In one week, Olympic gold medalist Kendall Coyne Schofield forever changed the landscape of women’s hockey.
Coyne Schofield became the first woman to compete in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition and followed it up four days later with a stint as an analyst on NBCSN’s regular-season NHL broadcast between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning.
“This week has been incredible,” Coyne Schofield said. “It’s hard to put into words, but I think what’s so special about this week is how many lives were changed, how many doors were opened, how many barriers were broken and how many people were inspired to pick up the sport of ice hockey.”
Entering 2019, Coyne Schofield and her husband Michael — an offensive lineman for the Los Angeles Chargers — wondered how they were going to follow a 2018 that saw the athletes get married and Coyne Schofield win an Olympic gold medal among other highlights.
Coyne Schofield celebrates with her husband, Michael, after winning Olympic gold in 2018.
“Here we are in the new year and while it has been short, it certainly hasn’t been boring,” Coyne Schofield said. “I think it’s just continuing to be a positive role model, continuing to break barriers and just show young people, girls and boys, that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. You have to believe in yourself and have fun doing it along the way. I always want to be an open door for kids and just as accessible as I can to the community.”
Coyne Schofield’s life most certainly changed after she helped the U.S. Women’s National Team to a historic gold medal at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Coyne Schofield and her teammates made an appearance on “Ellen” and “Jimmy Fallon,” met the U.S. women’s soccer team and also rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, among other highlights. The team visited the White House during a trip to Washington D.C. and was also recognized at the Team USA Awards for Olympic Team of the Year and ESPN’s ESPY Awards for the “Best Game” of the year.
“Reflecting back on the last year in general, and almost a year since the gold medal, it’s been awesome to see the support, the growth of the game and, most importantly, how many people have been impacted in the hockey community through our victory,” Coyne Schofield said. “It has been amazing and opened so many doors. It makes me really excited for the future.”
Coyne Schofield and her teammates carried momentum from their Olympic gold medal-winning effort with a fourth straight Four Nations Cup championship.
“It was a huge moment to win Four Nations coming off the Olympic win,” Coyne Schofield said.
“I thought we influenced a lot of people in the United States to pick up the game of hockey. However, I think the moment this past week has inspired the world,” Coyne Schofield said. “I heard from so many people across the world who just said thank you. So I think that speaks volumes to the National Hockey League’s platform.”
Coyne Schofield believes the NHL made a statement with her inclusion in the NHL All-Star Skills event. It also put the rest of the world in touch with the women’s game.
“The NHL always says hockey is for everyone, and they don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk,” Coyne Schofield said. “I know there were a lot of people behind the scenes who worked very hard to make this moment possible, and kudos to them for being the first to say that women should be able to compete in the All-Star [weekend]. I also give credit to every single player that has come before me because without their efforts, without their skill and talent, this wouldn’t be possible either.”
Coyne Schofield was already in San Jose to help demonstrate NHL All-Star Skills events, along with U.S. teammate Brianna Decker and Rebecca Johnston and Renata Fast of Team Canada. A day before the NHL All-Star Skills competition, Coyne Schofield clocked a 14.226 in the rehearsal for the Fastest Skater event.
When it was determined that Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon couldn’t compete because of a bruised foot, Coyne Schofield came to mind as a replacement. NHL executive Patrick Burke was at the rehearsal and suggested the gold medalist. Four hours before the event, Coyne Schofield received a public invitation to compete in the form of a tweet from the Avalanche.
Coyne Schofield visits with NHL Network's E.J. Hradek ahead of the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Competition
“While it was a spur of the moment that day, those conversations were had before because we had three players at the All-Star game last year,” Coyne Schofield said. “I got to the rink and it was just chaos from there. I was so excited, I knew the impact the moment could have.”
Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper extended his congratulations at the event. He saw the U.S. Women’s National Team up close while it stayed in Tampa Bay during its residency period prior to the Olympic Winter Games.
“He said he was so happy that we, as the women’s hockey community, were able to have this moment,” Coyne Schofield said. “His exact words, if I recall correctly, were, ‘This is going to change the landscape of women’s hockey forever.’”
And it did. But that doesn’t mean Coyne Schofield wasn’t nervous prior to the event. An interaction with Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid, who won the Fastest Skater title for the third straight year, helped calm the nerves.
“I went up to Connor McDavid at the start and asked him if he was nervous,” Coyne Schofield said. “When he said he was a little nervous, that made me feel better because I was really nervous.”
But then Coyne Schofield made history, blazing a time of 14.346 — one second behind McDavid’s winning time — and finishing seventh of eight skaters.
“Everyone was so shocked by my speed, yet I’ve been doing this my whole life,” Coyne Schofield said. “It took up to this moment for people to realize that women are right there with the men. If you look at the reaction of the NHL players, they were obviously in awe a little bit, but the ones who knew me knew I could skate with them.”
The historic moment had the hockey world buzzing and NBC capitalized by hiring Coyne Schofield as an analyst for the Wednesday Night Hockey game between the Lightning and Penguins.
“NBC reached out to USA Hockey Sunday night. I got the email and I couldn’t respond yes fast enough,” Coyne Schofield said. “It was an amazing experience. I’ve always been interested in broadcasting and to be able to see everything behind the scenes and join the broadcast with Eddie [Olczyk], John [Forslund] and Pierre [McGuire] was incredible. They helped me out a lot and I think it’s another opportunity to show that women can speak the game as well as the men. Obviously, I need a lot more practice, but I was so excited for the opportunity.”
Coyne Schofield is first all-time at Northeastern in career goals and points, but she also was a communications major and covered the men’s hockey team as a reporter as her schedule permitted.
“When I was in high school, I always wanted to stay in sports,” Coyne Schofield said. “I always wanted to get into broadcasting. It’s just been challenging with my playing career, so when this opportunity presented itself, I was ecstatic and I couldn’t believe it. It was almost as jaw-dropping as the skills competition.”
Coyne Schofield was thankful to experience every aspect of the broadcast at the highest level of hockey. She helped with pre-game coverage and played bubble hockey with Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin. Coyne Schofield covered the game at ice level during the first period before moving to the booth for the final 40 minutes.
“To just pick everyone’s brain, ask questions, take notes and learn from the best of the best … you can’t ask for anything more,” Coyne Schofield said. “I’m so thankful to NBC Sports for giving me the opportunity and I hope I get to continue to do more work with them because I had so much fun.”
The experience also fueled the elite athlete in Coyne Schofield.
“I could barely sleep because I was thinking of all the calls that could’ve gone better,” Coyne Schofield said. “I can’t wait to get the film of the game because I want to watch it and pick it apart. I’m so hungry to get better and I think the want and need to get better is what makes this so exciting.”
Coyne Schofield also realized that calling a game is more difficult than it looks.
“Becoming an analyst was more nerve-wracking because I’ve been skating since I was three years old,” Coyne Schofield said. “It’s a lot easier being a player. But the preparation standard is no different whether you’re a broadcaster or a player.”
Coyne Schofield was recognized on the arena scoreboard for her accomplishment during the game and also had interactions with the players while in between the benches.
What an unforgettable night to cap off this incredible week. Thank you @NBCSports for the opportunity to be an analyst on #WNH alongside the best linemates in the business. I had SO much fun! I’m so excited to continue to learn & grow in this role! Thanks for all of the support! pic.twitter.com/BZkrAGIqTF— Kendall Coyne Schofield (@KendallCoyne) January 31, 2019
“[Lightning forward] Mathieu Joseph told me that I would’ve probably beat him, and he’s fast,” Coyne Schofield said. “All the referees came by and congratulated me. It was a really cool experience.”
Coyne Schofield also chatted with Penguins All-Stars Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang in the locker room following the game.
“It’s just cool to hear their support and hear them view us as equal,” Coyne Schofield said. “Hearing them say the women’s game is right there with us, I think that validates what we do. I thanked them for their continued support. They’re huge advocates for us, and we’re obviously huge fans of them. It was just a great experience overall.”
It was a great experience that changed the landscape of women’s hockey and it all started at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition.
“It was amazing,” Coyne Schofield said. “It was an honor to be there, an honor to be a representative for Team USA and USA Hockey. I wish all my teammates could’ve been there because it was a phenomenal weekend. I was so proud to be able to represent women’s hockey across the world.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.