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Courtney Kessel is named head coach of Boston’s PWHL team

Courtney Kessel is also an assistant coach for the Canadian women's national team.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP/Associated Press

Courtney Kessel will be the inaugural head coach of the Boston franchise in the Professional Women’s Hockey League, which is set to begin play in January.

The PWHL announced Kessel’s hiring Friday, along with the hirings of the league’s five other head coaches: Charlie Burggraf (Minnesota), Kori Cheverie (Montreal), Howie Draper (New York), Carla MacLeod (Ottawa), and Troy Ryan (Toronto).

“Courtney was at the top of a very short list for me,” said Danielle Marmer, general manager of PWHL Boston, during Kessel’s introductory press conference. “She was somebody who intrigued me mostly because mentors that I’ve had in the game … really respect her and look up to her.”


Kessel moved to Boston July 1, a few months after she was named associate head coach of the Boston University women’s hockey program. She has since resigned from BU in order to fill her role with PWHL Boston.

“When the opportunity presented itself, it was a no-brainer,” Kessel said. “My family and I fell in love with Boston. It’s a city that loves their sports, and so I jumped right on the train. ‘Why not? Let’s do this. We’re already here.’ ”

Kessel was head coach of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League’s Toronto Furies in 2018-19, after which she spent four years as an assistant at Princeton. She helped lead the Tigers to their first ECAC championship in 2019-20 with a program-record 26 wins.

In July, she was named an assistant coach for Canada’s women’s national team. Despite her new position with PWHL Boston, Kessel will continue in that role for Canada. As of Friday, she was in Ontario for national team training camp.

Kessel also has served as assistant coach (2019) and head coach (2023) for Canada’s U18 Team, winning gold at the World Championship both times. She also won three World Championship medals (one gold, two silver) as a player representing Canada.


Kessel played her college hockey at the University of New Hampshire. The defender also competed for the CWHL’s Brampton Thunder, being named 2012 Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star.

Kessel and Marmer will fill out their team during the PWHL draft, which is set to take place Monday in Toronto. Boston holds the third pick and will look to complement the trio of Hilary Knight, Megan Keller, and Aerin Frankel, all of whom signed during an initial free agency period last week.

“There are so many great players out there with such great talent,” Kessel said. “We want the top players and we want good people in our changing room, we want leaders, and we want to make sure we’re making an impact on the community as well.”

Building a team from the ground up may come with a challenge. All six founding franchises will be racing to create cohesive teams before the first puck drops in January.

“We’re going to get a team of 23 players from across the world and bring them in and see how fast can we get them to play for each other and to love each other?” Kessel said. “Whoever can pull their team in the fastest is going to have success really early.”

The PWHL bought out the Premier Hockey Federation and all of its teams, including the Boston Pride, earlier this summer.

“The biggest part of all this is there are incredible people in this game, and given these opportunities of what this professional league is going to do for our game, it’s truly incredible,” Kessel said.


Kessel is the sister-in-law of Phil Kessel, the former Bruins first-round pick (fifth overall) in 2006 who has gone on to win three Stanley Cups, two in Pittsburgh (2016 and 2017) with the Penguins and his latest in June with the Vegas Golden Knights. He also became the NHL’s all-time Ironman last year, who has played in 1,064 consecutive games.

Emma Healy can be reached at Follow her @_EmmaHealy_.