Kendall Coyne, Emily Pfalzer, Amanda Pelkey, they’ve all heard it. They’ve been told throughout their careers that they’re too small to play hockey.
But they haven’t listened to the criticisms. And now the diminutive trio has reached the highest level of women’s hockey, playing for the U.S. Women’s National Team with an opportunity to make an Olympic roster.
“People tell me I’m small, but I don’t think I play small,” Coyne said. “My height is something I can’t control, but I can control how hard I work and the effort I put into it. It shows other girls that if you aren’t the tallest that you can still make it to this level. I’m really proud of what I have accomplished because my size is a sign that others can do the same.”
Forward Amanda Pelkey has won three World Championships with Team USA
Coyne and Pfalzer are both 5-foot-2, while Pelkey is an inch taller at 5-foot-3. That hasn’t stopped any of the three from achieving success.
They have combined for 10 IIHF Women’s World Championships and three titles with the Under-18 team. Coyne, who won a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, has won five gold medals at IIHF Women’s World Championships.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet situation because when I was younger, I was told that I’m a smaller player and need to be bigger, faster and stronger,” Pelkey said. “I really took that to heart and put emphasis, every single day, to really work through that.”
Pelkey and Coyne both point to former NHL star Martin St. Louis as inspiration, with Coyne even wearing his No. 26 with the national team. The 5-foot-8 forward, who played with Calgary, the New York Rangers, and won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay, scored 1,033 points in 1,134 games.
Pelkey grew up in Montpelier, Vermont, and when she was younger, St. Louis and teammates from the nearby University of Vermont conducted a hockey school.
“I knew how to skate, but he taught me more important things about being a powerful skater,” Pelkey said. “Since then, I loved watching him play.”
Coyne’s play also impresses Pelkey. Currently this season, Team USA is 5-0 when Coyne registers a point.
“Kendall is probably one of the fastest players in the world, male or female,” Pelkey said. “We talk about watching players during shifts and picking out things you want to do during your shift, and my eyes are always with her speed. That ignites a fire inside me to make sure I’m moving my feet during my shift.”
Pfalzer, a Buffalo, New York, native, is also inspired by her teammate, Coyne.
“She’s someone to look up to every single day as a female hockey player just based on how hard she works,” Pfalzer said. “She’s never outworked and size definitely doesn’t play a factor in her game.”
Emily Pfalzer netted three goals earlier this month at the Four Nations Cup
That’s particularly true for Coyne when she works out with her fiancé Michael Schofield, a 6-foot-7 offensive lineman for the Los Angeles Chargers. Coyne works on footwork with Schofield, who said his fiancé is difficult to stop because she’s small and fast.
“Obviously, he’s the largest defender I will ever go against, but working out with another elite athlete is an easy sense of motivation,” Coyne said. “My entire workout group is a bunch of football players, and they’re obviously a lot bigger and stronger, but at the same time, there’s no reason why I can’t do what they do. I think that shows size really doesn’t matter.”
Pfalzer has lived by that philosophy as a standout defenseman for the U.S. Women’s National Team.
“Usually defenders have been typically bigger people on the team, but I don’t really think about that,” said Pfalzer, who scored a hat trick, her first-ever with the National Team, at the Four Nations Cup.
“My size is something completely out of my control, so I try to control what I can, and be the best I can be on the ice. I’ve always been a smaller player, and basically my whole life I never really grew, so it definitely put a chip on my shoulder. I’ve been told many times I’m too small and that I’m undersized, but I definitely think it gives me more drive.”
Pelkey loves watching Pfalzer on the ice.
“She’s one of the prettiest skaters … powerful but smooth in the corners, and she’s going to create offense anytime she can,” Pelkey said. “She defends well and jumps into the play at the perfect time. She’s an all-around solid player in every dimension.”
The same is true for all three women. They may be undersized, but it hasn’t stopped them from reaching the highest level of their sport.
“People might make comments that we’re smaller, but that doesn’t matter when we play because we all play big,” Coyne said. “People can say that we’re small, but then they watch us play and it’s not a factor.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.