by Scott King
It wasn’t a coincidence 25-year-old Palos Heights native Kendall Coyne found herself being lifted up into the air by fiance Michael Schofield with a gold medal dangling around her neck in Gangneung, South Korea a couple weeks ago. It was over twenty years of dedication to hockey that got her there.
The Carl Sandburg high school graduate, who had two goals and an assist in the 2018 Winter Olympics tournament for Team USA’s Women’s hockey club, started playing at the age of three.
Her on-ice celebration was a mirror image of what happened following Super Bowl fifty in 2016, when Coyne ran on the field at Levi’s Stadium to celebrate with Scofield, then a starting lineman for Peyton Manning’s Broncos who had just defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10.
“It was surreal,” Coyne said. “I was there when he accomplished his childhood dream. I know how much work went into it, the sacrifice. It’s just the same on the other side of it. So to be there with him and celebrate with him truly was special and I was just thankful he could be a part of that moment because it’s an interesting dynamic, it’s a special dynamic that we understand what each other goes through on a daily basis.”
Different in Coyne’s championship moment was not only the Olympic component, but the nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat shootout that saw Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson fake out Team Canada goalie Shannon Szabados in epic fashion for the 3-2 victory.
“It was a little bit nerve-wracking,” Coyne said of the shootout. “But I think all of us had so much confidence in each other that we were just excited for it. We knew going into the shootout that the chances [to win] were pretty high.”
Also surreal, but less nerve-wracking was the welcome reception the Blackhawks threw Coyne and Team USA backup goaltender Alex Rigsby before Sunday morning’s game at the United Center vs. the Boston Bruins.
“We both grew up here,” Coyne said. “I’ve done a lot of work with the Blackhawks over the years and was on that ice when I was seven years old and I always wanted to play in the Olympics. It’s just amazing to be standing here, in this moment to be honored by the Blackhawks. It’s pretty special.”
“That was cool,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said of the pregame salute. “I didn’t really know that was going on. It was a cool little thing before the game. Seems like anytime we have those little receptions before the game the boys get pumped up and we play pretty well in front of them.”
Rigsby won gold her first time on the roster these Olympics, but don’t think it was an easy road for the Downers Grove, IL native. The 26-year-old eventually moved to Delafield, Wisconsin and would commute two hours after school three times a week to the Windy City to play with the Chicago Mission.
When she was 17 she was the first woman drafted to the USHL as a member of the Chicago Steel.
The goaltender also led the Wisconsin Badgers to a 2011 championship, their fourth Frozen Four title in six years. Rigsby still holds the record for most saves (1,044) in a single season (2011-12) for University of Wisconsin.
Rigsby, like Coyne, has embraced fans who want to see her gold medal and refuses to let it just sit in a box.
“No I think it’s going to be pretty accessible,” Rigsby said. “It’s fun whipping it out. You kind of show it to one person (and) the next thing you know there’s a bunch of people surrounding you and wanting to take pictures.
“I kind of think about how we were when we were kids, and if we could have seen a gold medal – the (1998) women’s team was such an inspiration to us – and so for us to kind of try and inspire the next generation, you want to take as many selfies as you can with the little girls and boys. Just share it as much as you can.”
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