Kendall Coyne Schofield has first-hand look at what women’s hockey is missing

·4 min read
Kendall Coyne Schofield
Kendall Coyne Schofield

For U.S. women’s hockey captain Kendall Coyne Schofield, the resources she lacks as a female hockey player aren’t some unknown quantity. They are tangible benefits she provides other athletes on a regular basis.

“I live it every day with the Chicago Blackhawks,” Coyne Schofield told On Her Turf. “Just how many player development coaches, just how many scouts there are, just those resources and the amount of support that the players have.”

As a player development coach for the Blackhawks — a full-time role Coyne Schofield has held since 2020 — she is responsible for scouting NHL prospects, watching their games, breaking down film, and then calling the players up to provide feedback.

But after one of Coyne Schofield’s PWHPA games? There is no phone call about what she did well or what she could improve on. And ahead of USA Hockey training camps, who is watching to determine which players are invited?

“Something that I struggle with is that there’s not a head scout, a full-time head scout for the women’s national team, someone who (does) that as their full-time job,” she said.

Coyne Schofield pointed to this month’s USA Hockey Festival, where invited players competed for spots on the U18 and Collegiate select teams, as well as the 23-player world championship roster.

“You could ask, ‘How did these 116 players get here and get invited? Who’s watching them on a regular basis? Who’s watching college hockey? Who’s watching youth hockey? Who’s watching pro hockey?'”

“If Kendall has one thing, it’s vision,” said U.S. alternate captain Lee Stecklein. “Vision on the ice and vision for a future of women’s hockey.”

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Back in 2017, U.S. women’s hockey players threatened to boycott that year’s World Championship if USA Hockey didn’t increase player compensation and benefits — a threat that ultimately led to a historic agreement between the two sides.

Five years later, the development of the women’s game remains central to ongoing negotiations. The U.S. players’ current one-year agreement with USA Hockey is set to expire on August 31, midway through the 2022 IIHF World Championship, which began last Thursday in Denmark.

“Obviously we would have loved to have a deal done heading into this world championship to eliminate distraction and conversation with the contract, given that the conversation started months ago,” Coyne Schofield, who also serves as a representative for the national team in negotiations, said prior to leaving for Worlds.

USA Hockey declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations.

Coyne Schofield said the creation of a Women’s National Team Development Program remains a long-term goal. USA Hockey currently spends millions annually on the National Team Development Program (NTDP) for U17 and U18 boys, but there is no equivalent girls’ program.

“It’s been a topic of conversation since our first negotiation,” Coyne Schofield said. “People may say,’ Well, who are they going to play?’ Well, the NTDP plays college teams. There’s no reason the top 17-, 18-year-old women in the country couldn’t play a college schedule as well.”

The NHL and NTDP aren’t the only benchmarks Coyne Schofield considers. She also has a close-up look at the resources provided to her husband Michael Schofield, an offensive guard for the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

“I’ve been able to see what women’s professional sports deserve through the lens of my husband and his job,” she said. “How he’s treated and the resources he has and how he’s communicated to and all those things.”

Kendall and Michael are part of the ownership group of the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars, which has provided insights on the operations and growth of a different women’s league. She’s also worked as a commentator for NBC Sports, serves on the board of the PWHPA, and runs her own hockey camp.

“I’ve been trying to wear many different hats to hopefully put women’s hockey in the best position to succeed moving forward,” she said. “So I hope through these different experiences and roles, I can provide some insight.”

Her efforts are already paying off.

“She gives so much to us and then so much to everybody else. I really don’t know how she has the time,” said Stecklein. “It has a huge impact on our lives and the game overall.”

“Everything Kendall does, on and off the ice, is to benefit others,” added teammate Jincy Dunne. “She works her butt off to do it. She’s always asking, ‘How can I be better on the ice? How can I be better in the community? How can I grow the game?’ She’s always fighting for people.”

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Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

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