It’s the latest in a string of promotions for women in the NHL in recent months after decades of slow progress in diversifying the sport through the coaching and executive ranks.
“It was deserved and deserved,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We feel like we’ve hired a really qualified person who we brought into the organization two years ago who has done an outstanding job, and that’s what development is all about. . For me, we have the best person and that’s the most important thing.
Engel-Natzke’s path to Washington began in earnest in 2017 when she began working as a full-time video coach for University of Wisconsin men’s hockey coach Tony Granato after several years helping male and female programs there.
“When she arrived, one of the questions I asked her was, ‘What do you want to do with this? Is this a full-time gig for you? Is this something you want trying to pursue it on a different level?” Granato said. “And she was like, ‘Yeah, I want to figure out how I can be the first woman to make it to the NHL on the video side.'”
Engel-Natzke, 31, came from the Hershey Bears, Washington’s top minor league affiliate, where she was the first woman to be a full-time member of a coaching staff in the American Hockey League.
After playing two seasons of Division III hockey at Adrian College, Engel-Natzke had a heavy workload in Wisconsin to prepare her for the pros, then took another step to Hershey, presenting 5 scouting reports against 5 of the opponents and becoming more involved in the day-to-day running of the team.
“She’s grown a lot in her position, just learning the professional side of the game,” Bears vice president of hockey operations Bryan Helmer said. “Emily is a hard worker who wants to learn, and in the two years she was here she did. She always wanted to do more than contribute to the team in any way she could to make us successful.
After hearing about her from longtime Capitals video coach Brett Leonhardt, Helmer, like Laviolette, said Hershey hired Engel-Natzke based on his experience and interview. “You take her name off her resume and put whatever name she was qualified for,” he said.
Engel-Natzke’s hiring follows the Chicago Blackhawks promoting Meghan Hunter to assistant general manager and the New Jersey Devils promoting Meghan Duggan to director of player development. Hunter became the fourth woman to be named assistant general manager, joining Vancouver’s Emilie Castonguay and Cammi Granato as women currently in the role.
“It’s really encouraging to see women in different roles, whether it’s coaching, management, athletic training and equipment management,” Engel-Natzke said. “Hopefully the door keeps opening a little more and hopefully in a few years it won’t be as bad – it’s kind of just another hire.”
Engel-Natzke has been on the league’s female coaching roster for some time now after participating in the NHL Coaches Association’s female coaching development program. Winnipeg Jets associate coach Jamie Kompon called Engel-Natzke super capable and said video coach Matt Prefontaine was thrilled with the job she was doing at Hershey.
Coaches Association president Lindsay Artkin told The Associated Press that she was delighted with Engel-Natzke’s new position.
“Emily has been part of the NHLCA Women’s Coaching Development Program since its inception, and with one of the main goals being to support women who aspire to coach in the NHL, I couldn’t be happier that we have broke that barrier. said Artkin. “Emily is the first but definitely not the last. I can’t wait to see what awaits her and other women who want to coach in the NHL. There really are no limits.”
AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow contributed.
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