Kendall Coyne-Schofield dishes on new book, 2022 Olympics and growing appetite for women's hockey
The 2022 Winter Olympics -- and the lead-up up to the Games -- were an experience like no other for Kendall Coyne-Schofield and the U.S. women's hockey team.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the full squad was never in the same locker room together, they had to practice with KN95 masks on, and there were no in-person video sessions.
The women flew to China with masks on, endured daily COVID testing and had little, if any, time to meet athletes from other countries.
"The experience was significantly different from the two previous Olympic Games that I've attended," the Oak Lawn native told media members at the United Center last Sunday as the Blackhawks celebrated International Women's Day.
The women were able to attend some events such as figure skating, speed skating and curling. With the arenas all but empty, they did their best to create some sort of atmosphere.
"We tried to bring the noise," Coyne-Schofield said. "We tried to bring the 'USA' chants as much as we could as a group of 23."
As expected, the U.S. faced off against Canada in the gold medal game. It did not go the way Coyne-Schofield had hoped as the Canadians built a 3-0 lead and went on to win 3-2. The second U.S. goal came with 13 seconds remaining.
The Americans, who have two Olympic golds, wound up with their fourth silver medal, with all losses coming to Canada.
"I don't think it's something you ever get over," Coyne-Schofield said. "It's something you learn from. When you work ... four years leading up to that game, you want it to go the way you dream, the way you envision. And when it doesn't, you don't get over it, but you learn from it."
The women's gold-medal game at the 2022 Beijing Olympics was seen by more than 3.5 million viewers. That's more than any NHL game shown in the U.S. this season. It's also the second-most watched hockey game in the U.S. since 2019, trailing only Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Lightning and Canadiens.
It makes you wonder -- is this because women's hockey is only rarely on the big stage? Or is there an appetite for women's hockey that's not being satisfied?
There's no easy answer, but Kendall Coyne-Schofield believes in the Field of Dreams line of: "If you build it, they will come."
"All we can strive for is more because it's not nearly enough, and we need more," Coyne-Schofield said. "It's (about) consistency. When you want to watch the Blackhawks play, you know exactly where to go and where to find them -- whether it's on TV or if you want to go to the United Center.
"When it comes to women's hockey, there's a big question mark, and we need to eliminate that question mark and turn it into an exclamation point."
The women's pro league, the Premier Hockey Federation, has teams in Toronto, Connecticut, Boston, Minnesota, Buffalo and New Jersey. Two more franchises will be added next season -- one in Montreal and another in an undisclosed location in the U.S.
One would think the Chicago area could support a squad, perhaps playing at the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva (home of the USHL's Chicago Steel) or at The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville.
Kendall Coyne-Schofield had a lot on her plate over the past couple of years. In addition to her coaching duties with the Blackhawks, she was also preparing to play in the 2022 Winter Olympics.
So how in the world did she also find time to write a best-selling book, "As Fast as Her?"
It wasn't easy, but Coyne-Schofield was grateful for the Hawks' immense support during the project.
"I don't know many organizations that would allow an employee to play and train full time, coach full time and also work in the youth-hockey side of things full time," Coyne-Schofield said.
The readers' feedback "has been really positive," although Coyne-Schofield joked she wasn't sure anyone wants to say "it's not good" to her face.
Bottom line: She's really proud of the final product.
"It's been a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon in a few different categories, which I'm extremely humbled by," Coyne-Schofield said.
Women in front offices
When Cammi Granato was named assistant general manager of the Vancouver Canucks in February, she became the third woman to be named to that post in NHL history. The other two are Emilie Castonguay (also an assistant GM with Vancouver) and Angela Gorgone (Anaheim, 1996-97).
"It takes one person to believe that someone like Cammi is an asset to the organization, can help the organization win championships ... and then you start to see the trickle effects," said Kendall Coyne-Schofield. "I've been very fortunate to have that support here in Chicago and you start to see it across the league of people calling Chicago, 'What is it like working with Kendall?'
"And that may influence and inspire that organization to hire a woman in whatever capacity she's qualified to be in."
Women in broadcasting
The Blackhawks have introduced quite a few new faces to the broadcast team this season, including Caley Chelios, daughter of Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios. Caley has done color commentary on television and radio, as well as pregame and postgame work with Pat Boyle.
Caley joins a growing number of women in the field across the NHL.
"It's extremely important because you need to see it to be it, and there's a lot of young girls who'll be watching the broadcast," Kendall Coyne-Schofield said before Caley sat next to Pat Foley for Hawks vs. Tampa Bay at the United Center last week. "They'll see her and be like, 'Hey, I can do that one day.'
"They (also) see us on the ice and (are) like, 'Can I play for Team USA?' I was that young girl. I saw Cammi (Granato). I was a bug on the glass here in 2002 when Team USA played Team Canada leading up into the Olympics and I watched No. 21 go all over the ice ... That was who I wanted to be one day.
"I'll never be Cammi Granato, but I've been able to wear the Team USA jersey, win a gold medal just like her. ... Seeing all these other women in these roles in the sport of hockey is only going to increase our pipeline and the dreams of so many young people."