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Krissy Wendell-Pohl Inspiring Women in a New Way as Penguins Scout

The two-time Olympian is just the third woman in the entire NHL to hold a scouting position with an NHL club

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

A two-time Olympian inducted to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame following a prolific playing career at the collegiate level for the University of Minnesota and at the international level for Team USA.

That's just a surface-level look at the incredible resume of Krissy Wendell-Pohl, whose name came up as the Penguins were looking to add another member to their scouting staff. And when Ron Hextall and Chris Pryor starting going through her credentials in detail, they were blown away everything she has accomplished in the sport - which led to Wendell-Pohl joining Pittsburgh's staff as an amateur scout.

"She's a hockey person," said Pryor, Pittsburgh's director of player personnel. "She's reputable. Her resume speaks volumes with what she's done. She's been around the game. She's played the game at a very high level. So I just think it's a really good hire."

Wendell-Pohl, 40, is just the third woman in the entire league to hold a scouting position with an NHL club - joining Seattle's Cammi Granato and LA's Blake Bolden. After being a role model for so many girls in the sport as a player, Wendell-Pohl is thrilled to be among those breaking through glass ceilings for women at the NHL level now as a scout.

"It's exciting," she said. "I have three daughters, so just for them to grow up and think that this is normal, that those who know hockey and have passion about hockey and are able to see it - it doesn't matter if you're male or female. There's a lot of value there. I think it's the best thing that's coming from all of this. 

"The more they can feel like it's not weird that there's a female working (in that capacity), that it's normal, I think that's the best mindset we can give the next generation."

Emily, 13, Anna, 11, and Lucy, 9, are all super passionate about hockey, and currently play in the Woodbury Hockey Association, the same ranks that Jake Guentzel came through. With the Pittsburgh winger being a local kid, Emily has always liked watching him and is a big Penguins fan. So while she was excited about her mother joining the organization, the other two were a bit more hesitant.

That's because their father, John Pohl, was drafted by St. Louis and went on to play professionally in the AHL, NHL (for the Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs) and overseas in Sweden, so the girls have tended to stick with his teams when it comes to their allegiances.

"But we'll work on them," Wendell-Pohl said with a laugh. "They associate a lot of the NHL with Dad, just because he played. So for them to say Mom's in the NHL, they're kind of giving Dad grief - like Dad, Mom's working in the NHL. And I think that mindset, with them being females, is a great example."

And speaking of a great example - that's what Wendell-Pohl has had in Granato, who was her teammate and linemate with the U.S. women's national team. 

Granato has been an absolute pioneer, becoming the first captain of Team USA when women's hockey became an Olympic sport at the 1998 Nagano Games; the first woman inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame; and most recently, the NHL's first-ever female professional scout.

"She was actually my first call after Chris reached out at the very beginning stages of this," Wendell-Pohl said. "She's also got kids and she's had a positive experience, and I think that for sure had an influence on me continuing to have those conversations with Pittsburgh. 

"In terms of travel and time commitment, and can this be done and do you like it, I really valued her opinion a lot. I will say she had a lot of influence on this, and I told her I'm still going to keep picking her brain a little bit (laughs)."

It was the perfect way for Wendell-Pohl, who had done some coaching of girls high school hockey with her husband following her playing career, to really get involved back with the sport.

She will primarily scout amateur players - particularly high schoolers - in the Minnesota area, which is where she was born and raised. Krissy was a competitive kid who loved sports, and always tagged along after her brother Erik, who is two years older. When he started playing hockey, Krissy begged her parents to let her play, too. 

"They said, if you still want to play when you're 5, we'll sign you up, because that's when they had signups here in Minnesota," said Wendell-Pohl, who woke up on her birthday like it was Christmas morning. "I do remember being like, 'I can play hockey!' I was counting it down (laughs). So the passion has always been there, and the love for the sport, I think, has always been there."

Especially since, as Krissy said in her induction speech to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019, at the time there were no high school girls' team to play on; no college scholarships available; and no women's hockey in the Olympics. So she played on boys' teams all the way up until her junior year at Park Center High School, where she switched over to the girls' team that had been established a few years earlier.

"I had an awesome experience here in Minnesota," she said. "I know that's not the case for everybody, and unfortunately, that's probably why a lot of people don't continue to play, which is super sad. Because there's probably some good players out there that just quit because they just didn't feel like they were included, or it wasn't worth it. So hopefully, we're changing that now."

Wendell-Pohl scored 219 goals in just two seasons and 165 points (110G-55A) in her senior year alone. Not only was she the first player in U.S. history, both boy or girl, to score more than 100 goals in a single season - she accomplished the feat twice, and continues to hold the record for the all-time leading scorer in women's high school hockey.

The 5-foot-7 forward would continue to post those types of staggering numbers for the rest of her career. First, at the University of Minnesota, which had always been her one real hockey goal - even when the school only had a men's team. 

"People would tell me, they don't have a women's team," she said in her speech. "And I remember telling them, well then, I'll just play on the men's team."

Luckily, the Gophers established a women's team when Wendell-Pohl was in high school. After heading to the Twin Cities, Wendell-Pohl amassed 237 points (106G-141A) in her three seasons, placing her fourth all-time in program history, 11th all-time in NCAA women's scoring and fourth all-time in points-per-game (2.35). 

Wendell-Pohl captained the Gophers to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2004 and '05. During her final season with Minnesota, she put up 104 points (43G-61A) in just 40 games, which won her the Patty Kazmaier Award for best female collegiate player.

"It's so cliche, but I do I feel like I got so lucky just in the timing of it," she said. "Five, six years earlier, you're not even having that opportunity."

Her first appearance with the senior U.S. women's national team came with the World Championship in 1999, which would be the start of an illustrious international career. Wendell-Pohl represented the United States in six World Championships and two Olympics, winning silver in Salt Lake City in 2002 and bronze in Turino in 2006. Overall, she appeared in 147 total games and amassed 106 goals and 247 points.

One of Wendell-Pohl's biggest takeaways from her time with Team USA is how much the game grew over that time span. She came in as players like Granato from the 1998 team who had paved the way were finishing their careers, and said it was amazing to hear their stories about what it took to get to where they were.

"Then by the time I left and was done playing in '07, it was like you're dealing with a whole generation of kids where some of them who knew about '98 and some of them didn't," Wendell-Pohl said. "You kind of crossed a long timeline of different paths. But at the same time, such a positive growth. We still have a long way to go, but it is nice to see it headed in the right direction."

And her hiring with the Penguins is another huge step in that regard.

"I am really excited," she said. "I think it's just such a good fit. The more people I've had a chance to connect with - a lot of the other scouts have all reached out and been super welcoming - I just think that says a lot about the organization, and makes me that much more excited."

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