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How Sharks analyst Kendall Coyne Schofield is paving way for women in hockey

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AP

How Sharks analyst Kendall Coyne Schofield is paving way for women in hockey

Ever since meeting Cammi Granato at a girl's hockey camp after the U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Team won the gold medal in 1998, Kendall Coyne Schofield has been walking through the doors her role model helped to open for her. She equaled Granato's achievement in 2018, and in 14.346 seconds at the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills competition at SAP Center, she made sure to pay it forward.

As she approached the red line at center ice as the very first contestant -- and first-ever woman -- in the NHL Fastest Skater competition, instinct took over. As large as the moment was, it was something she had been preparing for her whole life.

"At that point, it was go time," Coyne Schofield told NBC Sports California. "There was no moment to be nervous anymore. There was no moment to think about the 'what-if'. It was just do what you've been doing your whole life, and skate like you know you can skate."

As "USA! USA!" chants rained down from the rafters, all of a sudden, she was off to the races. One trip around the ice later, she had changed the state of women's hockey forever.

Coyne Schofield originally wasn't even supposed to participate in the event, but an injury to Colorado Avalanche star Nathan McKinnon opened the door for a legendary moment, and she absolutely capitalized. Though she didn't win the event with that time, she certainly became the star of it.

Coyne Schofield's inspiring skate -- the subject of "As Fast as Her", which airs Friday at 10 p.m. on NBC Sports California -- served as an iconic moment in the history of women's hockey and the NHL. Just as she was motivated by the image of Granato receiving her gold medal in 1998, surely thousands of youth hockey players felt a similar motivation as they watched her zip around the ice that night.

"You need to see it to be it," Coyne Schofield said.

She has been quite the busy woman since her moment in the spotlight. In addition to her duties with Team USA, Coyne Schofield has expanded into broadcasting with NBC Sports, and has been a frequent analyst for San Jose Sharks games. She admits the adjustment has come with growing pains, but that her new "line mates" -- Sharks broadcasters Randy Hahn, Jamie Baker and Brett Hedican -- have been tremendously helpful in bringing her up to speed.

[RELATED: How Sharks analyst is staying fit during coronavirus hiatus]

Just over one year after she went stride-for-stride with the best in the NHL, Coyne Schofield participated in the first-ever all-woman broadcast in NHL history this past March for a game between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues. While that is a source of pride for her, Coyne Schofield's favorite aspect of the entire occasion was the platform and voice given to so many women involved in the broadcast who typically work behind the scenes.

Having checked off the vast majority of boxes on her own personal goals list, Coyne Schofield is motivated by dedicating herself to bettering the next generation of women's hockey.

"As someone nearing the end of my career, that's my purpose," she explained. "That's my goal in this game is to open doors and create opportunities for the next generation. I've already accomplished my childhood dream of winning a gold medal, and that doesn't mean I don't want to win another one, but it's more impactful and more meaningful to create opportunities, to use my voice to leave this game better than when I entered it.

"In order to make history, you have to know history. So, of course, when I got to that red line at the SAP Center, I knew there was never a woman who had done what I was about to do. But I knew that the opportunities after that -- if I did well -- were going to open so many doors and create so much momentum for the game that, I needed to do this. The broadcast ... there has never been an all-woman broadcast, but we knew it would open the eyes and open doors for many other women who want to fulfill a role in broadcasting. And I think if you don't take advantage of the opportunities and if you don't seize those moments, you're hindering the opportunity to grow whatever you're trying to grow."

Coyne Schofield feels just as much of an obligation to those that came before her as she does to those who will come after -- as she did with Granato.

"I know I've grown up in an era where there have been so many women who have fought for the opportunities that I've had in my career as an athlete," she said, "and so for me, we're not done fighting yet and I need to carry on their legacy and continue to fight for more opportunities for girls and women in sports. And to me, that's a greater mission than winning a medal or an individual accomplishment."

Just like her role model, Coyne Schofield is paving the way for more women to follow in her footsteps. 

They just might have trouble keeping up.

Why Oracle Park stands above rest as Bay Area's best live sports venue

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USATSI

Why Oracle Park stands above rest as Bay Area's best live sports venue

We really are blessed here in the Bay Area.

From the waters of McCovey Cove brushing up against Oracle Park to the shiny panache of the Warriors’ new digs down the street at Chase Center to the South Bay behemoth that is Levi’s Stadium, Northern California features some beautiful homes for its professional teams.

NBC Sports Bay Area compiled an eight-team bracket of the best arenas and stadiums the Bay has to offer on social media Saturday, giving fans the opportunity to anoint a champion. Some of these decisions were easy, others not so much.

We’ll start with the top left side of the bracket and work counterclockwise.

Oracle Park vs. Candlestick

Obviously 49ers fans who were around for the dynastic run through the 1980s and 1990s have a special place in their heart for the team’s former stomping grounds. But this is an easy decision. 

Oracle Park has been through plenty of names but has maintained the beauty and charm that have consistently made it among MLB fans’ favorite stadiums overall. Looking out over the field and out into the San Francisco Bay on a Sunday afternoon, there are few views in professional sports that equate.

Candlestick was a shell of its former self by the end, not to mention that unbearable wind. Plenty of championships and success were had by both the 49ers and Giants at Candlestick, but in terms of where the average fan would want to watch a game, Oracle Park clearly is the choice.

Chase Center vs. Coliseum

This must be a typo, right?

The Coliseum has plenty of history in its past, but any stadium that has sewage seeping into the dugouts and locker rooms doesn’t belong anywhere near a list of the best facilities.

There wasn’t much winning in the inaugural NBA season at Chase Center for the Warriors, but it’s pretty easy to see when arriving why the total cost of the arena is north of $2 billion. 

Chase Center wins in a landslide.

Levi’s Stadium vs. Earthquakes Stadium

Although Levi’s Stadium always has been met with mixed reviews by 49ers fans, it still is quite an impressive facility on appearance alone. The stadium also was well ahead of its time when it came to technology.

Earthquakes Stadium, meanwhile, is the smallest in Major League Soccer, having been constructed back in 2015. While it did build what at the time was the largest outdoor bar in North America, the allure of the average Bay Area sports fan never was fully captured.

Levi’s comes out on top here, although the idea of a massive outdoor bar sounds pretty enticing once these social distancing guidelines are lifted.

SAP Center vs. Oakland Arena (formerly Oracle)

The atmosphere of a Sharks game at SAP Center is excellent, and the team has brought some incredible moments to the fans in the South Bay, including most recently the incredible third-period comeback against the Vegas Golden Knights in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

But there was no experience in the NBA like a playoff game inside “Roaracle.” The noise and raucous environment made life miserable for all of the Warriors’ postseason foes. Although the team clinched just one of its three recent NBA titles at Oracle, there are way more than a handful of iconic moments in team history that played out inside the hallowed halls of Oakland’s largest basketball arena.

Although the arena no longer is hosting any NBA action, the endless memories and atmosphere put it over the top of the SAP Center.

Semifinals

Oracle Park vs. Chase Center

This one is tricky.

Chase Center likely wins out based on appearance alone, but Oracle Park has so many more quintessential moments in Giants’ history, with the team bringing home three World Series titles in five seasons.

Both have a waterfront location and barely are a mile apart. 

Until the Warriors can bring their winning ways across the Bay, Oracle Park sneaks by here in probably the tightest matchup of this mini-tournament.

Oakland Arena vs. Levi’s Stadium

This one is tougher than it sounds. Levi’s Stadium is so far superior from a technology perspective, and we finally got to hear postseason roars in Santa Clara when the Niners won two playoff games in 2019 at home, both in commanding fashion.

But there was something special about Oakland Arena during a playoff series that can’t be replicated by any stadium or arena in the Bay.

It’s hard to explain without being in it, but the explosion of euphoria that took over the arena when Steph Curry or Klay Thompson would hit a big shot late in a playoff game or even a decent regular-season game is unmatched.

Oakland Arena advances.

[RELATED: Why Steph is the Bay Area's all-time favorite MVP athlete]

Final

Oracle Park vs. Oakland Arena

The folks over at the Oracle corporate offices must be smiling here, as the company name has preceded both of these special venues. 

Similar championship and tradition histories make this decision arduous.

But for a combination of a great fan experience and a facility rich with winning heritage, it has to be China Basin and Oracle Park that takes the cake here. Plus, it's hard to beat those garlic fries.

Hopefully, soon we can return to all of these venues and enjoy a game in-person, as American sports remain entirely on pause while we battle the coronavirus.

Ever wonder where Sharks' giant head came from? It involves Disney

Ever wonder where Sharks' giant head came from? It involves Disney

Editor's note: Every Tuesday and Thursday during this sports hiatus, we'll answer questions that Bay Area sports fans long have debated in "Ever Wonder?" Second up in the series: Where did San Jose's giant shark head come from?

The Sharks have one of the most memorable entrances in all of sports. Skating through the giant shark head at SAP Center is right up there with "Enter Sandman" at Lane Stadium for Virginia Tech football and the run down the hill at Clemson.

But did you ever find yourself wondering where that huge shark head came from?

NBC Sports Bay Area has you covered on that front as Brodie Brazil explains where that massive shark head came from in the second episode of the "Ever Wonder" series.

During their first few years, the Sharks were looking for a way to give their team an epic entrance. They eventually found it, and, of course, Disney was involved.

To find out the whole story, check out the video above.

More from "Ever Wonder"