San Jose’s SAP Center made a little history Friday night when, for the first time, a woman took part in the NHL Skills competition — and wowed the All-Stars.
In the kickoff event, the fastest skater contest, U.S. gold medalist Kendall Coyne Schofield went first and set a good pace, sailing around the rink in 14.346 seconds; she wound up finishing ahead of Arizona’s Clayton Keller in the field of eight.
“I was a little nervous, but I knew it was a moment that would break a lot of barriers and a moment that would change the perception of our game,” Coyne Schofield said. “It was so exciting.”
The Colorado Avalanche contacted Coyne Schofield earlier in the day and asked her to fill in for Nathan MacKinnon. “It was a no- brainer,” she said. “Obviously, it’s huge honor to be the first woman to take part in the NHL Skills competition. It was surreal.”
The fans in the sold-out building helped, too. “The crowd was electrifying,” Coyne Schofield said. “To hear the ‘USA’ chants, everyone erupted when I started, that definitely gave me some momentum. The adrenaline was pumping.”
When Coyne Schofield took the ice, the NHL players were in awe. “She was flying,” Toronto’s Auston Matthews said. “She came out for warm-ups and was buzzing around and everyone took notice. She just looks fast.”
Photo: Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images
Image 1 1
“They were awesome, they were so supportive,” Coyne Schofield said of the All-Stars. “They kept saying they were nervous I’d beat them.”
The winner: Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, with a time of 13.378. It was his third win in a row, but even he thought Coyne Schofield had a shot.
“When she took off, I was like, ‘Wow!’” McDavid said. “I thought she might have won, the way she was moving. She’s a really good skater and it’s an amazing thing for the game to see her participate like that.”
While Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl officially took the premier passing contest to win $25,000, it was Team USA star Brianna Decker who had the top time while demonstrating the event; she finished in 1:06 to Draisaitl’s 1:09.
“That was phenomenal,” Coyne Schofield said. “It just shows the top players, man or woman, belong.”
Matthews might have drawn the biggest cheers of the night when he donned a Patrick Marleau jersey for the accuracy competition. He said the longtime Sharks star, now Matthews’ teammate with the Leafs, texted him his thanks as soon as he got off the ice. “He’s like a brother to me,” Matthews said.
“It was pretty cool,” Sharks All-Star Joe Pavelski said. “Patty means a lot to just about everyone who’s come through this organization and he’s left his mark. It was pretty cool of (Matthews) to do that.”
Sharks defenseman Brent Burns missed the net on his first attempt in the hardest-shot competition, but his second effort was clocked at 100.6 mph, good for the third-hardest shot of the night. Washington’s John Carlson had the two hardest shots, winning with a velocity of 102.8 mph.
Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau went last and swooped in to take the puck-control contest away from Chicago’s Patrick Kane with a time of 27.045 second to Kane’s 28.611.
The save-streak competition went to New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, stopped 12 in a row to bury the competition. Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy staved off eight straight.
Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty was in the accuracy competition and guaranteed that he would not win. “I’m sure the crowd will be booing me, so I’ll be super nervous and embarrassed,” Doughty said with a smile. He was correct: He was booed lustily throughout the evening and Boston’s David Pastrnak won.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sharks/article/U-S-gold-medalist-Kendall-Coyne-Schofield-kicks-13563443.php.