History repeats itself.
Twenty years ago, Cammi Granato led the United States’ women’s hockey team to its first appearance at the Olympic Games. On the ice in Nagano, Japan, Granato scored the initial goal of the first-ever gold medal game to allow the U.S. to jump out to an early lead over their forever-rivals from the north. And as they placed a gold medal – the first Olympic gold medal to be rung around the neck of a female hockey player – around Granato’s neck, Kendall Coyne knew the top of the podium was where she was meant to be.
After a heartbreaking overtime loss in her first Olympic appearance in Sochi in 2014 – the gold medal game against Canada – Coyne registered one goal and three assists in 2018 Olympic play to help the United States to its first women’s hockey gold since the first two decades prior.
“The bench energy was really excited,” remembered Coyne after returning to the United States in March. “As soon as Jocelyne [Lamoureux] scored her [game-winning] goal, it was a rush. There was a rush through my body when we won I had never felt before. It was so exciting and it’s hard to put into words, but it was definitely the best moment of my athletic career.”
And with a career mirroring a highlight reel, a gold medal was an inevitable exclamation point.
After Sochi, the Palos Heights, Illinois native returned to Boston to channel her energy into her final years in the Red and Black. The Northeastern record-holder in career goals (141) and points (249) racked up a hefty set of hardware during her senior year, collecting numerous Northeastern and Hockey East honors in addition to the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, presented annually to the top player in Division I women’s hockey.
“I knew what I was getting when I got her,” said Northeastern head coach Dave Flint, who was an assistant coach with the 2010 women’s Olympic team. “It doesn’t surprise me how successful she’s been. She’s exciting to watch; she usually makes things happen. Every time she’s on the ice, she’s creating.”
Coyne grew up skating on boys’ hockey teams, simply because there were no girls’ hockey programs. This year’s women’s hockey gold medal game was watched by 3.2 million people across the United States, despite a live start of 11:10 p.m. EST on a Wednesday. NBC Sports reported it was the network’s most-watched late-night program ever.
“A gold medal game at the Olympic games, you’re competing for the highest honor in our sport,” Coyne said. “I also think the way that the game has grown over the years, people are starting to want to watch women’s hockey. They’re recognizing women’s hockey is a phenomenal sport.”
To Flint, Coyne serves as more than a motivator for his present-day team – that just won its first Hockey East championship in program history – but as a figurehead for the future of the sport at all levels.
“It shows not only our team that they can achieve anything, it shows young girls who are just starting out or thinking about playing hockey what’s possible,” Flint said. “It gets kids excited about women’s hockey.”
Coyne, then seven years old, came face-to-face with her future when she met Granato after the U.S. team paraded around the country on a first-of-its-kind victory tour. Readying for a tour of her own, Coyne let out an excited laugh at the idea of being someone else’s “Cammi Granato.”
“It’s an honor and it’s a platform that has been established with a lot of work, but it’s also a platform that I don’t take for granted and I take very seriously,” Coyne said. “If I can be that role model for that girl someday, then I’m honored and I hope I can be the best role model I can be for them.”
Lead photo credit Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics