Kendall Coyne Schofield Proud to Break Barriers at NHL All-Star Skills Event

SAN JOSE --  Kendall Coyne Schofield isn't new to the spotlight. She and the rest of Team USA were front and center when they won the women's hockey gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

But the 26-year-old made headlines of her own Friday night as the first woman to compete in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition. The SAP Center crowd burst into thunderous "U-S-A!" chants as Coyne Schofield took the ice.

"I was a little nervous," she admitted afterward. "But I knew this was a moment that was going to break a lot of barriers and a moment that would change the perception of our game and show support of our game. It was so exciting."

The Palos Heights, Ill., native was tapped to participate in the Fastest Skater event just hours before festivities started. The Colorado Avalanche announced one of their All-Star representatives, Nathan MacKinnon, would miss the skills competition because of a lower body injury. The team then extended an invitation to Coyne Schofield via Twitter to take McKinnon's place.

"It was surreal," Coyne Schofield said. "The crowd was electrifying. To hear the 'U-S-A' chants. Everyone erupted when I started. It definitely gave me some momentum. The adrenaline was pumping."

Coyne Schofield kicked off the event, posting a lap of 14.346 seconds around the SAP ice, good for seventh among the eight skaters. She said her male competitors, including three-time Fastest Skater winner Connor McDavid, were incredibly supportive.

"They kept saying they were a little nervous I'd beat them," she said with a smile. "I had full confidence in them, so for them to have full confidence in me was pretty cool."

The Northeastern University product was one of four women's hockey Olympians to participate in Friday's competition. Team USA teammate Brianna Decker and Team Canada skaters Renata Fast and Rebecca Johnston also were in attendance to demonstrate the events.

Coyne Schofield said she felt the NHL made a positive push in supporting women's hockey by including them in its All-Star festivities.

"I think today the NHL took that stance," she said. "They made that statement, and I was fortunate enough to be part of a lot of people pushing for it. A lot of hard conversations that have been had, and I'm thankful for the opportunity."

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Coyne Schofield and Team USA have their own All-Star festivities to look forward to, in addition to a three-game showcase against Team Canada. It isn't lost on Coyne Schofield how many opportunities she and her teammates will have.

"You cherish these moments," she said. "When I put on a pair of hockey skates when I was 3 years old, I didn't think I'd go to two Olympic Games. Get the education I received.

"Sitting in front of you today as the first woman to compete in the All-Star competition --an endless amount of opportunities. It's amazing what this game has brought me and my teammates. It's been pretty cool."

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