Kendall Coyne Schofield’s list of hockey accomplishments is long.
She scored more points (249) than anyone who has suited up for Northeastern University’s women’s -- or men’s -- ice hockey programs, and won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top collegiate women’s player in 2016. She won an Isobel Cup as an NWHL champion in March. She also has one Olympic and six IIHF World Championships gold medals to her name, captaining the United States of America to its latest title in April.
Yet becoming the first woman to compete in the skills competition during NHL All-Star Weekend is right up there.
“[It’s] definitely a top-three moment in my career,” Coyne Schofield said in a phone interview Wednesday. “ … Winning an Olympic gold medal, I think, will top the chart always. Being able to get a college education and play college hockey at Northeastern is No. 2, and then that All-Star moment is right there at No. 3.”
History was made and barriers were broke. It was such an honor to be the first woman to compete in the @nhl All Star Skills Competition last night. I can’t wait to see what the future holds! #NHLAllStar pic.twitter.com/Sc125oBGCx— Kendall Coyne Schofield (@KendallCoyne) January 26, 2019
That January weekend in San Jose also made an impression on her, and she said she felt a strong connection with Sharks fans from the jump. That built when Coyne Schofield served as a studio analyst for NBC Sports California during the Stanley Cup playoffs, and she is excited to see it continue this season.
Coyne Schofield will head to the booth as a color commentator during select Sharks game broadcasts this season.
“I've always felt a part of the San Jose family since I left that moment,” Coyne Schofield said, “and everyone's been so supportive, and the outreach from the San Jose community just to me as a hockey player has been unbelievable. So, I'm really excited to transition that into the broadcasting realm.”
The Sharks will look very different from the last time Coyne Schofield saw them play.
Defenseman Justin Braun was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in June, and wingers Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist signed with the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets, respectively, on the first day of free agency. Longtime captain Joe Pavelski also signed elsewhere on July 1, leaving the Sharks to join the Dallas Stars.
Game 5 of the Sharks’ second-round series with the Colorado Avalanche was the first Coyne Schofield covered in San Jose last spring, and she saw firsthand the emotional lift the then-injured captain provided the crowd and his teammates. Pavelski’s departure leaves big skates to fill, but Coyne Schofield believes the remaining Sharks will rise to the occasion.
“That energy he brought to the fans is the same energy he brought to the team,” Coyne Schofield said. “It's easy to say that he's irreplaceable. However, I do think he's replaceable in the sense that this is an opportunity for guys to step up, for someone else to lead in the way that they might have learned from him over their time with him as a teammate. It's an optimistic moment for a lot of guys to step up and take charge in that room."
The Sharks will have a new captain and a new-look forward corps by the time the puck drops on the regular season on Oct. 2. Yet Coyne Schofield expects the feeling of last spring’s Western Conference finals defeat to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues to be fresh in the Sharks’ minds, and she's especially keen on seeing how that manifests in the first half of San Jose’s season.
She related the experience to her own losing the gold medal to Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics, before winning gold four years later. Coyne Schofield said it was important to remember that feeling but not to let it linger.
“You can't sulk on the past, otherwise you're never going to progress to the future,” she said. “But I think in the Sharks' situation, they had such a phenomenal year and there are so many values that they can take away from last season and bring into this season. And one of those values is defeat."