TORONTO, ON (September 15, 2023) – The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) today announced the Head Coaches who will lead the league’s six teams on the ice heading into its inaugural season. Behind the bench will be Courtney Kessel (Boston), Charlie Burggraf (Minnesota), Kori Cheverie (Montreal), Howie Draper (New York), Carla MacLeod (Ottawa), and Troy Ryan (Toronto). Coaches have all been appointed to their roles by team General Managers.
“As a league, we are fortunate to embark on our inaugural season with a distinguished group of head coaches who have demonstrated leadership and a commitment to player development at all levels of women’s hockey,” said Jayna Hefford, PWHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations. “I want to credit our General Managers for their efforts in identifying highly qualified candidates that are well respected and motivated to help our athletes reach their full potential in the PWHL.”
Coaches will join their General Managers at CBC’s headquarters in downtown Toronto for the inaugural PWHL Draft presented by Canadian Tire on Monday, September 18, when 90 of the league’s founding players will be selected. Audiences will be able to watch the full Draft live at 1:00 p.m. ET on the free CBC Gem streaming service, cbcsports.ca, the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices, radio-canada.ca/sports, and the Radio-Canada info app. International audiences can stream on CBC Sports‘ and Radio-Canada‘s YouTube pages.
Kessel joins PWHL Boston drawing experience from behind the bench and as an elite defender. She served as head coach for the CWHL’s Toronto Furies in 2018-19, followed by a four-year stint as assistant coach for Princeton University’s women’s hockey program. Among her accomplishments, the Etobicoke, ON native helped lead the Tigers to its first ECAC Championship in 2019-20 with a program-record 26 wins. She was named associate head coach with Boston University’s women’s hockey staff in May 2023, and assistant coach for Canada’s National Women’s Team in July 2023. Kessel served as assistant coach (2019) and head coach (2023) for Canada’s U18 Team, winning IIHF gold both times, and won three IIHF Women’s World Championship medals (1 Gold, 2 Silver) as a player representing her country. The stalwart blueliner spent her NCAA tenure at the University of New Hampshire, then competed for the CWHL’s Brampton Thunder where she was named 2012 Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star.
Burggraf will represent his home state behind the bench with PWHL Minnesota and reunites with General Manager Natalie Darwitz. The Roseau, MN native coached Darwitz in his first of two seasons as an assistant for the University of Minnesota, helping the Gophers capture the 2005 NCAA National Championship. He served four seasons as head coach of the Bethel University women’s hockey program from 2006-10, highlighted by three MIAC playoff appearances and 2009 Coach of the Year honors. He spent the next eight seasons leading Bethel’s men’s team through 2018. As a player, Burggraf spent two professional seasons in Germany after a successful career at the University of North Dakota where he was a two-year captain and led his team to a WCHA Championship and runner-up finish at the 1979 Frozen Four tournament.
Cheverie joins PWHL Montreal in her fourth season as part of Canada’s National Women’s Team staff, serving as an assistant coach for gold medal wins at the 2021 and 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championships, the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, and silver at the 2023 World’s. The native of New Glasgow, NS coached her home province to its first ever women’s hockey medal with silver at the 2023 Canada Winter Games, and also made history during her five-year tenure at Toronto Metropolitan University as the first full-time female assistant for a U SPORTS men’s hockey program. More recently, Cheverie guided the PWHPA’s Team Harvey’s to the 2022-23 Secret Cup as an associate head coach and was voted Coach of the Year by Association Members. The former Toronto Furies forward played six CWHL seasons, winning the Clarkson Cup in 2014, following five seasons as a member of the Saint Mary’s University Huskies.
Draper has been a fixture at the University of Alberta where he has served as head coach of the country’s most successful women’s hockey program for 25 years. He joins PWHL New York having compiled an incredible 665 overall wins, a record eight U SPORTS National Championships, two silver medals, 14 Canada West titles, and four U SPORTS Coach of the Year awards. On the international stage, Draper was an assistant coach when Canada’s National Women’s Team took silver at the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championship. He was named head coach of Canada’s U18 team in 2018 and captured two gold medals and one silver before leaving the post in 2022. The Edmonton, AB native was a U of A defender from 1985-90, capturing a national championship in 1986. He was named head coach at his alma mater on Sept. 1, 1997.
MacLeod comes to PWHL Ottawa on the heels of coaching Czechia to historic back-to-back bronze medals at the 2022 and 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championships – the country’s first medals as part of the tournament’s top division. The success earned her a three-year extension with the national team that will take her through the 2026 Olympics. The Calgary, AB native spent the last two seasons as head coach of the University of Calgary Dinos women’s hockey team, and prior to that, was an assistant coach with Team Japan from 2012-14 and led the U18 Female Prep Team at Edge Hockey beginning in 2014. MacLeod is a two-time Olympic gold medalist (2006, 2010) with Canada and won four IIHF Women’s World Championship medals (1 Gold, 3 Silver), earning MVP in 2009. She competed at the club level with the Calgary Oval X-Treme, both as an independent team and as part of the WWHL, winning the league championship in 2007 and 2008. In 2020, she was inducted into the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame, recognizing her standout NCAA career with the Badgers.
Ryan brings more than 20 years of coaching experience to PWHL Toronto, most notably as head coach of Canada’s National Women’s Team – a position he’s held since 2020 and is signed for through the 2026 Winter Olympics. He led the team to back-to-back IIHF Women’s World Championship gold medals in 2021 and 2022, and Olympic gold in 2022. This season, he earned silver at the 2023 Women’s World’s, then joined Canada’s National Men’s Team where he won World Championship gold. Ryan has also served as assistant coach with the women’s program, earning a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics and 2017 World Championship, as well as bronze at the 2019 World Championship. The Spryfield, NS native has prior coaching experience with Dalhousie University, Team Nova Scotia, and various stints in the MJAHL and MHL. He’s amassed four Hockey Nova Scotia and Maritime Coach of the Year recognitions, and two Sport Nova Scotia Coach of the Year awards. As a player, he competed in the Maritimes in both Jr. A and U SPORTS.
Fans can stay connected to the PWHL and register for email updates at thepwhl.com. Follow the new league on all social media platforms @thepwhlofficial plus all six new team accounts @pwhl_boston, @pwhl_minnesota, @pwhl_montreal, @pwhl_newyork, @pwhl_ottawa, and @pwhl_toronto.