The NHL became close when they met their first female coach.


Kori Cheverie fondly recalls a conversation she had with her grandfather, who grew up in Nova Scotia.

Who was the first female player to play for the Toronto Blue Jays? convinced. Would you like to lift the Stanley Cup over her head while representing the Toronto Maple Leafs? go for it

Doing so as a player is no longer in question, but Cheverie’s gender-breaking aspirations seem far more achievable today for the 34-year-old who has spent the past five years breaking down hockey’s male-only coaching barriers.

In 2017, Cheverie became the first female assistant coach for a men’s hockey team at the Canadian university level (Ryerson). This month, after serving as an assistant to the Canadian Women’s Olympic Championships, she finished working behind the men’s team bench at the Under-18 World Championships as Canada’s first woman in hockey.

“It’s kind of fun to think back and reflect on those conversations as a kid,” Cheverie recalls, recalling conversations with grandfather Jack Rehill: “It’s the first time I’ve done quite a bit in men’s hockey.” “They talk about the boundless childhood I grew up with and what I was told I could do.”

And she didn’t dream.

Cheverie’s promotion, coupled with an increasing number of women entering professional hockey management and development roles, hastened the timeline quickly as to when, if not if, there will be women working behind the NHL bench.

Pittsburgh Penguins chairman Brian Burke thinks the glass ceiling should have collapsed yesterday, but he balances his impatience by pointing out that the league advance is undermining its image as an Old Boys club.

“I think we’re basically tied to our past of white people playing hockey and being executives,” Burke told Associated Press.

“Builds can be slower than people like,” he added. “But I am very encouraged by the fact that the role of women in hockey has changed over the past two years. Women’s roles in hockey have in a very short time moved from a non-existent role to an important one.”

In the four years since Hayley Wickenheiser opened as Deputy Director of Player Development for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the league’s women’s hockey-related standings have grown to nearly 30. This does not include the five NHL teams with a female president.

The Penguins are at the forefront of the NHL team. With two women already on the hockey staff, Penguins expanded her list last month by naming US Olympic athlete Amanda Kessel as the first participant in the team’s executive management program. Vancouver was the first NHL team to hire two vice-captains instead of one from Cammi Granato and Emilie Castonguay.

Lindsay Artkin, president of the NHL Coaches’ Association, said, “I think it’s shortsighted if people don’t ultimately think that there will be some sort of equality in all industries, not just hockey.” “It won’t be unrealistic for a woman to be hired by the NHL after next season,” she said.

The NHLCA was responsible for quickly tracking these movements. Artkin started a women’s development program two years ago with the support of a male coaching member.

The program identified 50 women, including Cheverie at various levels, working directly with NHL coaches in advanced training sessions. In addition to exchanging ideas, the program provided networking opportunities for women who had not been noticed as potential coaching candidates.

Artkin said that while NHL coaches were impressed with the wealth of knowledge that women brought, female participants found that their beliefs that sessions were egalitarian when working with men were strengthened.

“It makes absolutely no sense,” said Bethany Brausen, a women’s assistant coach at St. Thomas’s University. “The terminology may be slightly different, but we’re all speaking the same language,” she said.

Brauzen’s concerns about male coaches dissipated when one male coach said that most players don’t care about gender and only think about one thing. Does coaching make players better?

“It’s very simple to say,” Brausen said. “But I think you hear men doing that level of coaching clearly say ‘obviously’. As soon as he said that, I was like, ‘Why does it matter what you look like and, frankly, what your background is? am?'”

A 25-minute drive conversation with Christine Bumstead was all it took to convince former Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice how well-versed he was in recommending him to the program.

“Christine will be a great coach. She is now one,” Maurice said of Bumstead, who finished her first year as an assistant on the women’s team at the University of Saskatchewan. “There are a lot of really smart young coaches. Some of them are male and some are female, and I have opportunities that I didn’t have 20 years ago.”

As he recalls how the Canadian Junior Hockey League once shunned American-born players, he’s convinced that gender barriers will be broken just as other walls have fallen.

“If you are not willing to change and evolve as a coach, you are done,” Maurice said. “There is no market for men to focus on communication.”

“I listen to Jennifer Botterill on TV. She talks about the game differently,” he said after turning from a Canadian Olympic athlete to a broadcaster. “Sometimes it’s just a different point of view. She may or may not have anything to do with her being a woman. But she is interesting.”

The NHL lags behind the other three major North American professional sports in women’s employment.

In 2019, Rachel Balkoveck became the first female batting coach in the majors, and this year she became the first female minor league manager in the majors. The NBA has seven female assistants this year. And the NFL’s list of female coaches rose to 12 last season.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he expects the process of hiring women to coach rather than impose quotas or enforce rules to evolve.

“I hope we don’t need it,” Bettman said. “I want people to evolve to the point where they become part of the way they function, where arbitrary rules are not needed to do the right thing.”

NHL Vice President Kim Davis said the chances of that happening have improved significantly when the recognition of development programs that give women direct access to those they have employment rights for.

“The fact that they have access and that there are women in these roles will ultimately lead them to these top positions as GMs and coaches,” Davis said. “So I was very encouraged by our progress. There’s more to do. We never do a winning rap.”

As Cheverie wants to be the first woman to be hired as a coach in the NHL, she stresses that opportunities must be appropriate to work with staff and teams where she can be heard.

“I want to play for the NHL. Of course, many female coaches think so. But that’s not the end of everything for me. I want to do the best I can,” she said.

“I’m really looking forward to the day when this isn’t a conversation,” Cheverie added. “I wish that day was today, all I could do was talk about coaches coaching teams and trying to help teams win, and how women fit into groups of men in a sports environment.”

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Contributed by AP Hockey writer Stephen Whyno.

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