A who’s who of people with roots in Canadian women’s hockey were hired to step behind the benches of Professional Women’s Hockey League teams in the league’s inaugural season.
Five of the six head coaches announced Friday by the PWHL are Canadian: Troy Ryan (Toronto), Carla MacLeod (Ottawa), Kori Cheverie (Montreal) Courtney Birchard-Kessel (Boston) and Howie Draper (New York).
Minnesotan Charlie Burggraf was named head coach of the Minneapolis-St. Paul club. The coaches were hired by their respective teams’ general managers.
The PWHL will hold a 15-round draft Monday in Toronto and start training camps Nov. 13.
Ryan of Spryfield, N.S., will continue to coach the Canadian women’s team in addition to his new PWHL job. He signed a four-year contract extension last year with Hockey Canada through to the 2026 Winter Olympics.
He navigated Canada to an Olympic gold medal in 2022, back-to-back world titles in 2021 and 2022 and a world silver medal this year since taking over as head coach in 2019-20.
Toronto GM Gina Kingsbury has hired Ryan a second time. She promoted him from assistant to head coach of the national women’s team while she was Hockey Canada’s head of that program.
The PWHL, which opens a 24-game regular season in January, intends to accommodate the schedules of its international players in order for them to compete in both.
The coaching appointments shake up the university ranks.
MacLeod, a two-time Olympic gold medallist in women’s hockey, and longtime Pandas coach Draper leave the Calgary and Alberta programs respectively for their PWHL gigs.
“It is with mixed emotions I take this next step,” MacLeod said in a statement. “The excitement surrounding the PWHL, and the direction women’s hockey is headed professionally is certainly something I am proud to be a part of. I am humbled that Ottawa believes I am the right coach to help build their program and look forward to the opportunity that lies ahead.”
The Calgarian has coached Czechia’s women to back-to-back bronze medals at the world championship.
Draper is the winningest coach in U Sports women’s hockey (667 wins) after 26 seasons in Edmonton with the Pandas.
“On one hand, I am excited to be stretching myself and seeing what might be possible at that level of the game,” he said in a statement. “On the other, I leave a group of athletes and coaches that I truly love working with on a day-to-day basis.”
Birchard-Kessel, the sister-in-law of NHL player Phil Kessel and U.S. women’s team forward Amanda Kessel, coached Canada to gold at both the 2019 and 2023 women’s world under-18 hockey championship.
She’s worked on women’s college coaching staffs of Boston University and Princeton the last four years. The former defender from Toronto helped Canada win women’s world championship gold in 2012 in Burlington, Vt.
Cheverie of New Glasgow, N.S., has been Ryan’s assistant coach on the national squad through world championships and the Olympic Games since 2019.
She was also the first woman to be a full time coach of university men’s team when she was an assistant for the Metropolitan Rams from 2016 to 2021. Cheverie will coach hockey star Marie-Philip Poulin on Montreal’s PWHL team.
“The creation of the PWHL marks a pivotal moment for women’s hockey, and I’m committed to building on Montreal’s legacy of hockey excellence,” Cheverie said in a statement.
Burrgraf of Roseau, Minn., previously coached Bethel University’s men’s team and was an assistant coach of the University of Minnesota women’s team.
Former U.S. team star and Minnesota GM Natalie Darwitz hired Burrgraf, who coached her at Minnesota.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2023.
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