Sharks

PWHPA stars not just playing for bragging rights vs. Sharks alumni

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USATSI

PWHPA stars not just playing for bragging rights vs. Sharks alumni

When Kendall Coyne Schofield and 15 members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) play against a team of Sharks alumni Sunday at the team’s Fan Fest, they’ll have another purpose beyond the day’s exhibition.

Sunday’s “Legends Game” at SAP Center is one of three events in North America the PWHPA is participating in this weekend. A squad of New England-based PWHPA players scrimmaged Boston College’s women’s team Saturday, while four PWHPA teams are playing at a weekend showcase in Toronto.

The latter event is the first leg of the group’s “Dream Gap Tour,” a multi-city barnstorming tour that the organization hopes is the first step towards creating a “realistic equivalent” to the NHL for women’s hockey players. Sunday’s game carries a similar purpose, Coyne Schofield said.

“[Right] now, in the current state of the professional game for women, it's not good enough,” the Olympic gold medalist and Sharks broadcaster said in an interview with NBC Sports California this month. “We don't want to put these girls in our skates one day, and have them get treated like we get treated. That's our ultimate goal and that's what we're fighting for, and we're working towards it every single day."

Up until March, there were two professional hockey leagues in North America. That was when Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), a six-team league that had just completed its 12th season, folded. The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), a five-team league based in the United States, remained. 

Coyne Schofield played there last season, but she and around 200 other players joined the PWHPA in May. They announced in a press release their intention to not play professionally during the 2019-20 season “in order to build a sustainable league … that will provide financial and infrastructure resources to players; protect and support their rights and talents; provide health insurance; and work with companies … who already have voiced support for women’s hockey.”

 

The CWHL began paying players a maximum stipend of $10,000 per season in its second-to-last campaign in 2017-18. The NWHL increased its salary cap to $150,000 this season, and players now receive a 50 percent share of revenue from the league’s media and sponsorship deals. 

As a result, many women’s players need to work additional jobs in order to support playing professional hockey. American players on the national team earn around $70,000 before performance bonuses after the women renegotiated their contract with USA Hockey, but just 23 players suited up for the United States at the IIHF World Championships in April. 

“For us, if you're not one of 23 players to play in the Olympic games, (it’s like,) ‘Well, sorry,’” Coyne Schofield said. “You're probably gonna have to a job after you play college hockey because there's no option for you to play this game, make a living playing it and call yourself a professional.”

ESPNW reported in July that the PWHPA has 173 dues-paying members, each of which is a member in one of eight regions in North America. The players will train with one another in each region, scrimmaging against local teams and other PWHPA regions as well. 

Fifteen of the 16 players who are expected to take the ice at SAP Center are American, including Coyne Schofield, 2018 Olympic gold medal shootout-winning goal-scorer Jocelyne Lameoreux-Davidson and seven others from the gold medal team. But a significant chunk of the PWHPA’s members are Canadian, as they comprised the bulk of the rosters of the defunct league’s Canadian franchises. 

The United States and Canada have faced off in the gold medal game in all but one of the six Olympics in which women’s hockey was played, and 18 of the 19 IIHF world championships. Their rivalry is as fierce as any in sports, yet Coyne Schofield said it was easy to put that aside. 

“I think that speaks volumes to the current landscape of the game,” Coyne Schofield said. “That all of us, regardless of countries, medals, achievements, personal agendas -- all of that's been put aside because we're able to look at each other, (all of us) in the players association, and say, 'What we have right now in the professional setting of women's hockey is not good enough.' 

“We cannot just keep accepting the breadcrumbs of women's hockey and look at the future and say (to young women), 'We hope you're here one day.'”

[RELATED: How Sharks can fill void on defense until Simek returns]

The NWHL season -- sans Coyne Schofield and other stars -- is set to begin on Oct. 5. Meanwhile, the PWHPA will host another showcase in New Hampshire that weekend, and then a third in Chicago from Oct. 18-20. The organization just announced a partnership with the NHL Players Association, and Coyne Schofield said earlier this month she was hopeful that they’re just getting started. 

“Once we start seeing players on the ice with those PWHPA jerseys,” she said, “it's gonna show where we've come in these long and hard-fought months to get players on the ice in these events.”

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau react to ex-teammates on Sharks' staff

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AP

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau react to ex-teammates on Sharks' staff

SAN JOSE -- No, the days of the player-coach hybrid aren't making a comeback. Although, if you're Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau, it might feel that way.

With the introduction of Bob Boughner as San Jose's interim head coach, the organization brought in staff that includes former Sharks Mike Ricci and Evgeni Nabokov -- two players who were on the roster back when the now 40-year-olds hadn't reached their veteran status yet.

"It will be interesting to see them on the bench," Marleau said. "But they're very professional and they'll do a great job."

Marleau played with both Ricci and Nabokov in the early 2000s, while Thornton only logged time with Nabokov after coming to San Jose from the Boston Bruins in 2005. While it has been some time since either newly-appointed assistant coach has rocked a teal sweater, Ricci and Nabokov have stayed with the organization in different capacities over the last few years. Having that closeness and a high level of familiarity is something that can benefit the team as they go through a midseason coaching change.

"I know what they've been through and I know a lot about them, so it's easy to communicate with them," Marleau said.

Thornton agreed with his teammate's assessment.

"They've been here for a long time now," Thornton said. "To have them on the bench now is going to be fun."

Both Ricci and Nabokov have spent the last several seasons working on the development side of the Sharks' organization and have worked closely with players on the AHL Barracuda -- a team that has been coached by Roy Sommer up until he, too, was recently named assistant coach under Boughner. In his introductory press conference on Thursday, Boughner outlined how he believes his new coaching staff might function.

"We met last night as a staff and this morning and we still need to work through some things," Boughner admitted. "But Mike Ricci and Roy are going to be on the bench with me. Roy's going to move to the defensive side and run some power play. Ricci was a great penalty killer his whole career and I think we're going to be able to enjoy some of his expertise. I'll be running the forwards and obviously Nabby will (oversee) the goalies. There are still some job responsibilities we'll have to sort out in the next few days. But for now, I think those guys are excited. It was a big day for them as well."

[RELATED: How DeBoer's firing shocked Sharks players]

As far as reuniting Ricci and Nabokov with their former teammates, Boughner thinks working closely with Thornton and Marleau will benefit the entire roster as the Sharks try to, yet again, turn their season around after a tough stretch of losses.

"I think you can see, even in the morning, there's that report there," Boughner said of watching the reunion during morning skate. "There's deep respect. There's a lot of familiarity with those guys and I think that's going to help. Ricci and Roy have seen these young guys all the way up. I think there's great chemistry that we're going to have there."

Sharks fail to correct bad habits in first game after coaching change

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USATSI

Sharks fail to correct bad habits in first game after coaching change

SAN JOSE -- Thursday could have been a fresh start for the Sharks. As shocking and emotional as it was to go through a midseason coaching change, they were presented with the opportunity to turn things around.

Unfortunately, Thursday's game against the Rangers featured a lot of the same problems. Missed opportunities, loose late-game play and yet another notch in the loss column.

Sure, getting accustomed to a new coach's ways can take some time. But that doesn't give the Sharks a pass when it comes to playing a full 60-minute hockey game.

"It's tough, it's difficult, but there's no excuse," captain Logan Couture said after the 6-3 loss. "Lots of teams have [gone through a coaching change]. A lot of teams in this league have done it and they've gone on winning streaks. The team that did it last year won the Cup. So, we've got to find a way. Tonight wasn't good enough once again."

San Jose did, in fact, have a great chance to get back into the win column in Bob Boughner's first game behind the bench. Even with New York continuing to grind away, the Sharks were able to take a 3-2 lead at the 4:12 mark of the third period thanks to a big goal from Brenden Dillon.

But then the defense took its foot off of the gas and Martin Jones couldn't stop Mike Zibanejad or Artemi Panarin from pushing the Rangers over the hump. In a matter of minutes, the Sharks went from defending a lead to being in a hole they didn't have time to dig out of.

"When you have a lead in the third with 15 minutes left, you have to defend a little bit harder and not turn the puck over like we did," Couture continued. "Play harder in our own end, which we did not. Defend our slot harder tonight, and I don't think we did."

Dillon agreed. "Frustrating when you have a lead like that. Especially at home, we have to be able to close it out. If we give up the tying goal, and then a couple more, it's just frustrating."

Letting up late isn't the only thing that is plaguing the Sharks right now. San Jose has struggled to play a full 60-minute game for the bulk of the season thus far. Thursday's loss showed yet again that San Jose isn't playing full games on a nightly basis -- regardless of who is behind the bench.

"I think we did some good things tonight, but obviously it still wasn't a full 60," interim head coach Bob Boughner observed. "I think in the third period we ran out of gas there a little bit."

[RELATED: Boughner confident in staff, wants Sharks to play inspired]

Martin Jones, who surrendered three goals in the third period, agreed. "Have to play a full 60 minutes, you have to," he said, acknowledging that having an adjustment period with a new coaching staff isn't an excuse. "They had more jump in the third period than us. We've got to find a way in a tied hockey game to come out with a little bit more energy. I don't know how many shots or scoring chances we had in the third, but we need to apply more pressure in a close hockey game like that."

Whether it's applying more pressure or tightening up, the Sharks clearly still have a laundry list of things they need to clean up. Now with the dust settling in regards to the coaching change, San Jose has no other option but to dig deep and keep working.

"There's a lot of work to be done," Boughner reminded everyone. "We'll have a good practice day tomorrow. Sort some things out."