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25 Women Who Could Break the NHL's Head Coaching Gender Barrier

Ian Kennedy takes a look at 25 women with strong qualifications to earn NHL coaching gigs in the near future.
Meghan Duggan

The Vancouver Canucks added a pair of women, Émilie Castonguay and Cammi Granato, as assistant general managers this season. They were the first, and others followed. Similarly, women have been hired in player development roles, and as members of analytics departments. No woman has ever stood behind an NHL bench in a coaching role, however.

That point was made clear this season when Aisha Visram became the first woman ever to step behind an NHL bench in any capacity when the athletic trainer did so for the Los Angeles Kings.

With the NHL’s firing and hiring season complete, another year has passed without a woman on the bench. The Washington Capitals hired Emily Engel-Natzke as a full-time video coach, which is progress, but there's still room for progress.

There is no shortage of qualified and knowledgeable women in hockey who could be called upon to fill the NHL’s neverending coaching carousel. Perhaps those struggling teams could benefit from a fresh perspective and a new approach to their hiring.

Here is a list of 25 women who could break the NHL’s on-bench gender barrier:

  1. Vicky Sunohara - 51 - Head Coach, University of Toronto - A two-time Olympic gold medallist and seven-time world champion as a player, Sunohara is one of the all-time greats for Canada. She was the USports women’s hockey coach of the Year and overall OUA Women’s coach of the year across all sports in 2019-2020 before repeating as the top USports coach this past season.
  2. Kori Cheverie - 34 - Assistant Coach, Hockey Canada - Cheverie was the first woman to serve as a full-time coach for a USports team serving as an assistant coach with the Ryerson University Rams. She won a gold medal with Canada’s women’s Olympic team as part of their staff at the Beijing Olympics this year and was recently hired as the first woman to serve a Canadian men’s national team as an assistant for the U-18 team. 
  3. Jessica Campbell - 30 - Assistant Coach, Coachella Valley Firebirds - Hired as the first woman to stand behind the bench for an AHL team, Campbell is the closest woman to reaching this benchmark. Last season, Campbell served as a skills coach for the DEL’s Nurnberg Ice Tigers and also stepped behind the bench for Germany at the men’s World Championship. She’s a highly respected skills development coach for NHL players and other pros and even worked at Seattle's development camp this year.
  4. Danielle Goyette - 56 - Director of Player Development, Toronto Maple Leafs - After serving as coach for the University of Calgary’s women’s program for more than a decade, and coaching off and on with Canada’s national team, the Hockey Hall of Famer was hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs as director of player development. She also stepped behind the bench for Toronto's ECHL affiliate, the Newfoundland Growlers, on a temporary basis in 2022.
  5. Meghan Duggan - 34 - Director of Player Development, New Jersey Devils - Team USA captain, Olympic gold medallist, seven-time world champion, Patty Kazmaier Award winner, and Clarkson Cup champion as a player. Duggan served as an assistant coach for Clarkson University for two seasons and was recently hired as the director of player development for the New Jersey Devils. Her path may lead to the front office, but she is beyond qualified to coach.
  6. Katey Stone - 56 - Head Coach, Harvard University - Spending a quarter of a century as head coach of Harvard’s women’s team, Stone is one of the most experienced, and winningest coaches in the game, regardless of gender. International experience includes World Championship gold and Olympic silver as the head coach for USA. If an NHL team wants a winning resume, Stone can offer it.
  7. Kelsey Koelzer - 26 - Head Coach, Arcadia University - The first Black woman to serve as an NCAA head coach after being hired by Arcadia University in 2019. A member of the NHL and NHLPA Female Hockey Advisory Committee, Koelzer was also an advisor for the NWHL related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Her voice would be welcomed in moving any NHL organization forward. A Princeton graduate and ECAC defender of the year, Koelzer also played professionally in both the NWHL and with the PWHPA. 
  8. Maura Crowell - 41 - Head Coach, University of Minnesota Duluth - Currently the head coach of Minnesota Duluth, a role she’s held since 2015. Prior to this, she coached at Harvard and UMass Boston. In 2017, Crowell was named the American Hockey Coaches Association coach of the year, so she has quite the resume to work with.
  9. Lisa Haley - 48 - Head Coach, Ryerson University & Team Hungary - With Canada, she has been an assistant for the national women’s team at the World Championship and Olympics, while also serving as head coach for the U-18 team. In University hockey, Haley was the long-time head coach for Saint Mary’s University where she was named CIS coach of the year, and now serves as head coach for Toronto Metropolitan University. She has 25 years of experience as a University head coach. Haley also spent a season as an assistant in the NWHL with the Toronto Six and acts as the head coach for Hungary’s national women’s team.
  10. Delaney Collins - 44 - Women’s Hockey Ambassador, Nashville Predators - A three-time world champion with Canada, Collins, joined the coaching staff at Mercyhurst as an assistant and was head coach for Canada’s U-18 team following her retirement from playing in 2011. Currently, Collins is the women’s hockey ambassador for the NHL’s Nashville Predators and works as a skills coach for the Nashville Jr. Predators organization.
  11. Cassandra Turner - 40 - Head Coach, Quinnipiac University - Eleven seasons into a head coaching position with the NCAA’s Quinnipiac, Turner has also had stints with Canada’s U-18 national program as a head coach and assistant. The Brown University grad has a degree in psychology and a master's in education.
  12. Melanie Ruzzi - 41 - Head Coach, Brown University - Ruzzi has made the rounds of Ivy League schools having served as an assistant with Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, along with multiple seasons behind the bench with Providence. In 2021-2022, Ruzzi was named the new head coach of Brown University and is an assistant with USA’s U-18 program.
  13. Katie Crowley - 46 - Head Coach, Boston College - An Olympic and world champion with the United States, Crowley’s post-playing career has been spent entirely with Boston College, where she has served as head coach of the women’s program since 2007. Crowley is a two-time American Hockey Coaches Association coach of the year in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
  14. Lee-J Mirasolo - 35 - Associate Head Coach, Harvard University - The former Boston College captain is now the associate head coach for Harvard University after serving as an assistant with the Crimson and Princeton for nearly a decade. Like many women who graduated from the NCAA without a sustainable option to play professional hockey, Mirasolo is experienced beyond her years.
  15. Ronda Curtin Engelhardt - 41 - Head Coach, Minnesota Whitecaps - After captaining the University of Minnesota, where she was the WCHA defensive Player of the year, Engelhardt jumped to coaching as an assistant with the NCAA’s University of St. Thomas. She stepped away from that role in 2013-2014 to take a head coaching job with Breck School, an elite high school program. In 2018, she was named head coach of the Minnesota Whitecaps, and still serves that role in the PHF today. She led Minnesota to an Isobel Cup in 2019.
  16. Kendall Coyne Schofield - 29 - Development Coach, Chicago Blackhawks - One of the most decorated NCAA and U.S. national team players in history, Coyne Schofield has a trophy case full of Olympic and World Championship gold medals. If the PWHPA gets their league off the ground, it’s unclear where Coyne Schofield’s playing career sits versus her coaching future. She was hired this year by the Chicago Blackhawks to serve as a player development coach for their AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, and is just getting started.
  17. Hayley Wickenheiser - 43 - Director of Player Development, Toronto Maple Leafs - Wickenheiser is arguably the greatest woman ever to play the game of hockey. She has eleven World and Olympic gold medals. Whether she advances in coaching or to a front office role is yet to be seen. She is currently the Senior Director of Player Development for the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs.
  18. Candice Moxley - 39 - Head Coach, Western University - Coaching experience in the NCAA, CWHL, and USports, including as the head coach of Buffalo State College for four seasons before being hired as the head coach of the Western University Mustangs, where she currently serves. Has her foot in the door with Hockey Canada, primarily through her skills as a video coach.
  19. Liz Keady Norton - 36 - Head Coach, Dartmouth College - After serving as an assistant with Harvard and Boston University, Keady Norton became an associate head coach for Boston before being hired by Dartmouth to serve as the school’s new head coach in 2021-2022. As a player, Keady Norton captained Princeton.
  20. Margot Page - 57 - Head Coach, Brock University - A three-time World Champion for Canada in the pre-Olympic era, Page started her coaching career in 1998 as the head coach for the NCAA’s Niagara Purple Eagles. She coached with Canada at the Olympics and spent several seasons working with Switzerland’s national program. Page is the head coach for the Brock University Badgers, a role she has held since 2015.
  21. Laura Schuler - 51 - Assistant Coach, University of Minnesota-Duluth - A long-time assistant coach for Minnesota-Duluth, Schuler brings playing experience including an Olympic silver medal and three World Championship gold representing Canada. She has head coaching experience with Dartmouth and coached at Washington Capitals development camp this year.
  22. Cara Morey - 43 - Head Coach, Princeton - A Brown University graduate, Morey has served as the head coach of Princeton since 2017. The former NWHL player with Montreal and Brampton also stepped in to coach at the Philadelphia Flyers’ development camp. She is on the NHL radar.
  23. Julie Chu - 44 - Head Coach, Concordia Stingers - A U.S. Olympian with numerous gold and silver medals, and Harvard graduate where she won the Patty Kazmaier Award. Early in her coaching career, Chu won a national championship as an assistant for the University of Minnesota Duluth. Chu has served as the head coach of the Concordia University Stingers since 2014 and in 2022, her efforts in building the Concordia program culminated in a USports national title.
  24. Katie Lachapelle - 45 - Head Coach, Holy Cross & Team USA U-18 - Lachapelle has worked with several NCAA DI schools as an assistant including Niagara, Ohio State, and Boston University. In 2019 she was named the head coach of Holy Cross, and is the current head coach for the USA’s women’s U-18 team. She also worked as an evaluator for Team USA’s Olympic roster.
  25. Carla MacLeod - 39 - Head Coach, University of Calgary & Team Czechia - MacLeod is an Olympic gold medallist and World Champion with Team Canada. She also captained the University of Wisconsin in the NCAA. After finishing her playing career, MacLeod spent three seasons coaching Japan’s national team. Returning to Canada, she took on the head coaching job of the prestigious Edge School Prep team. In 2021, MacLeod was hired as the new head coach for the University of Calgary, and was also named the new head coach for Czechia’s national team.

Other Names To Watch:

Hilary Witt, Rhea Coad, Rebecca Johnston, Kali Flanagan, Brianna Decker, Shelly Picard, Melodie Daoust, Hanna Bunton, Nina Rodgers, Haley Irwin, Kimberley Weiss, Kerstin Matthews, Chelsea Grills, Sarah Hilworth, Dawn Braid, Shannon Miller, Miriam Thimm, Heather Linstad, Laura Schuler, Lindsay Berman, Meredith Roth.

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