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.
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.