Becomes first female player development coach in Blackhawks team history
By Ross Forman – Kendall Coyne Schofield has dreamed of being part of the Chicago Blackhawks organization, literally, her whole life.
She was 3 when she put on her first pair of skates and started watching the Blackhawks. At 6 and again at age 8, she played JuniorHawks games at the United Center – and then even scored one of the most memorable goals of her entire career. In 2014, after her Winter Olympics glory, she was an intern in the team’s media relations department – and has been an ambassador for the team since.
Of course, she cheered and celebrated each the Blackhawks’ three Stanley Cup championships since 2010.
“I’ve always felt a part of this organization,” said Kendall Coyne, who hails from Palos Heights, attended Sandburg High School, and has skated for the Chicago Mission.
Now she truly is an official member of the team – and a pioneer in the process.
The Blackhawks in November announced three new hires in the Hockey Operations Department:
** Kendall Coyne Schofield is a Player Development Coach & Youth Hockey Growth Specialist.
** Erik Condra is a Player Development Coach.
** Juan Gonzalez is Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Rockford IceHogs.
“This is an incredible opportunity; I’m so excited,” she said. “To see things be formalized after a 6- or 7-year relationship, it is such an honor.”
Coyne Schofield, 28, will continue to play for Team USA, where the left-handed-shooting forward has captured silver and gold medals in the past two Winter Olympics, respectively – and she’s eager for the 2022 Games in Beijing, China.
“I want to help this organization win a Stanley Cup, and to now be in a role to help the next generation of players who want to raise the Cup, it’s phenomenal, what I’m so excited about,” she said. “Each stop in my career – as a player, broadcaster, or now as a player development coach – I always stay true to being a sponge, learning from those around me.
“I’ve been in hockey my whole life; I know I can help; I know I can be an asset; I know I can help this team win championships.”
Coyne Schofield, who as a college senior was awarded the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top female college hockey player in the U.S., was a part of the San Jose Sharks’ broadcast team this past season. She was an NBC Sports California analyst for 13 Sharks games in 2019-20. She also was a pre- and postgame analyst for the network during the playoffs.
Coyne Schofield is the first female player development coach in Blackhawks team history.
“I plan to earn the trust and respect of the players and everyone through my work-ethic,” she said. “While I may be the first female coach that some players have worked with, I don’t see that being an issue. I see them viewing me as someone who is going to help them get to the next level – to fulfill their NHL dream.”
She will work extensively with prospects playing in Rockford.
Coyne Schofield admitted that she spoke with fellow Chicago native Cammi Granato about the Blackawks’ position and Granato, “fueled my passion to be in player development,” she said.
“Cammi also fueled my passion to play in the Olympics at age 7, when I saw her at Seven Bridges Ice Arena and held her gold medal.
“(Granato) still inspires me, and I hope I can do the same for girls who are younger than me.”
Coyne Schofield is the latest female riding the pioneer trail in male-dominated sports, as her announcement came less than two weeks after Kim Ng was named the general manager of baseball’s Miami Marlins.
“Sky’s the limit,” said Coyne Schofield, who added that she’s not ruling out any NHL job, including being a head coach or GM. “Absolutely … this is the first step in that process, in what is possible. I look forward to seeing where this takes me.
“The growth of the game in the state of Illinois … when I was growing up, there weren’t many girls playing the sport. That has evolved over time, and the popularity is due to the Blackhawks’ success.”
Youth hockey certainly still has a soft spot in her heart. “I look at the kids today and kind of live vicariously through them,” she said. “Those are the glory days of the game when nothing really matters but falling down and getting back up, making friends, having the cold wind hit your face, getting a Slushie after a game, playing tag in the rink, shinny in the hallways of hotels.
“When I see kids at the rink, it brings me back to why I play the game, why I work so hard to grow this game and why I want to stay in the game after retiring from playing. It’s because of the experiences I have in the game – and I hope all kids have those experiences.”
Coyne Schofield’s hockey roots run from an outdoor rink in Orland Park to worldwide fame. But the Chicagoland area is her home, always.
“There’s so much that I want to give back to the (hockey) community in Illinois because it gave so much to me,” she said.
Coyne Schofield continues to promote youth hockey locally as youth hockey growth specialist, continuing to lead her all-girls youth program, the Golden Coynes, which even featured an all-female coaching staff, too. Before the pandemic silenced the Golden Coynes, the program focused on different development aspects of the game, capped by a pizza party and United Center locker room tour.
“When I see girls playing now, I trying to give them perspective,” on how the game has grown and developed locally, she said. “When I started playing for the Chicago Mission, there were only two teams: U14 and U19. Now, we’re able to fill a U12, U14, U16 and U19 team.”
**All photos courtesy of Chicago Blackhawks Photo**
Ross Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at Rossco814@aol.com.