“Captain Canada” Marie-Philip Poulin (left) accepts the trophy from IIHF Council member Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer.
photo: Andre Ringuette / IIHF
Whether it’s excelling in sport at the highest level, coaching underdog teams to victory, paving the way for female officials, or orchestrating positive changes towards equity in an administration or governance role, there are countless women who are game changers in the world of women’s hockey. Here are just 10 of those women who are currently growing the game around the globe.
Captain Canada – also known as Captain Clutch – became a household name following the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, when she scored the only two goals in the gold medal game against the United Sates as an 18-year-old. Marie-Philip Poulin went on to become the first hockey player, male or female, to score in four Olympic gold medal games, and lays claim to four Olympic medals and 10 World Championship medals. Poulin has more accolades than you can count on both hands, and earlier this year scored her 200th career point with the Canadian national team, becoming just the fifth player to do so. Poulin also works with the Montreal Canadiens as a player development consultant, and recently announced a partnership with Turo on a rentable mini ice resurfacer, with rental proceeds going to KidSport.
Having found success as a defender for Canada, winning two Olympic gold and four World Championships medals, Carla MacLeod has transferred that success over to her coaching career. In 2013, as an assistant coach with Japan, MacLeod helped the Japanese to qualifying for the Olympics for the first time. More recently, MacLeod, as head coach, led Czechia to a historic first ever bronze at the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship, beating Finland in overtime in the quarter-finals and Switzerland in the bronze medal game. Players and onlookers have been impressed by her fun and focused team atmosphere and her utilization of her roster of young skilled players.
The first registered female ice hockey player in Hungary, Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer went on to play 55 games for Hungary before becoming the general manager of the Hungarian women’s national teams. Her background as a lawyer served useful in her roles as a member of the Hungarian Ice Hockey Federation’s Disciplinary Committee and as a member of the governing board. She was elected to the IIHF Council in 2012 and re-elected in 2016 and 2021, and serves as the Women’s Committee Chairperson. Under her recent guidance, the IIHF has extended the Women’s World Championship and Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Tournaments to ten teams, introduced holding the Women’s World Championship in Olympic years and held an unprecedented 2023 IIHF Women’s Ice Hockey Summit, with 101 delegates from 50 countries.
Kendall Coyne Schofield
Kendall Coyne Schofield is known for being fast, something she put on display at the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills fastest-skater challenge, stepping in for Colorado’s Nathan McKinnon and skating a time of 14.326. A Team USA captain, Coyne Schofield owns six World Championship gold medals and three Olympic medals. In addition to excelling on the ice for the U.S. national team, Coyne Schofield is making her mark in the NHL, working as a player development coach for the Chicago Blackhawks. She makes time for young kids as well, and has run the Kendall Coyne Hockey Camp for over seven years now. In January 2022, she published a book sharing her story: As Fast As Her: Dream Big, Break Barriers, Achieve Success.
With more and more women officiating at all levels of the sport, Swiss-Finnish referee Anna Wiegand made history in 2019. In a game between EHC Winterthur and HC La Chaux-de-Fonds, she became the first woman to call a game in Swiss pro hockey and in 2022 before leaving her role as a game official, she called a game in the country’s top men’s league between HC Ajoie and the SCL Tigers Langnau. Known as one of the best international officials, throughout her career she officiated at two Olympics and five World Championships, in addition to reffing women’s and men’s games throughout Switzerland. Wiegand was also entrusted with officiating the gold medal games at both the 2022 Olympics and the 2021 Women’s World Championship.
Just 22 years of age, defender-turned-forward Akane Shiga is the future of women’s hockey in Japan. In 2021, she became the first Japanese player to score against the United States in a Women’s World Championship tournament. Shiga was once again sensational at the 2022 tournament as Japan’s leading scorer, helping her team to crucial victories over both Sweden and Finland that led Japan to finishing in fifth place and remaining in Group A for the 2023 competition.
Since the first edition in 2010, WickFest (or the Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival) has become one of the biggest hockey tournaments in the world for girls. Central to the organization and success of WickFest is tournament director Ceilidh Price. Under her leadership, WickFest has developed into a multi-weekend and multi-location event, with each edition bringing in upwards of 80 teams and 1500 players. Mexico, India and Canada’s Northwest Territories have all sent teams to WickFest, providing them with a unique competition opportunity. As the years have gone on, Price and her team have developed the schedule to include a variety of workshops, clinics, and opportunities for girls to meet and learn from national team and NHL players.
Widely considered to be the face of women’s hockey in France, Marion Allemoz captained the French national team for over a decade. She helped pave the way for French players in North America by playing and winning championships with the University of Montreal and the CWHL’s Montreal Canadiennes. Perhaps one of her greatest accomplishments as a player was achieved right before her retirement from the national team – helping France earn promotion back up to the Top Division at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A. Despite hanging up her skates, Allemoz isn’t done making an impact on the game just yet, having now turned to coaching. She now serves in the SDHL as Linkoping HC’s head coach, a role she was promoted to in the fall after just one month as an assistant coach.
A retired national team goalie with an Olympic bronze and three World Championship bronze medals, Tuula Puputti is the general manager of the Finnish women’s national team and the Finnish Ice Hockey Association’s Developer of Girls Hockey. She is still recognized today for her contributions as a player – the Finnish Ice Hockey Association’s award for the best Naisten Liiga goalkeeper is the Tuula Puputti Award – but she’s perhaps now better known for her role as general manager of the women’s national team. Puputti is well-respected by everyone, from the Finnish players she works with to the teams and countries Finland meets in competition. She has helped guide her country through high highs and low lows, and will no doubt continue to be a rock for Finland’s women’s national team.
Sang Eun Lee
An IOC Young Leader, Sang Eun Lee is the developer and creator of the Dream League, a rare opportunity – the first of its kind – for girls and women to play hockey in Korea. Starting with six teams and 150 players, it’s expected to double in size this year to 12 teams and 300 players. Lee was inspired to create the Dream League, which is run in partnership with the Korea Ice Hockey Association, by her own experiences playing hockey on mixed teams. Her goal is to reduce the gaps that currently exist between men’s and women’s hockey in Korea, and this goes beyond creating spaces for female players, as the league also focuses on recruiting and empowering female coaches and officials.