After helping to blaze a trail for women’s hockey two decades ago, Falmouth native Colleen Coyne has returned to the game that she loves in hopes of helping new trailblazers forge ahead in the National Women’s Hockey League. Coyne, who was a key defender on the 1998 Olympic gold medal-winning USA women’s hockey team, was hired to be the president of Boston Pride last week. Her first day on the job was Monday, April 26.
Coyne joins a franchise in the young league that won it all just a few months ago. Boston won the 2021 Isobel Cup, the women’s league’s equivalent of the Stanley Cup, and Coyne hopes it is one of many to come.
“I’m so excited. This is a great opportunity for me to be a part of a great organization,” she said. “The staff is world-class and the team is packed with talent. Having just won a second Isobel Cup, expectations are high and I look forward to building on all that momentum as we lay the groundwork for another strong season.”
While the team was over to the moon to hoist the Cup, they certainly would have preferred to do so in front of fans rather than an empty Warrior Ice Arena. She said that before the pandemic that Pride did a great job of filling the seats at Warrior, and she looks forward to having packed houses full of families and hockey fans again soon.
“We all would love, and hope, to be back to normal with fans in the building and getting more people to see the game and the product,” she said. “Boston, historically, has done really well with attendance and has sold out just about every home game.”
The former UNH Wildcat said that further building up the fan base, and its relationship with the team, is important for the success of the team, and the league, going forward. “We want to build an organization that is liked by the community,” she said. “You go to the NASCAR races up in New Hampshire, to a Lowell Spinners game, and they make it a fan experience and fun for everyone that is there. We want to have an experience like that with the Pride, and in turn for it to be fun for the women that sign on with us.”
With girls’ hockey both locally and nationally growing at a high rate, the NWHL is filling a previously untapped niche. The six-year old league still has many hurdles to clear in terms of exposure and coverage, but Coyne said that she believes that with time it can become more successful. She said that comparing the women’s game to the men’s game on a professional level is not fair to the women, and that she does not like putting one up against the other.
“Women’s hockey is a different game in a lot of ways, but it is still a fast-paced game and a skilled game and an entertaining game,” she said. “Generally speaking the game is more skilled now than it has ever been.”
Coyne said that she wished that a North American league had been an option for her and her teammates when they were the best team in the world, and that she is excited for the opportunities that the next generation of female hockey players have now. Helping those players to succeed on the ice now, and in their futures after hockey, is something that is important to the Pride’s new president.
“This is s a chance, beyond hockey, to help develop more confident female leaders,” she said. “Seventy-five percent of the players in the NHL only play two years and then end up doing something else...for very few athletes sport is going to your life’s career, so helping them to excel now, but also have skills to help them succeed in the future is important to me.”
Beyond her hockey accolades, Coyne brings a wealth of business and marketing experience to the Pride’s front office from innovative companies including Microsoft, Hubspot, and the DRIVN Coaching Platform. “Colleen’s experience as both an elite player and business executive makes her an ideal leader for our club,” said Miles Arnone, chairman of the Pride. “We have ambitious plans to grow and innovate and I look forward to working with her.”
In her role as president, Coyne will oversee business and hockey operations, working with coach Paul Mara and general manager Karilyn Pilch as the club continues to build strong partnerships with local sponsors and aims to extend the Pride’s winning tradition.