The 2022 Winter Olympics – and the build-up to the Games – have been an unparalleled experience for Kendall Coyne-Schofield and the USA women’s hockey team.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the full squad was never in the same locker room together, they had to train with KN95 masks, and there were no in-person video sessions.
The women flew to China wearing masks, underwent daily COVID tests and had little to no time to meet athletes from other countries.
“The experience has been very different from the previous two Olympics I’ve been to,” the Oak Lawn native told media at the United Center last Sunday as the Blackhawks celebrated International Women’s Day.
Women were able to attend certain events such as figure skating, speed skating and curling. With the arenas almost empty, they did their best to create some kind of atmosphere.
“We tried to make some noise,” Coyne-Schofield said. “We tried to bring the ‘USA’ chants in as much as we could as a group of 23.”
As expected, the United States faced Canada in the gold medal match. It didn’t go as Coyne-Schofield had hoped as the Canadians took a 3-0 lead and won 3-2. USA’s second goal came with 13 seconds to go.
The Americans, who have two Olympic gold medals, finished with their fourth silver, with all the losses going to Canada.
“I don’t think it’s something you’ll ever recover from,” Coyne-Schofield said. “It’s something you learn from. When you’re working… four years before this game, you want it to go the way you dream it, the way you envision it. And when it doesn’t, you don’t. you don’t get over it, but you learn from it.”
Opportunity to seize?
The women’s gold medal game at the 2022 Beijing Olympics was seen by more than 3.5 million viewers. That’s more than any NHL game aired in the United States this season. It is also the second most-watched hockey game in the United States since 2019, following Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Lightning and the Canadiens.
It makes you wonder — is it because women’s hockey is rarely on the big stage? Or is there an appetite for women’s hockey that’s not being satisfied?
There’s no easy answer, but Kendall Coyne-Schofield believes in the Field of Dreams line of, “If you build it, they will come.”
“All we can do is more because it’s not enough, and we need more,” Coyne-Schofield said. “It’s (pretty much) consistency. When you want to watch the Blackhawks play, you know exactly where to go and where to find them – whether it’s on TV or if you want to go to the United Center.
“When it comes to women’s hockey, there is a big question mark, and we have to take that question mark out and turn it into an exclamation mark.”
The women’s professional league, the Premier Hockey Federation, has teams in Toronto, Connecticut, Boston, Minnesota, Buffalo and New Jersey. Two more franchises will be added next season – one in Montreal and another in an undisclosed location in the United States
You’d think the Chicago area could support a team, perhaps playing Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva (home of the USHL’s Chicago Steel) or Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville.
Kendall Coyne-Schofield had a lot to do over the past two years. In addition to her coaching duties with the Blackhawks, she was also preparing to play in the 2022 Winter Olympics.
So how on earth did she also find the time to write a bestselling book, “As Fast as Her?”
It wasn’t easy, but Coyne-Schofield was grateful for the Hawks’ immense support during the draft.
“I don’t know of many organizations that would allow an employee to play and train full time, coach full time and also work in youth hockey full time,” said Coyne-Schofield.
Reader feedback “has been really positive”, although Coyne-Schofield joked that she wasn’t sure anyone would say “it’s not good” to her face.
Bottom line: She’s really proud of the end product.
“It’s a #1 bestseller on Amazon in a few different categories, which makes me extremely humbled,” Coyne-Schofield said.
Women at the counters
When Cammi Granato was named assistant general manager of the Vancouver Canucks in February, she became the third woman to be named to the role in NHL history. The other two are Emilie Castonguay (also assistant to the general manager of Vancouver) and Angela Gorgone (Anaheim, 1996-97).
“It takes a person to believe that someone like Cammi is an asset to the organization, can help the organization win championships…and then you start to see the ripple effects,” Kendall Coyne said. -Schofield. “I’ve been very lucky to have that support here in Chicago and you’re starting to see it all over the league of people calling Chicago, ‘How’s it been to work with Kendall?’
“And that can influence and inspire this organization to hire a woman in any position for which she is qualified.”
Women in Broadcasting
The Blackhawks have introduced quite a few new faces to the broadcast team this season, including Caley Chelios, daughter of Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios. Caley did color commentary on television and radio, as well as pregame and postgame work with Pat Boyle.
Caley joins a growing number of women on the court in the NHL.
“It’s hugely important because you have to see it for it to be, and there are a lot of young girls who will be watching the show,” Kendall Coyne-Schofield said before Caley sat down next to Pat Foley for Hawks against Tampa Bay at the United Center last week. “They’ll see it and be like, ‘Hey, I can do this someday.’
“They see us (also) on the ice and (are) like, ‘Can I play for Team USA?’ I was that young girl I saw Cammi (Granato) I was a bug on the glass here in 2002 when Team USA played Team Canada before the Olympics and I seen #21 go all over the ice… It was who I wanted to be one day.
“I will never be Cammi Granato, but I got to wear the USA jersey, win a gold medal like her. … Seeing all these other women in these roles in the sport of hockey will only increase our pipeline and the dreams of so many young people.”