THE VERDICT: Coyne Schofield Brings World-Class Experience to Blackhawks
Chicago adds superstar to front office roster with hiring of Kendall Coyne Schofield in player development roleby Bob Verdi / Blackhawks.com
She'll be on the ice Thursday, as usual. It's Thanksgiving, but that's what hockey players do, and what a hockey player she is.
Kendall Coyne Schofield has joined the Blackhawks because there's no rule against signing another superstar, even during a pandemic. She also belongs in the organization because she is uniquely qualified as Player Development Coach & Youth Hockey Growth Specialist, the first female in such a role with a franchise she remembers "watching win three Stanley Cups while rooting on my couch."
Born in Orland Park, Kendall has earned numerous honors, perhaps most notable a gold medal with the United States Women's hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Unlike print, this format allows for unlimited space. Still, if we were to list all the awards and trophies she has received during a career that is ongoing, it would best be presented via serial instalments. Suffice it to say, Kendall doesn't merely win precious keepsakes, she stockpiles them.
At age 7, Kendall attended a hockey school overseen by another local legend, Cammi Granato, and admired her gold medal from the 1998 Winter Olympics. Granato recently was hired as the first female National Hockey League pro scout by the expansion Seattle Kraken. Just last week, Kim Ng, a University of Chicago graduate who began her career as a White Sox front office intern, was appointed general manager of the Miami Marlins. The next vice president of the United States will be Sen. Kamala Harris. All firsts.
"The sky's the limit," enthused Kendall. "Like Billie Jean King said, 'You need to see it to be it.'"
Video: Kendall Coyne Schofield on new development coach role
During a Zoomer the other day, Kendall wore a Blackhawks' pullover. Over her right shoulder was a framed No. 26 sweater from her 2018 Winter Olympics championship in South Korea. Over her left shoulder was a No. 79 uniform donned by husband Michael as a member of the Denver Broncos. He now is employed by the Carolina Panthers. Michael can skate, albeit rarely and gingerly.
"Don't want to get him injured," she said. "Wish that was a Bears' jersey."
Kendall describes her path to the Blackhawks official family as "organic." After silver at the 2014 Winter Olympics, she was hired as an intern in the media relations department. If anything can prepare a man, woman or robot for hours freighted with stress, it's dealing with a gaggle of us grumpy writers in the United Center press box on a game night. She aced that assignment, and, as a self-proclaimed "sponge," craved more ventures.
Meanwhile, Annie Camins, the visionary Blackhawks' Senior Executive Director of Fan Development, urged Kendall to partake of various other endeavors. When Camins suggested pairing up with Capt. Jonathan Toews to speak at a nearby high school, Kendall's first thought was "nobody would know who I am and nobody would want me around with Jonathan there." She was wrong on both counts.
In January, 2019, she became the first woman to compete in the NHL skills competition at the All-Star Game. She entered the broadcast booth as an analyst for NBC and the San Jose Sharks, for whom she worked last season. Former Blackhawk Doug Wilson, a Hall of Fame defenseman and Sharks' general manager, was quick to congratulate Kendall regarding Monday's announcement.
"After getting more involved starting years ago, more ideas followed," recalled Kendall. "Annie was the icebreaker, no question. Now, here I am in this role after several years of an informal relationship with the Blackhawks, and I am incredibly excited at this opportunity. What I would love to do is in some way contribute to another Stanley Cup for Chicago."
Kendall's future with the Blackhawks involves wearing several different helmets. She will continue to instruct youths in endeavors such as "Golden Coynes," a terrific program for girls 6 to 12 who aspire to dream the dream or simply enjoy a wonderful sport. Also, Kendall will coach and develop Blackhawk hopefuls, primarily prospects with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Last, though not least, she remains attached to the U.S. Women's National Team.
"I'm still a current player," Kendall affirmed. "I was young, now I'm old. But I still want to compete."
Video: Coyne on her player development position with Hawks
Actually, she's only 28, and absolutely intends to help the U.S. Women's Olympic Team to defend its title at the 2022 Winter Games in China. She would be a veteran, but likely not the most veteran. Maybe three or four other women would be "older," she thinks.
The elements of Kendall's new job are intriguing and, one would suppose, all positive. She is going to be a development coach while an active participant. If that doesn't elicit instant respect, her ebullient personality and worldly ways surely should. She's been to a lot of places and cleared a lot of hurdles, more than most of her proteges could imagine. Kendall talked the other day not only about honing basic skills, but about intangibles. Character. What it takes to be a good teammate. How to give all when you feel you've given everything.
In sports, a recurrent hymn is that most superstars cannot quite impart their genius to the less-gifted. Ted Williams, arguably baseball's purest ever hitter, couldn't teach others how to do what he did. The tale, perhaps apocryphal, is that when Williams was asked how to handle a curve, he said, well, just get the bat on the back of the ball. Simple. For him.
So, the question for Kendall Coyne Schofield, an extraordinary skater. Can you teach speed?
"I can teach technique," she said. "With kids, they're like a block of clay. You are still trying to form them. With older players, you can improve and increase speed, by their stride, their push. You work with what they're good at, and what can be tweaked. I'm my own worst critic. I'm still in their shoes. I break myself down on film, all the time. Take a step back and get inside your weaknesses."
Feels as though the Blackhawks just got better, and she doesn't even count against the salary cap.