Changing The Face Of The Game

Ever Expanding Roles Have Helped More Women Break The Glass Ceiling
By: 
Jessi Pierce

It wasn't long ago that men dominated the sporting landscape. That was until pioneering females began to rewrite the narrative.

Thanks to a growing list of pioneering women who broke the glass ceiling, the once male-dominated sports world now includes a prominent group of ladies running the show on the ice and behind the scenes.

Whether they hung up their skates after a collegiate, Olympic or professional career, these five women are playing a leading role in changing the face of the game.

 

The Coach  //  Courtney Kennedy

Boston College Associate Head Coach

Courtney Kennedy has seen hockey grow significantly at every level of the women's game since she began playing at the age of 8. An Olympian in 2002 and 2006, she turned her sights to coaching immediately after her playing career.        

Coaching, as it turned out, was in her blood.

"I was lucky enough to have my dad as a coach growing up," she said. "I actually enjoyed playing the game more because my dad coached and how he coached. The best part about him is no matter what, boy or girl, he treated you like an athlete. I want to be like that because he's the best coach I've ever had."

Kennedy has been an assistant coach with the U.S. Under-18 Women's Team at the IIHF U18 Women's World Championships on three separate occasions (silver medals in 2013 and 2014, and gold in 2017). In 11 seasons with Boston College she has been equally successful with six Frozen Four appearances and a 2016 national championship runner-up finish.

She acknowledges there is still a lack of women coaches at every level of the game, a trend she would like to help reverse.

"I never had a female coach until college," she said. "But all the men I had were passionate about the women's game, and that's what it takes. You need to treat the girls as athletes, not just as a girl.

"As a female who grew up playing the game, I recognize the importance of that and I think it's a part of what helps me be the best coach I can be."

On Women's Growth in the Career: "There are a lot of more than capable females who can get D-I or D-III head [coaching] jobs if they would just get involved. I wish more females would be more confident and go in and get a job and not think, 'Well geez hmm I don't know, can I do this?' Sometimes you need a little confidence."

The Trainer  //  Carrie Keil

U.S. National Team Development Program Skating Coach

Carrie Keil grew up a figure skater but always had a passion for hockey. After graduating from the University of Michigan she put her skating abilities to good use as a figure skating coach and trainer at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube in Michigan. There she began to include hockey players into her power skating courses. She did however have to make a few wardrobe adjustments before committing to hockey-only.

"As soon as they see those white figure skates with the toe-picks, they're going, 'Ah, I don't know about this,'" Keil said with a laugh. "So, I switched over to hockey skates and that got me a lot of buy in off the bat."

Keil has worked with American stars Dylan Larkin, Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel, among other elite talent in her 18 seasons with the NTDP. From dryland training to working on their stride and balance, she has helped hundreds of players with their skating. When she's not with the NTDP, she also trains youth players from the grassroots up to elite players.

"I love working with the amateur players, and the guys at the NTDP who have made it there, so to speak," she said. "It's a nice balance. I guess you could say I'm kind of passionate about what I do. I love working with players and helping them develop."

On Women's Growth in the Career: "As long as [women] are good at it and they're qualified, I don't see why they shouldn't [be in training]. If you're a woman or a man and you're qualified and you're good, players will respond to you. There shouldn't be any stigmas or closed doors based on gender."

The Player Rep  //  Maria Dennis

National Hockey League Players' Association, Associate Counsel

Maria Dennis' love for the game started on the rinks of Connecticut. Her dad, Tony, signed her and her brother up to play hockey having a love for the game himself. But in the 1970s, a girl playing hockey wasn't a common sight. Still, her dad thought nothing of it.

"I asked him once why he thought it was a good idea to toss me in there as the only girl," she recalled. "His response was, 'Well, I didn't think anything of you being a girl.'

"I developed a lot of passion for hockey because of him and that decision."

Dennis went on to play at Yale University and helped the U.S. Women's National team capture silver at the first IIHF Women's World Championships in 1990.

When she began looking for a career off the ice, she used her law degree and experience with Team USA to earn a place on USA Hockey's board of directors and the U.S. Olympic Committee, where she served as an athlete representative. From there she transitioned to the NHLPA where she currently works on the legal team addressing health and safety issues. Every day she draws upon her own experiences as a player.

"Playing sports benefited me in my career, not just as a woman in a male-dominated industry, but in a more general way," Dennis said. "I think kids who play sports are more successful in life because they know how to work toward a common goal, work as a part of a team, how to communicate with others and how to battle through challenge. They know how to never give up and that hard work and dedication pay off.

"All these lessons I learned as an athlete translate to life in general."           

On Women's Growth in the Career: "It's still very much a male-dominated world as far as the career part, but I'm so happy to see girls participating in hockey and making the great strides that they've made... You've got to keep working to break down the barriers and if it keeps progressing at the pace it has been, it can only get better."

 

The Developer  //  Molly Schaus

Anaheim Ducks Fan Development Coordinator

When Molly Schaus retired from the U.S. Women's National Team in 2015, she knew she wasn't ready to give up hockey just yet. After 20 years of goaltending and seven IIHF medals to her name-including backstopping Team USA to silver medal finishes in both the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Winter Games-it's not easy to skate away.

"I wasn't sure what I wanted to do exactly, but I knew I wanted to stay involved in the game," she said.

Upon learning of an opening with the Anaheim Ducks' fan development team, Schaus packed her bags for the west coast-a drastic change in climate for a girl who grew up in hockey-centric places like Minnesota, Chicago and Boston.

"I had to buy sunscreen when I moved out here, so that was a first," she joked. "But it's been fun to see the passion of the fan base and community out here in Anaheim. They really do love their hockey."

Working with a small team of six, Schaus' main responsibility is encouraging more youth to experience hockey both on the streets and ice.

"By far the favorite part of my job is getting out and playing hockey with the kids," said Schaus, who admits she rarely gets in net to avoid the instinct to stop too many shots.

"We're using hockey as a vehicle to deliver other important information whether it's physical fitness or academic excellence. Our hope is to capture kids' attention in unique ways. Some might love street hockey, some might love science, some might love reading. It can all tie back to the Ducks, which is really neat."

 

On Women's Growth in the Career: "I think it's pretty unique experience that we've had, and a lot of great life lessons through the Olympic team. Hard work, dedication, teamwork. You name it, we have those intangibles to bring to a real-world experience. I was grateful to use those to help grow the game. I hope more females follow wherever their passions lead them."

 

The Administrator  //  Hayley Moore

General Manager of NWHL's Boston Pride/East Coast Wizards Hockey Director

After playing professionally in Switzerland, Hayley Moore decided it was time to "join the real world."

Unaware of what opportunities were available to stay involved in the game, Moore served as a volunteer coach to keep her hand in the game.

"Our whole lives we kind of identify ourselves as a hockey player and it's hard to see yourself enjoying the game as anything else," Moore said. "But now I've found it so rewarding to help other players find their passion and love for the game for the first time."

Eventually Moore turned part-time coaching position into a fulltime job by joining the East Coast Wizards as the hockey director.

"I get to help 4 and 5-year-olds find their passion on the ice at the same age I was when I started," she said. "It's so rewarding to be able to guide them through this experience."

In addition to her role with the Wizards, she joined the NWHL's Boston Pride two years ago, working her way up to general manager. Recently she was named the deputy commissioner of the NWHL with a focus on player development.

In this role, Moore is helping with the development of grassroots women's hockey programs, along with building relationships with national governing bodies and collegiate programs.

"I'm just trying to create more opportunities and a really professional, unique experience for these players and the fans," she said. "It's so rewarding to see the ideas of new possibilities within these players and youth players and their fans that they didn't necessarily have before. It fuels my fire every day." 

On Women's Growth in the Career: "I think you're going to see a lot more women staying involved in the league after they graduate, whether in playing or coaching just because there's some more side career paths starting to evolve and are making our game even bigger."

 

Jessi Pierce is a woman working in hockey, serving as an editor at Touchpoint Media and an NHL.com correspondent covering the Minnesota Wild.

 

Issue: 
2017-08

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