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Color of Hockey: Koelzer named coach of Arcadia University women's team

No. 1 pick in 2016 NWHL Draft will help launch new program

by William Douglas @WDouglasNHL / Staff Writer

William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog for the past seven years. Douglas joined in March and will be writing about people of color in the game. Today, he looks at the impact of the hiring of Kelsey Koelzer as the coach of Arcadia University's new women's hockey program.

Kelsey Koelzer, a member of the NHL & NHLPA Female Hockey Advisory Committee, was named coach of Arcadia University's new women's hockey program Monday.

Koelzer, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 National Women's Hockey League Draft by the New York Riveters, will become one of the few women of color coaching in U.S. college hockey when she starts work at the university in Glenside, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia, on Oct. 1.

"They've put their faith in me to start a program over there at Arcadia," said Koelzer, who played high school hockey in nearby Horsham, Pennsylvania. "For me, it's a dream come true. It's probably the closest university from where I was born and raised and we're going to be playing in a rink that I can't even tell you how many times I played at as a kid."

Arcadia announced in June that it was adding NCAA Division III men's and women's hockey teams that will begin play in the 2021-22 season.

Brian Granata, Arcadia's athletic director, said Koelzer had a hockey resume and the knowledge of the game in the Philadelphia area that made hiring the 24-year-old easy.

"Kelsey's name resonates locally and nationally in the world of women's hockey," he said. "Kelsey has a passion for coaching and mentoring individuals. Her desire to grow the game of women's ice hockey, and specifically to do so in her hometown region, is infectious."

The defenseman helped the Riveters to the NWHL Isobel Cup championship in 2018 and shared Most Valuable Player honors at the league's All-Star game that year with forward Hayley Scamurra.

Koelzer scored 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 20 games in three injury-plagued NWHL seasons. 

Before going pro, she played at Princeton University where she scored 100 points (39 goals, 61 assists) in 128 games. She earned first team All-American, Ivy League player of the year, and first team All-Ivy League honors during her collegiate career.

In March, Koelzer was named to the NHL & NHL Female Hockey Advisory Committee, a panel formed to help accelerate the growth of female hockey in North America and ensure that girls can experience all the opportunities and benefits that the sport provides.

With her hire Monday, Koelzer is helping to diversify U.S. college hockey, where white men outpaced women 60 to 37 last year as head coaches of women's teams, according to NCAA statistics. None were coaches of color.

Leon Hayward, who was one of two black assistant coaches in NCAA men's Division I hockey last season, said Koelzer's hiring is a significant step for the game.

"I think any time kids can see people that look like them in positions where they can make real decisions is important," said Hayward, a Colorado College assistant. "I think these are all steps. I think anyone who gets into the coaching business understands that color doesn't really matter, it's more about wins. I don't know Kelsey, but I've just kind of seen the work she's done and followed her career a little bit. I'm super-happy for her."

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