By Jenna Ciccotelli, sports editor
Former Northeastern women’s ice hockey standout Kendall Coyne was honored Jan. 18 by the NCAA as a recipient of the Today’s Top 10 Award, an athletic and academic achievement that is presented annually to 10 athletes. Other notable athletes who have won the award include Dak Prescott, Elena Della Donne, Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning.
Coyne’s name is all over Northeastern’s ice hockey record books. The forward played for the Huskies from 2012-16, taking a year off to train with and play for Team USA in the Olympics in Sochi, where she won a silver medal. In that time, Coyne captained NU to their first ever NCAA tournament appearance, scored 249 career points to become the Huskies’ all-time leading scorer and became the top scorer in Hockey East history, scoring 167 points in league play.
Named Best Female Athlete at the 2016 Globies, the four-time world championship gold medalist and top 30 finalist for the NCAA’s Woman of the Year award now skates with the Minnesota Whitecaps, an independent women’s team out of Minneapolis. Coyne reflected on her hockey career, what it means to be a recipient of the Today’s Top 10 Award and where women’s hockey is going next.
The Huntington News: You got your start in hockey after watching your older brother play, and you grew up playing on boys teams because there just weren’t any all-girls teams in the area. Now, you’re here as an Olympian and arguably one of the most decorated women’s hockey players of our time. Growing up, did you ever expect any of this?
Kendall Coyne: Definitely not, and I think that’s one of the reasons that I’m able to have this success. I’ve never thought about anything besides playing the game because I love it.
HN: Last winter you helped lead Northeastern to their first ever NCAA tournament appearance, all while being the Huskies’ all time leading scorer and the top scorer in Hockey East history. You also earned the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, which is given to the top player in Division I women’s hockey, and there’s more. All that being said, what was your college hockey experience like for you and how did that shape you as a person both on and off the ice?
KC: [The NCAA tournament] was something special and it was special to be a part of Northeastern history. It’s the highlight of my career at Northeastern for sure. My experience really shaped who I am today. My drive in the classroom was enabled by athletics—when hockey was going well I think I wanted to do just as well in the classroom. With the busy schedule we have as student athletes, it helped with time management, dealing with adversity and dealing with stress. It really prepared me for the real world.
HN: Now you’ve received the NCAA Today’s Top 10 award, which is given to 10 graduates from the previous year based on athletic ability and achievement, academic achievement, character and leadership. Were you surprised to receive the award? How does it feel to be on the receiving end of such an honor?
KC: I was definitely surprised. [My] faculty advisor was pretty instrumental in me receiving the award because he was the one that introduced me to the award, told me how to apply and told me I had a strong chance of winning. It was a huge honor to know that people like Peyton Manning have won the award. To be in a class like that is pretty special.
HN: In 2014, you won a silver medal at the Sochi Olympics. What was that experience like?
KC: Any time you get to achieve your childhood dream, it’s pretty special. It’s hard to talk about because most people saw us receive our medal in tears. The best part was the ability to see my entire family in Sochi. It’s a family effort to get to the Olympics, so just to have them there and experience the games like I did was pretty special.
HN: The 2018 Olympics are coming up—Will we see you there?
KC: That’s the goal. That’s my dream, especially since 2014 didn’t go our way.
HN: Besides hockey, what are you up to now? What’s coming next?
KC: I just got engaged two weeks ago [to Denver Broncos offensive lineman Michael Schofield]. I’m currently living between Denver and Chicago. I work part time in fan development with the Chicago Blackhawks, live in Denver with my fiance, I’m training in Denver and skating with the Colorado Thunderbirds. I’m also doing my master’s through Northeastern online in corporate and organizational communications.
HN: Your younger sister Bailey is on the Northeastern women’s hockey team. Did your time at NU affect her decision to play here? How does it feel to see your sister living through the same experiences you did?
KC: I hope I didn’t influence her decision because she’s completely different, but her having the ability to see Matthews [Arena] and walk around coming to visit and just seeing campus might have been a factor. Nothing I said was a factor. I told her, ‘This was your decision and this is your experience.’ It is pretty cool to see her at Northeastern and see her having a different experience than I did.
One of the most special moments was being able to hug her on the ice after they hung the Patty Kazmaier banner. I know she’s living out her dream of playing Division I hockey and I can’t be more happy for her.
HN: Through everything both on and off the ice, what would you say motivates you more than anything?
KC: You have to be intrinsically motivated day in and day out in women’s hockey. The opportunities I’ve been given through this game pushes me every day. I’ve been fortunate enough to see the world, inspire young kids and live a life I wouldn’t be able to live if I didn’t play this game. I don’t take it for granted.
HN: What do you hope to see in the future of women’s hockey at all levels—youth, collegiate and professional?
KC: I would love to see a stable professional women’s hockey league. Girls that pick up their stick for the first time at three or four years old can aspire to be in the NHL like Patrick Kane did when he was three or four years old. That’s where this game needs to go and I think it has the ability to get there.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics