William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog since 2012. Douglas joined in 2019 and writes about people of color in the sport. Today, as part of's celebration of Asian Pacific Islander Month, he profiles Long Island University women's hockey coach Kelly Nash, a Filipino American who is a two-time NCAA national champion as a player and a former professional player.

Kelly Nash said she never experienced a moment when her Filipino American heritage and hockey converged until she became coach of Long Island University's women's team in June.

Then she experienced two.

Julia and Renee Hoffmann, twins who played for LIU last season, asked Nash about her roots when the first-year coach made introductory phone calls to her players.

"It made sense because they're also half Filipino," Nash said with a laugh. "It was really cool. I mean, it was pretty awesome to have that connection with them and to have two other half Filipinos as part of the program."

The 34-year-old Bonita, California, native said she hopes to become more of a role model as she grows as the coach of the NCAA Division I program.

"I think it's just becoming more of a comfortable thing for me now than in previous years," Nash said. "I'm sure there's more I can do, learn different ways to be more of a role model and mentor for younger players and female athletes."

She's off to a flying start. Nash led LIU to a 20-14-3 record, New England Women's Hockey Alliance regular season and tournament championships and an automatic berth for their first trip to the NCAA Division I women's tournament in 2022-23.

The only coach of color in the tournament, Nash's team lost 9-1 to Wisconsin in an NCAA regional semifinal March 9 in Hamilton, New York. Wisconsin went on to defeat Ohio State 1-0 for the women's Frozen Four championship in Duluth, Minnesota, on March 19.


The Wisconsin game was a surreal moment for Nash. She was a forward for Wisconsin from 2008-11 and won NCAA championships in 2009 and 2011 under United States Olympic gold medal winner and former NHL center Mark Johnson, her opposing coach in the semifinal.

"I was, like, standing on the bench across from my former coach," she said. "I definitely got to catch up with him, and the same with the assistant coaches and the whole staff, who really are the reason why I wanted to get into coaching in the first place."

Nash began playing hockey when she was 7, following her older brother, Brent, into the sport. Like many California players, she began with roller hockey, and didn't play on ice until she was 12.

She advanced on ice to play for the California Selects, an elite program in Huntington Beach, about a 90-minute drive from her family's home outside of San Diego.

Nash's mother, Eloisita, who is from Baguio City in the Philippines, and father, Kevin, ferried her three or four times a week for practices and games.

She attended Southern California hockey clinic camps run by college coaches and caught the attention of scouts. When Wisconsin offered a scholarship, she didn't consider any other schools.


"Once I went out there, I just couldn't see myself anywhere else," she said.

Nash had 69 points (22 goals, 47 assists) in 153 games in her four seasons at Wisconsin. After college, she played in Belarus and Austria, and had 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in nine games for EHV Sabres Wein of the European Women's Hockey League in 2012-13.

She was planning on returning to Vienna for another season until the University of Vermont called and offered her an assistant coaching job.

"At the time I still wanted to play, but on the opposite side, coaching at that level right off the bat, it was much (clearer) that's what I wanted to be doing," she said.

After four seasons at Vermont, she became an assistant at Princeton University in 2017. That move enabled her to resume her playing career, skating for the Metropolitan Riveters of the National Women's Hockey League (now the Premier Hockey Federation).


"All my friends were playing, and it was, like, 35 minutes from Princeton," she said. "At first, I was, like, 'No, I think I'm past that time and I want to focus on my coaching.' Then I talked to Cara (Morey), the head coach at Princeton, and she was, like, 'Hey, whatever you want to do on your free time, do on your free time.'"

Nash had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 24 NWHL/PHF games through three seasons and helped the Riveters win the league's Isobel Cup in 2018. She became an associate coach and head scout for the Riveters in 2021-22.

While working for the Riveters, Nash also worked at LeagueApps, a youth sports management platform. She helped manage the company's partnership with the NHL, particularly the League's Learn to Play and Breaking the Ice initiatives.

"I loved the company, the culture was really cool, and I grew so quickly there," she said. "I liked it, but I wasn't passionate about it like I am with coaching. Last summer I was, 'OK, I might just browse the NCAA to see what positions open up,' and that's how I found out that LIU was open."


LIU named Nash coach June 24. University athletic director William E. Martinov said her college and professional hockey career and ability to build a rapport with players were strong selling points.

"I've felt like I've always been able to build good player/coach relationships throughout my career," Nash said, "and build that trust from the get-go."

Julia Hoffmann, a forward/defenseman who is graduating from LIU with her sister this spring, agreed. She was elated when Nash spoke about their shared background.

"It made me feel a lot better because you feel that closer connection, especially with a new coach," she said. "You're, like, worried to see if the coach will like you or whatever. But it definitely made me feel more comfortable that she was (Filipino American) and how open she was to talk about her family."

Photos: Long Island University Athletics, University of Wisconsin Athletics