Horsham woman becomes first Black head hockey coach in NCAA history

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Monday, March 1, 2021
Local woman becomes first Black head hockey coach in NCAA history
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A Horsham woman is making history as the NCAA's first Black head coach of hockey.

GLENSIDE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A hockey coach at Arcadia University is breaking the glass ceiling on the ice.

Kelsey Koelzer is used to carving out her own path.

"Initially, my mom did not want to let me play hockey because it was not something that girls did back in 1998/99," she tells Action News.

As a youngster growing up in Horsham, Pennsylvania, Koelzer didn't find many other ice hockey players who looked like her.

"As you're growing through the sport it becomes even more apparent how rare it was for girls to play hockey," she said. "I had to play in co-ed leagues from the time I started until I was 13 or 14."

She went on to star at Princeton University and then was the number one pick in the NWHL Draft where she played three seasons. But now she's about to embark on a new journey as the head women's hockey coach leading a brand new program at Arcadia.

"It's gonna be weird for me," says Koelzer. "For 20 plus years I have been on the other side of it, so being behind the bench is just gonna be a completely new experience that I'll get to live through like I'm playing the sport for the first time again."

Her hiring is a first in itself. Never before has there been a Black head hockey coach in the NCAA at any level.

"Hockey has been that staple number one activity my whole life," said Koelzer. "Getting the chance to transition to this side of the game is special for me. Having the chance to know I'm potentially making it easier for someone like me to have a chance down the line to do the same, I think that's something that helps to motivate me and helps put things into perspective for me."

The sport of hockey has always struggled when it comes to diversity. NHL players are 97% white. Koelzer says that's why exposure is so important.

"I've been shouting that from the rooftops from the time I entered college," she says. "Because one, hockey was not a huge sport for girls, and two, especially not minorities so to speak. Tackling the female in a male sport you kind of have to get that under control first in order to make it more accessible to Blacks, whites, Asians, any ethnicity, any race."

And so her message to young girls and boys of color who may be watching and wondering, why not me?

"If you have the love for the game, the skill, put in the hard work, then you belong there and don't let anyone tell you otherwise," she says.

Does she feel like a trailblazer?

"In some ways I do, but on the day-to-day, it's not something I think about. I'm just me," Koelzer says. "I do sit there and recognize that I am the first in some senses, but I think it's exciting to know that I won't be the last."