SAN JOSE, Calif. — Kendall Coyne Schofield wasn’t just the first woman to compete in an NHL All-Star Skills Competition event. The two-time Olympian was also the first competitor in the opening fastest-skater competition, which was claimed for a third consecutive time by Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid Friday night.
“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Coyne quipped when asked if she’d prefer a spot a little later in the fastest-skater event.
Coyne, who wore her Team USA jersey as fans at SAP Center chanted “USA, USA” completed her barrier-breaking lap of 14.346 seconds.
“When she took off, I thought she might have won, the way she was moving,” McDavid said.
Coyne’s time was good enough for seventh out of eight competitors as she finished ahead of Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller (14.526 seconds).
“It’s amazing, her stride,” Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon, whose injury gave Coyne the opportunity to participate, said on NBC Sports Network. “She is so powerful.”
Coyne said she did a lap of 14.26 seconds on Thursday.
“I was a little slower (Friday) and I’m bummed about that, but not too bummed,” said Coyne, who is expected to compete in the skills competition at NWHL All-Star Game weekend in Nashville Feb. 9-10.
Coyne, who plays for the Minnesota Whitecaps of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), was notified earlier Friday that she’d be needed in the fastest-skater competition to take MacKinnon’s place. She was already set to attend the competition with Team USA teammates Brianna Decker and Alex Rigsby, who will play Canada as part of the three-game Rivalry Series Feb. 12-17.
Coyne was among the Team USA players who threatened to boycott the World Championships over better wages and other support from USA Hockey. The two sides came to a new four-year agreement in March 2017 and the team went on to secure gold at the 2018 Winter Games.
Coyne said “the NHL took that stance” for equality on Friday.
“They made that statement,” she said. “I was fortunate to be among the people pushing for it. We had a lot of hard conversations I am thankful for the opportunity and it went pretty well.”
Coyne said her her skills competition display “shows top players, man or woman, belong.”
“You cherish these moments,” Coyne said. “That’s that I tell kids all the time. When I was putting on my hockey skates when I was 3 years old, I didn’t think I’d play in two Olympic games, get the education that I received or sitting in front of you here today after being the first women to compete in an All-Star skills competition. It’s amazing what this game has brought me.”