Kendall Coyne Schofield has been breaking barriers her whole life. And she did it again on Monday when the Blackhawks made her the first female player development coach in franchise history.
"This is an incredible opportunity," Coyne Schofield said in a video conference call. "I'm so excited. I remember being three years old putting on my first pair of skates and watching the Blackhawks play, and at seven years old playing in the junior Blackhawks game at the United Center and doing it again when I was nine. And then from there time passed and I became the intern in 2014 after the Olympics in the media relations department.
"I've always felt a part of this organization, so to see things finally be formalized ... from a business standpoint is such an honor. As a young kid, I always dreamed to be a part of this organization."
Those dreams have officially become a reality for Coyne Schofield, whose title with the Blackhawks also includes youth hockey growth specialist. She will continue to compete for Team USA and hopes that her experience as a player will make the transition to a development coach seamless.
But Coyne Schofield knows that trust between a player and coach must be earned.
“I think no matter who walks through the door — whether it's a new coach, a new nutritionist, a new strength coach — you need to earn the trust and the respect of the players and I plan on doing that right away through the work ethic that I will show them," she said. "That's how I made it as a player and that's how I plan on making it as a coach.
“And while I might be the first female coach a lot of these players have worked with, I don't see it being an issue. I see them seeing me as someone that's going to aspire to get to the next level to fulfill their NHL dream and I'm going to do everything I can to get them ready to do that."
Earlier this month, the Miami Marlins named Kim Ng as their general manager, making her the first female to hold that title in any of the major men’s sports leagues in North America. Coyne Schofield, who on Jan. 25, 2019 became the first woman to compete in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, hopes she can one day do the same.
"Absolutely, I think this is the first step in that process,” Coyne Schofield said of potentially becoming an NHL coach or GM one day. “I think this is the first step in what is possible. I'm looking forward to this experience and getting my feet wet, learning from so many first-class people and champions within the Chicago Blackhawks organization, in this role.
"I think the sky's the limit. I can continue to grow and develop within this role, and whether that's a coach or GM, I think the sky's the limit and I look forward to seeing where this takes me."
But perhaps more importantly, Coyne Schofield wants to continue to carve out a path for young women aspiring to follow her footsteps.
"I was a little girl growing up in the Chicagoland area playing the game because I loved it and this is where it's taken me," Coyne Schofield said, "and I think there's a lot of young girls maybe in this area and beyond that are looking at this today and saying, 'Wait, I can do that too? I can do that?'
"Becoming the first female development coach in Blackhawks history speaks volumes, and it's definitely going to create the next opportunity for a young girl, whether she's watching now or will watch later and she'll see it and she'll say, 'I want to do that too.'"