The Capitals announced Thursday they have promoted Emily Engel-Natzke to video coordinator, and per the team, she’s the first woman to hold that position in NHL history.
Engel-Natzke, 31, began working for the Hershey Bears in late 2020 where she quickly made an impression on members of the organization. Now, the Capitals have promoted her to the NHL.
"It is obviously really exciting, just the opportunity to work with (coach) Peter (Laviolette), his staff and Brett Leonhardt, who has been a video coach for 10 years now, so I'm really grateful", Engel-Natzke said Wednesday. “My time in Hershey has been awesome and I think it has really prepared me for this opportunity, so I'm really excited to get down to DC and join the staff."
As for becoming the first woman to hold such a position, she knows what this could mean for more women breaking into hockey in the coming years.
“It's kind of surreal, I guess," Engel-Natzke said. "I've never kind of really looked at myself in that lens and I think if you may have asked me a week ago, I wouldn't have wanted it to be a big deal. But with everything that's going on kind of geopolitically, I think I'm more so just honored to be, I guess, the first. Hopefully that just opens the door even further for people who want to get into this job and this profession."
Engel-Natzke’s career in hockey began at the University of Colorado, where she played. But her career beyond the ice began a few years later when she began work with USA Hockey.
She then took a job at the University of Wisconsin, where she worked as a video coach under, notably, men’s coach Tony Granato. In addition, she did work for the women's team, too.
Engel-Natzke credited Granato with helping her push toward her goal of reaching the NHL, despite the fact that the league felt “a little far” at the time.
“I think it’s easy to kind of watch a game and you see certain things, but really honing in on little tendencies that I didn’t see before,” she said of learning at Wisconsin. “He’s been in the game so long that he notices just stick positioning, skate positioning. So I think (Granato) really kind of helped me develop the way that I see the game and really kind of hone in on those little things that may not seem like they make a difference, but really showing how they can make a big difference.”
Granato, who played in the league and later coached in the NHL as an assistant for the Avalanche, Penguins and Red Wings (with a stint as Colorado’s head coach), helped make the connection with Laviolette that helped get Engel-Natzke into pro hockey.
“We feel like we hired really a qualified person that we brought into the organization two years ago and came in and did an outstanding job, and that's what development is all about,” Laviolette said. “For me, we got the best person and that's the most important thing. This was earned and deserved and I'm excited for the opportunity to be able to work with Emily as well.”
Engel-Natzke’s career in the NHL is just getting started, but the hope for her is that, eventually, women working in the league will become far more commonplace than it is today.
“Hopefully the door just keeps opening a little bit more and I hope in a couple years it’s not as big of a deal, it’s kind of just another hire,” Engel-Natzke said. “But I think it’s been really encouraging that you’re seeing women in different roles, whether it’s in coaching, whether it’s in management, athletic training and equipment management. So it’s really encouraging and really promising and hopefully younger women see that and it can become a goal for them, too.”