After becoming the first woman to participate in the NHL All-Star Skills competition, Kendall Coyne Schofield continues to make history.
Kendall Coyne Schofield sprinted into the collective consciousness a month ago when she kept up with hockey’s quickest men during the NHL’s All-Star Weekend’s fastest skater challenge. The U.S. women's national team forward has hardly slowed since.
On Monday, she’ll debut as an NHL Network analyst, becoming the only current U.S. women’s player with a recurring role on a national network. And the sole reason it took this long was because of what she’s been doing in between.
Coyne discussed a position with the network during All-Star Weekend, with NHLN execs giving her time to consider their offer. She gave them a yes within a week. “I didn’t need much time,” she said. But getting on the air would have to wait.
In February, Coyne and the U.S. team played a three-game series against Canada—part of an initiative to support the women’s game that dates back to the team’s 2017 boycott. This weekend, her NWHL team closes out its regular season with a pair of games in the Northeast. Then, following a couple of previously open days that will now be spent at NHL Network, she’ll turn her attention to April’s IIHF Women's World Championship in Finland.
“My training and preparation for the national team will always come first,” she said, though she’s been working towards appearing on TV for years too. Coyne attended Northeastern University—where she won player of the year honors—largely because of its well-regarded communications program. There, she got a jump-start on managing a packed schedule, convincing school broadcasters that she could call men’s hockey games hours after getting off the ice herself. Starting as a sophomore, she’d often play at 2 p.m., take a quick shower, and join the broadcast as a sideline reporter.
Before each season, Coyne and her husband, Los Angeles Chargers offensive lineman Michael Schofield, lay out their goals. Coyne keeps track of her progress in a single journal dedicated to both her hockey and extracurricular pursuits. This time around, one of her three ambitions was to get into professional broadcasting. She was motivated to make headway before her schedule gets even crazier during the next Olympic year. Her sprinting success only accelerated the push.
“She’d been on our radar for a little bit,” NHL Network senior coordinating producer Josh Bernstein said. “All-Star Weekend just added to it. There’s a new audience now that knows about her thanks to what she did.”
Days after her breakout moment, Coyne joined NBC Sports to analyze a Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Lightning and Penguins, where she re-entered the national conversation. Analyst Pierre McGuire drew heavy criticism that night for comments that viewers saw as condescending to his female counterpart. Afterwards, Coyne defused the situation. “I understand why people would think it was inappropriate,” she wrote in a lengthy statement, but added that she has a yearslong, respectful relationship with McGuire. She also took the opportunity to preach about the power of self-belief.
“I watched it live and I cringed a little bit,” NHL Network host Jamie Hersch said. “My biggest takeaway was the way she handled it with pure class. She didn’t want to start a war or a battle or any big conversation about it…. We do need to have an equal voice and be treated respectfully, but it’s also important to try not to blow things out of proportion. She showed you can reach a lot of people that way, rather than making a whole controversy about it.”
Hersch will join Coyne and fellow NHLN host Jackie Redmond for a second-annual all-female edition of NHL Now on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
“It’s important for us that this all-female edition is just like any other show,” Redmond said. “We can do it the exact same way as when we have a male analyst. It’s not going to change; it’s just going to be all women talking hockey.”