Blackhawks coach Kendall Coyne Schofield breaking gender barriers on and off the ice

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In breaking gender barriers on the tennis court, Billy Jean King always said you have to see it to be it.

Kendall Coyne Schofield not only sees it, she is it: as a forward for Team USA, she is one of hockey's most decorated players. She's breaking bearers on and off the ice, determined to open doors for her game that have stayed closed too long.

"My start in hockey was surrounded by all boys," Coyne Schofield said. "It was constantly boys. It was, and when I was really young and just starting, I didn't realize it. I was playing the same game they were. I wanted to be on the same ice they were, I didn't notice anything. We were hockey players and we were playing the game we love."

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But as Coyne Schofield got older, it didn't take long to realize her playing career had a ceiling for only one reason.

"Because we're women. That's the only reason I have," she said. "I think about all the women who came before me- phenomenal, phenomenal hockey players. A lot of my heroes, my idols, the reason I play this game. And I think why didn't they have that opportunity? Why is that opportunity still not in existence? It's mind boggling to me. But I know that because we still don't have a professional league, it's my job to wake up every day and help fight for one."

Coyne Schofield is fighting as part of the Professional Women's Hockey Players Association, 125 of the world's best hockey players advocating for what's been missing on the women's side of the ice.

"When you look at the landscape of women's hockey, the product that has been put on the ice over the last 20 years has been amazing, given the lack of resources that players have to be successful," she said. "You're asking full-time moms, full-time nurses and teachers and coaches to go do and replicate what we see on the men's side every single day. And players don't complain. They fight silently in the background to make sure the young girls we work with every day don't have to live that life."

Last November, Coyne Schofield joined the Blackhawks coaching staff as the first female player development coach and youth hockey growth specialist, giving her yet another outlet to push open doors for the next generation.

"And I always go back to think about the women who didn't have the opportunities that I had, going back to that one reason: because of their gender," she said. "And so I know it's my responsibility to make sure that there's young girls that see me, and they know they can do what I'm doing and do more."

"Our America: Women Forward" is special series celebrating women across this country through stories of their perseverance, resilience, triumph, hope, achievement, strength and power. We will break down the disparities that challenge progress and the systemic sexism at the root of it all. You'll meet mothers, daughters, sisters and friends; innovators, teachers, gamechangers, power players, explorers, athletes and everyday heroes. The stories will begin to air on Eyewitness News at 4pm on March 8 and will culminate in a one-hour documentary that will air Saturday, March 13.

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