When it comes to barrier smashing, the NBA has been a lot more results-oriented than hockey. Basketball already lists an openly gay player and a female union boss and now thanks to the San Antonio Spurs, a female assistant coach in Becky Hammon.
A former WNBA pro herself, Hammon earned her clipboard based on her basketball IQ, convincing Spurs coach Gregg Popovich that she deserved a shot with the defending champs. So who will be trailblazer in hockey? There's no reason the NHL couldn't have a female assistant coach right now (or a head coach for that matter).
In coming up with candidates, I didn't simply look at the most successful female bench bosses, since they have their own kingdoms. For example, University of Minnesota-Duluth coach Shannon Miller is a legend in the sport and the Bulldogs are her baby. It's like Red Berenson and the University of Michigan men – it's pretty unlikely we'll ever see Red as an assistant for Mike Babcock in Detroit when he can always have his beloved Wolverines. So I went looking for up-and-comers. Here are some candidates:
Maura Crowell, Harvard associate coach: Crowell took over the Crimson bench on a temporary basis while her boss Katey Stone was off coaching the American Olympic team and didn't miss a beat. She led the team to a 23-7-4 record and was a finalist for ECAC coach of the year. Just as importantly, Crowell has been a talent evaluator for various USA Hockey development events and districts over the years.
Cassie Campbell-Pascall, broadcaster: A prominent name in the hockey world, Campbell-Pascall is a decorated former player who transitioned to the media and has worked for CBC's Hockey Night in Canada since 2006. While she is better known for interviewing, I remember catching her color debut when she filled in for Harry Neale that first year. I thought her insights were excellent, since she was drawing off her playing experiences. Clearly she has the hockey mind, plus as an added bonus she can take care of those commercial break interviews that head coaches hate doing during games. Other notable players/former players to consider would be Angela Ruggiero (now working for the International Olympic Committee) thanks to her strong presence and Julie Chu with her great hockey mind.
Laura Schuler, UMD assistant coach: As I mentioned above, Shannon Miller is probably too entrenched for this list, but what about one of her proteges? Schuler has been both a head coach and an assistant in her career, lauded for rebuilding Northeastern's program before heading to Duluth. She has also coached for Team Canada and won silver under Miller as a player at the Nagano Olympics.