations.
The program consists of a rotation through different departments to expose Kessel to all aspects of the sports business. It also includes “graduate school educational and community service components,” per a news release.
“It’s a really unique idea,” Kessel said. “A lot of times when you get into a job, you get exposed to one thing. I think with my background and coming from a playing career into this, it’s a perfect transition to be exposed to everything. As an athlete, you don’t know what path you want to take to get there or what path is best, so this really gives me an opportunity to figure it out.”
Kessel was first exposed to the Penguins’ organization when her older brother Phil played four years in Pittsburgh, from 2015-2019, and won two Stanley Cups. During that time, Amanda first met David Morehouse, the Penguins’ president and CEO.
“[Morehouse] was key to this happening,” Kessel said. “I’ve met him over the years and always had wonderful conversations with him, and every time I see him, we’ve talked a little bit about coming to work for him. He’s one of the most respected guys you can find in hockey and he’s really the main reason why I’m here. I’m just excited to get going and join the team.”
Kessel has enjoyed an exceptional on-ice career, representing the United States three times in Olympic competition. Kessel was part of the historic team that captured the gold medal at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, and she also brought home silver in 2014 and 2022.
Amanda Kessel celebrating winning gold at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
Kessel has also fournd success representing the U.S. at other international events, including six IIHF Women’s World Championships, four times at the Four Nations Cup and twice in IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship competition.
Kessel is the latest woman to make her foray into the NHL. Cammi Granato, a previous U.S. Olympic team captain, gold medalist and Hockey Hall of Famer, is an assistant general manager in Vancouver. Kessel’s teammate Kendall Coyne Schofield is a player development coach with Chicago and former teammate Meghan Duggan is the manger of player development with New Jersey. Additional women are in NHL scouting roles, including Blake Bolden (Los Angeles) and U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Krissy Wendell-Pohl (Pittsburgh).
Kessel said it was important to see women in NHL management roles.
“I’m happy to be one of the first,” Kessel said. “But there are women who came before me and I’m really grateful that they paved the way. You see it now. There are women who are assistant general managers and growing up I didn’t think that was a possibility. But like we always say, ‘If you can see it, you can be it,’ so I’m happy to be a leader that way.”
Kessel also wouldn’t mind being a general manager or higher at some point in her career. For now, she’s just happy to be the first in a one-of-a-kind position with the Penguins.
“That would be an ultimate dream,” Kessel said. “This program gives me the opportunity to find my way. Maybe there’s something else I’ll end up liking. I think this is the perfect opportunity to explore all of my passions.”