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Hoisting The Walter Cup: Kendall Coyne Schofield Gets First Honor

By Ross Forman, 06/07/24, 9:30AM CDT


Minnesota Captures Inaugural PWHL Championship

Things looked bleak for Minnesota as it ended the regular season on a five-game losing streak, then were shutout in their first two Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) playoff games.

“A lot of people counted us out,” during the seven-game losing streak, said Kendall Coyne Schofield, the left-handed shooting forward for Minnesota who has served as Team USA’s captain since 2019 and represented the United States in each of the last three Olympic Games.

“But we never counted ourselves out. We knew we could make it to the end and win The Walter Cup.”

And that they did. On Wednesday, May 29, Minnesota defeated Boston 3-0 in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,309 at the Tsongas Center at Lowell, Mass., in Game 5 of the PWHL Finals, presented by Scotiabank, to claim The Walter Cup.

Taylor Heise was voted the Ilana Kloss Playoff MVP after leading the PWHL playoffs in goals (5), and finishing tied for first in points (8) in 10 games played.

Nicole Hensley had 17 saves to record her second shutout of the series and Liz Schepers scored the game-winner for Minnesota at 6:14 of the second period.

Captain Kendall Coyne Schofield – who was born in Palos Heights and attended Sandburg High School – was the first player to lift The Walter Cup, and her finals included an empty net goal at 17:54 to seal the victory for Minnesota. 

“It means a lot, for many reasons,” to win the PWHL championship, Coyne Schofield said. “Sure, Minnesota won the first Walter Cup, but the league (also) won, as did the sport, players, fans, media, sponsors … and future generations.

“When I hoisted The Walter Cup for the first time, I felt the weight of everyone who’s helped get the sport to where it is today. It’s not possible without so many people who put in so much work over the years, players who have paved the way for players like me and players to come.

“It was a significant weight (lifted).”

And not just the cup itself, which weighs 35 pounds.

“I cannot put into words how hard this journey has been, to get the game to this point,” Coyne Schofield said. “Being the first to do something is incredibly special; it will always be a part of the legacy of the PWHL, but also the sport of hockey – and that’s something I don’t take lightly. It was earned and I’m so proud of our team to carry that legacy forward.”

Coyne Schofield had 6 goals, 10 assists in 24 regular-season games, then 1 goal, 3 assists in 10 playoff games. She led all skaters with 7 shots on goal in the deciding game against Boston, and Coyne Schofield was named the No. 2 star of the game (of three).

“For me, it was never about playing (in the league) or winning (the championship); it was about building it and knowing that the next generation of players will have an opportunity that a lot of players didn’t, and that’s so important,” said Coyne Schofield. “There were a lot of players and people who paved the way for me to have opportunities in this sport. It’s one of the greatest honors to be able to continue to live that legacy and continue to create opportunities for the next (generation).

“Now, young girls and young boys can have the same dream: to grow up and be a professional hockey player.”

Such as Coyne Schofield, who, growing up, wanted to play for her beloved Chicago Blackhawks, and then when she saw the 1998 U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, she wanted to be on the Olympic Team.

“To give a lot of young girls the chance to see (The Walter Cup) and then hopefully one day want to win it … much like for me when I first saw Cammi Granato’s gold medal, that would be super special,” she said.

“Winning the Walter Cup … hoisting that cup and looking at my teammates, that’s something I’ll never forget. That was super, super special.”

Her son Drew was alongside Mom during the celebration.

“I’m proud to represent Illinois, no matter where I go or where I’ve gone in my career,” Coyne Schofield said. “Hopefully there are a lot of players in this area seeing (Illinois native) players like Jesse Compher, Savannah Harmon, Abbey Murphy, myself and others … seeing what we’ve accomplished and knowing they too can accomplish whatever they set their mind to.”

Coyne Schofield was uncertain days after the title victory if she would have her day with The Walter Cup, a la the NHL tradition with the Stanley Cup. But she wants to bring it to the Chicagoland area. “That would be awesome,” she said.

Coyne Schofield, 31, played at Northeastern University, where she won the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award as a senior. She also works as a Player Development Coach and Youth Hockey Growth Specialist for the Blackhawks.

“It’s an honor to be the first team to hoist The Walter Cup,” said Coyne Schofield, who noted that the level of play in the PWHL was phenomenal and entertaining – entertaining to watch and play.

“The game was a lot more physical than I’ve experienced up until this point in my career. I think what made the product so incredible was the fact that the players were able to be players; that was their job. They woke up every day and focused on their craft – training, eating and skating like a professional athlete should.

“Now we have the resources that allow us to be great, even better than before. I think that’s a big part of why the product was so entertaining.”

That entertainment, coupled with incredibly talented players and brilliant marketing, led to enormous crowds around the six-team league that ran from January to May. Each team faced the other five opponents at least four times, and the 2024–25 season is set to expand to 32 games played from November to May.

“I don’t think (the crowds were) as insane as some may think because it’s exactly what we’ve deserved,” Coyne Schofield said. “We’re continually working toward making every game as successful as the next. This season showed how dire we needed the proper infrastructure and platform to showcase the women’s game all these years because there are so many people who want to watch it.”

Photos courtesy of PWHL.