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From Player to Coach, Kim Gallagher Finds Gratification in Giving Back

By Brianna Rhone, 05/28/24, 12:30PM MDT


The associate coach-in-chief for the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association looks back on her journey and expresses excitement about the continued growth of women's coaching

Kim Gallagher will tell you the number one thing that’s driving her to elevate her skills behind the bench is her ultimate love of the game. Growing up in Detroit in the 1990s, it was easy to fall in love with hockey as the juggernaut Red Wings captivated the city and the entire hockey world.

However, it was a vivid memory she has of the U.S. dominating the ice in the 1992 IIHF Women’s World Championship that lit a flame in Gallagher, leading her to try and chase the magic she saw her heroes create. 

“My first hockey memory was actually in the tropical setting of Hawaii, where my family was stationed for the military,” Gallagher recalled. “An unforgettable encounter, I was glued to the TV, watching what my parents had always told me was the 'Olympics' in 1992, U.S. vs Canada. But it wouldn't be until 32 years later, in 2024, during a walkthrough of the NHL's United By Hockey Mobile Museum with Hockey Hall of Famer Angela James, that I learned it was the 1992 Women's World Championship. Little did 4-year-old me know that watching the game on TV was the moment that would ignite a spark to set the course for my hockey journey.” 

Gallagher’s playing career led her from Detroit to Markham, Ontario, where she played for the Markham Thunder of the previous Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). Seeing the continued continuous growth of women’s hockey, Gallagher quickly made the transition to coaching after she hung her skates up. 

Forever a student of the game, Gallagher recalls the days from her youth when she rushed home to grab the latest edition of the USA Hockey Magazine, diving into the stories of her idols lining the pages. She couldn’t wait to replicate the cellys she saw in the picture or the game-winning plays she read about. 

“I grew up idolizing incredible athletes like Julie Chu, Angela James, and Angela Ruggiero. Their stories in USA Hockey Magazine allowed me to dive deeper into the sport, and I wanted to learn as much as I could,” Gallagher said. “As a young player, I started at 9 and embraced every opportunity to play, whether it was a game of street hockey with the neighborhood kids or going to an open skate. Reflecting back, hockey was an escape and adventure - local rinks became a second home where friendships were forged, and I had a lot of fun with it.”

Gallagher, who is the associate coach-in-chief for the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association, relishes in the opportunity to give back to the next generation of girls. Girls hockey has been on a strong and steady rise for the last few years, thanks in part to a multitude of factors. The game has been exposed to several new and diverse communities, from non-traditional Southern hockey markets to infiltrating Native American reservations. 

The PWHL has also opened the eyes of girls globally to the avenues available to them to continue to play the game they love.

Hockey in Michigan has been no exception for female growth, and Gallagher knows the significance of growing the game, diversifying the sport and expanding the number of female officials, coaches and players.

“Whether it's at home or alongside USA Hockey, the importance of growing the game of hockey cannot be overstated. In Detroit, hockey is more than a sport, it's a community staple that brings people together. Similarly, USA Hockey's support in promoting female leadership allows for an improved dialogue where district-level challenges are discussed, collaborated on, and ideas are shared. It's about more than just expanding the sport's reach, it's about continuing to foster our national hockey community where different cultures, regions, and people can share that same love for the game.”

Gallagher was a natural leader on all her youth teams, soaking up every experience like a sponge, from the bus rides to the rink to the post-game handshake line, always finding ways to learn and improve as a player and a person. 

As someone who comes from a diverse background herself, Gallagher understands the different barriers players sometimes must overcome to be able to play the game, whether they are mental, financial or physical. 

She takes pride in the fact that the game of hockey forces athletes of all walks of life to adapt and grow through their own struggles on and off the ice.  

“Traveling to different states and countries helps broadens perspective on the sport, and one of the most rewarding aspects of traveling for hockey is witnessing the resilience and adaptability of players and coaches from diverse backgrounds,” Gallagher said. “Whether it's a team overcoming financial barriers or individuals who have had to practice on less-than-ideal rinks, these stories of perseverance are both humbling and inspiring. You’ll meet individuals who have overcome incredible odds, and their determination can fuel your own drive to excel. This not only makes you a better athlete, but also a more well-rounded individual.”

As a coach, Gallagher knows personally the knowledge that can be garnered from the mentors and older coaches that have come before her. Gallagher praises USA Hockey for the way they encourage and develop coaches, giving them the tools to be successful through their coaching education programs. 

Gallagher also serves as a mentor to young girls who are looking to try their hand at coaching, recruiting them to her coaching development program. She works with young hopefuls, including teenagers, as they work to become certified coaches in accordance with USA Hockey standards.

“Through coaching workshops, presentations, and mentorship programs, everyone shares their wealth of knowledge and experiences with each other,” Gallagher said. “It’s about building a community, fostering inclusion and leadership, and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy and excel in hockey. Since I started as an intern coach with USA Hockey in 2019, the journey has been one of growth, learning, and immense satisfaction. The mentor coaches I've had include a list of Olympians, NCAA coaches, and USA Hockey national staff members who have all played pivotal roles in shaping my personal and professional development.

“Now being in that coach mentor role, it’s something I take very seriously, striving to offer the same guidance and support to coaches, knowing firsthand the difference it can make.”

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