The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport gave the WNBA an “A” grade for gender hiring practices in 2019, ranking ahead of the NBA (B, after four years of declining numbers), NFL and college sports (C-plus), and MLB and MLS (both C).
The NHL was not studied. If given a grade, it likely wouldn’t be an F, but it would charitably be in the D range, or just “incomplete.”
Earlier this month, nearly a year after the San Francisco Giants hired Alyssa Nakken as MLB’s first female on-field coach, the Marlins made Kim Ng the first female GM in league history. There are 10 female assistant coaches in the NBA, not including Kara Lawson, who left her post with the Celtics to become head coach of the Duke women’s program.
“There’s an old adage, ‘You can’t be it if you can’t see it,’ ” said Ng, asked what example she’s setting for little girls. “I guess I would suggest to them: Now you can see it.”
While other sports, slowly but surely, are putting women on the sidelines or in the big chair in the front offices, hockey has been a bit slower to include. There has been, however, a spate of hires in the last few years. Taking stock of the NHL from a gender diversity perspective:
▪ The most visible of women in US hockey has been former Northeastern star Kendall Coyne Schofield, who blazed a lap around the rink at NHL All-Star Weekend in San Jose in 2019 and captains Team USA. This past week, she became the Blackhawks’ first female development coach, working primarily with AHL Rockford.
Coyne Schofield, who was a Sharks broadcaster for NBC Sports California while a community liaison for the Blackhawks, will also work as a “youth hockey growth specialist,” focusing on grassroots programs and clinics, implementation of girls’ hockey programming, and the continued enhancement of her namesake all-girls program, the Golden Coynes.
Let’s hope she isn’t paid once for two roles.
Also working in the Blackhawks’ front office: former Wisconsin standout Meghan Hunter, recently promoted to director of hockey administration and amateur scout, and Mary DeBartolo, hired last year as a hockey analytics coordinator.
▪ Still 0-0-0 lifetime, the Seattle Kraken hired Cammi Granato, believed to be the first full-time female scout for an NHL team. They also have Alexandra Mandrycky, formerly of the Wild, as director of hockey administration. Mandrycky, who coordinates amateur/pro scouting, contracts, and salary-cap considerations, started off with the now-defunct analytics website war-on-ice.com.
Expansion teams have a history of making pioneering hires. The Lightning played Manon Rheaume in net for a pair of preseason games in 1992 and ’93, making her the first, and to date only, woman to play in the NHL. A few other goalies, including former Northeastern stopper Kelly Dyer, have played in the minor pro ranks.
The Sharks hired Deborah Wright as a part-time scout in 1992, making her the first female scout in the league. Angela Gorgone, who became an assistant to Devils GM Lou Lamoriello in 1989, joined the expansion Ducks in 1993. At 26, she was using her wiz-kid computer skills as the fledgling team’s scouting coordinator during their break-in years and became the first female assistant GM in 1996. She was out of the game by 2000, later telling The Hockey News she was burned out by the schedule.
▪ The NHL has no female GMs, assistant GMs, directors of player personnel, head coaches or assistant coaches. Only a few teams have women in hockey operations who are not executive assistants, travel coordinators, or similar roles.
The highest-ranking woman in the Bruins’ hockey department is Whitney Delorey, manager of team services and travel. Among a host of other duties, she keeps the Bruins’ demanding schedule in line.
▪ The big-budget Maple Leafs have the largest back-of-the-house staff in hockey. It includes Canadian Olympic hero Hayley Wickenheiser (assistant director of player development), Barb Underhill (skating development consultant), Sirpa Lehti (hockey ops assistant and video analyst), and Judy Cohen (hockey research and development analyst). An alum is Noelle Needham, amateur scout in the US, who now serves as assistant GM for the USHL’s Chicago Steel.
Wickenheiser, the 2019 Hockey Hall of Famer, is also studying general medicine at the University of Calgary, while working mainly with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.
“She has a certain empathy and ability to understand people and where they’re at, and then she also has the ability of understanding what it takes to operate at a very high level,” Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas said in 2019. “I could go in and read a player the riot act, but I can’t speak to what it’s like to play in a gold medal game and be the best player in the world and make the types of sacrifice it takes to get there.”
▪ The Devils are progressive on this front, having hired Boston-area native Kate Madigan (director of pro scouting operations) and Kristin Farina (hockey finance director).
Madigan, 25, is the daughter of Northeastern coach Jim Madigan, a former scout for the Islanders and Penguins, and learned the hockey business from her father. After graduating from NU with a master’s degree in accounting, she worked in auditing for Deloitte in Boston for three years before joining the Devils as an analyst in 2017.
Madigan said on a Devils podcast in March that she still gets mistaken for an intern by security staff, and always has her credentials handy around the building. She likes to keep things loose, so it doesn’t bother her. She keeps her focus on greater goals.
“I would love to be an assistant general manager, eventually a general manager,” Madigan said. “I know there’s steps that we need to take. I’m fortunate enough, though, that I am surrounded by a lot of people who are helping me learn every day and get there.”
▪ In Anaheim, former Boston College goalie Gabriella Switaj is an amateur scout and team services analyst. Up the 405, Los Angeles employs former BC defender Blake Bolden as an NHL scout. Margaret Cunniff is a data scientist with the Hurricanes’ hockey ops.
▪ In the international ranks, ex-Northeastern goalie Florence Schelling is GM of SC Bern in her native Switzerland. Schelling backstopped the Swiss women in four Olympiads (2006-18; they won bronze in ’14).
▪ A name to watch in the minors: Emily Engel-Natzke, a Colorado alum who came up through the USA Hockey video coaching staff and that of the University of Wisconsin, was recently named the video coach of the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Engel-Natzke, 29, is the first female coach in Capitals franchise history.
How does Bruins’ Krejci stack up?
Instead of the annual tradition of sorting contenders and pretenders at the Thanksgiving mark, we’re still missing hockey. Entering the weekend, the NHL and NHLPA had yet to agree on a framework for a new season, with a Jan. 1 start date all but a pipe dream.
One of the idle conversation pieces on Hockey Twitter this past week: a chart that graphed a few dozen writers, broadcasters, pundits, and personalities. According to this chart, yours truly leans more “eye test” than “Corsi” in my analysis. I can only assume the eye test was used there.
A question to idly ponder in the offseason, whether you use expected goals or your gut to answer: Of the No. 2 centers across the league, which ones would you rather have in that role, this coming season, instead of David Krejci?
For simplicity’s sake, remove money from the equation. Krejci, on an expiring $7.25 million deal signed in 2014, is on the high end for a secondary pivot. He’s hitting the Bruins’ salary cap for more than double what Eric Staal is costing the Sabres ($3.25 million, also expiring).
It’s hard to consider Leon Draisaitl, Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and John Tavares true No. 2 centers, but on their teams, they are (though Draisaitl plays enough with Connor McDavid that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could be considered Edmonton’s second banana). Krejci, 34, is somewhere in the next tier, but who’s along with him? And who ranks ahead?
For his playmaking gifts, anchoring of the No. 2 power-play unit, and proven playoff production, I’d take Krejci over a host of second-line middlemen playing too high in the lineup: Arizona’s Derek Stepan, Detroit’s Valtteri Filppula, Florida’s Noel Acciari, Minnesota’s Nick Bonino, Ottawa’s Chris Tierney, Vegas’s Chandler Stephenson.
Krejci is a fixture in Boston. It’s hard to argue, however, that the Bruins wouldn’t be better if they had the Islanders’ Brock Nelson, Philadelphia’s Kevin Hayes, St. Louis’s Brayden Schenn, San Jose’s Logan Couture, Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli or Vancouver’s Bo Horvat, players who are well-slotted as No. 2s on their teams.
Then we have the centers that might be better as No. 3 options on a title team: Calgary’s Mikael Backlund, Carolina’s Vincent Trocheck, Colorado’s Nazem Kadri, Columbus’s Max Domi, the Rangers’ Ryan Strome, and Staal. If my team was chasing the Stanley Cup next season, I might want a full-go Krejci ahead of all of them, given his bona fides. Maybe we can talk about Trocheck (if healthy) or Kadri (if his head is on straight), but No. 46 has been there and done that.
Frankly, I’m not sure what to make of Nashville’s Matt Duchene, who has played for four teams in three seasons.
Let’s talk in a few years about Montreal’s Nick Suzuki (21), Los Angeles’s Gabe Vilardi (21) and two 19-year-olds from the 2019 draft, New Jersey’s Jack Hughes and Chicago’s Kirby Dach. All of them seem to have some great years ahead, but let’s see it.
For me, Krejci’s in the group with Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim), Joe Pavelski (Dallas), Paul Stastny (Winnipeg): players who might have something left in the tank, but the mix of age and mileage leaves it a question if they’ll ever hold down a No. 2 role for another Cup run.
Another question: If things go poorly for the Bruins in this shortened upcoming season, could they flip Krejci at the deadline for futures? Like Getzlaf and Stastny, he’s on an expiring deal with trade protection.
Getzlaf, the Ducks’ captain, has an $8.25 million cap hit, but his base salary is $3 million. If he wants to waive his no-move clause, he could be a championship-caliber No. 3. Stastny, back for another go with the Jets at $6.5 million ($5.5 million base), has a 10-team no-trade list. Krejci, whose base salary ($7 million) is a quarter-million shy of his cap hit, has a no-trade list of about half the teams in the league.
Of the players on expiring deals, it’s a sure bet that 35-year-old Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin will get extended when the league’s financial picture becomes clearer, albeit for a bit less than what he’s making now (cap hit: nearly $9.54 million). Colorado is likely to lock up captain Gabriel Landeskog, 29, who could get a raise on his $5.57 million-plus tag … If healthy, and no reason to think he won’t be after breaking his leg in January, Dougie Hamilton could be the biggest prize on the free agent market if the Carolina defenseman wants to enter unrestricted free agency at 28 ... Checking, checking again, and no, Patrik Laine still has not been traded. The restricted free agent-to-be, taken second overall by the Jets in 2016, was on pace for his fourth 30-goal season in four years when the season halted in March. Something amiss with his camp and Team True North, who are married for at least one more year … With an uncertain few years ahead for the league, what will the upcoming market be for the potential star RFAs-to-be in Vancouver (Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes), Ottawa (Brady Tkachuk), Buffalo (Rasmus Dahlin), Carolina (Andrei Svechnikov), Dallas (Miro Heiskanen), Colorado (Cale Makar), Pittsburgh (John Marino), Washington (Ilya Samsonov), and Montreal (Jesperi Kotkaniemi)? … As for RFAs whose deals have expired, no word on the dollars coming the way of Pierre-Luc Dubois in Columbus or Mathew Barzal on Long Island … Letting Tyler Bozak ($5 million) and Alex Steen ($5.75 million) walk seems like the move for cap-strapped St. Louis, but it’s hard to see the Blues not giving raises to Jaden Schwartz ($5.35 million) and Jordan Binnington ($4.4 million), provided the latter’s playoff no-show doesn’t mean he lost his fastball for good. Stranger fates have befallen goalies, even those with Stanley Cup rings … The Blues still have to sign 24-year-old restricted free agent Vince Dunn, a lefthanded shooter who would look mighty nice on the Boston back line. If Bruins general manager Don Sweeney didn’t toss an offer sheet out there for Tampa Bay’s Mikhail Sergachev, who signed nearly the same deal as Charlie McAvoy (three years and $4.8 million per; McAvoy’s hit is $4.9 million), would he consider it for Dunn? Gut says no. In theory, the Bruins could have plucked Sergachev — and further complicated the Lightning’s cap situation — by offering up a deal of $6.5 million a year. If Sergachev accepted the offer, the Bruins would have surrendered a first-round pick and a third-round pick. Small price for a 22-year-old who might have solidified the left side of the Bruins’ defense for years. It might also reduce the trade value of all those left-side prospects the Bruins might be running out there this season (Jakub Zboril, Urho Vaakanainen, Jeremy Lauzon), and irritated GM Julien BriseBois, but it would have been a power move. An offer sheet for Dunn would cost, at most, a second-rounder (up to $4.36 million). The only offer sheet in the last six years: Montreal’s failed gambit at grabbing franchise center Sebastian Aho, who re-upped with Carolina in July 2019 for five years and $8.454 million annually, a price the Hurricanes were happy to pay … The most memorable offer sheets on record: the Flyers forcing the Predators’ hand with Shea Weber, who signed a now-outlawed 14-year, $110 million megadeal in 2012; Dustin Penner going from the Ducks to the Oilers in 2007, leading to a near-barn brawl between Anaheim GM Brian Burke and Edmonton’s Kevin Lowe; and a few didn’t-happens: Hurricanes trying to get Sergei Fedorov from Detroit in 1998, the Blues trying to keep peak-of-his-powers Scott Stevens from heading to the Devils in 1994, and the Flames trying to nab Teemu Selanne before his Jets debut in 1992 … Another unconventional path on the Maple Leafs staff: video coach Sam Kim. The 35-year-old Boston College (undergrad) and UMass (master’s) grad started out as Sparky the Dragon, the Islanders’ mascot, during a 2007 internship with the team. His stops included an assistant coaching gig with the Korean national team in the PyeongChang Olympics. His parents are from Korea ... If you had to bet a new PlayStation 5 on it, which California team has the best shot of making the playoffs this year: the prospect-heavy Kings, who could give significant minutes to rookie Quinton Byfield; the Ducks, who still have ace John Gibson tending goal; or the Sharks, whose roster looks good on paper but finished last in the West? I think Drew Doughty, Brent Burns, and Erik Karlsson have some good hockey left, but give me the Ducks on the backs of a resurgent Gibson and their underrated prospect pool (Boston University’s Trevor Zegras, Calder candidate?) … Newly extended Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk, on how he’s focusing his training in preparation for the start of a new season: “Obviously, I think we’re trying to aim for whatever the rumors that are out there. Everything seems to be changing. Just be ready for January, be ready for even earlier, or whatever.” I don’t even know what that means, but at this point, it sounds about right.