The Professional Women’s Hockey League Minnesota team had three signings. franchise forwards Kendall Coyne Schofield, Kelly Pannek, and defender Lee Stecklein.
PWHL Minnesota Team Signs Three Players
“With the signing of three of the top players in the world, Minnesota cements its foundation as a team built on excellence,” said Natalie Darwitz, General Manager. “Kendall, Lee, and Kelly’s world-class hockey skills and leadership qualities embody the level of excellence that we will build the culture of Minnesota on. We are thrilled they are the first three players to join Minnesota as we build a championship team,” Darwitz says, “. I think she an incredible ability to think about people in all different situations.” She does think about the national team or a player or a non-national player. Kendall Coyne Schofield is thinking about the entire group of people.
Kendall Coyne Schofield
The first of the Minnesota signings is a highly regarded talent. Coyne Schofield joins PWHL Minnesota as one of hockey’s all-time great leaders. The speedy forward has served as Team USA’s captain since 2019. She has represented her country and has compiled three Olympic medals (1 Gold, 2 Silver), nine IIHF Women’s World Championship medals (6 Gold, 3 Silver). Schofield also has several additional IIHF medals at the senior, U22, and U18 level.
The 31-year-old native of Palos Heights, IL had a prolific NCAA career at Northeastern University. She notably won the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award as a senior and Huskies’ captain in 2016. Schofield was a top-10 finalist in 2013 and 2015. Coyne Schofield played one season with the PHF’s Minnesota Whitecaps in 2018-19 and won the Isobel Cup. She became a founder of the PWHPA and played three seasons from 2019 to 21. In 2022-23, she served as President from 2019 to 23, leading to the formation of the PWHLPA. Schofield scored 53 goals and 34 assists in 46 games for the Chicago Mission. She played two national championship games and won the title. Schofield also attended Berkshire School for the 2010-11 season, scoring 55 goals and 22 assists in 25 games. They named her New England Prep School Players of the Year.
Also signed is Kelly Pannek, who joins her home-state PWHL Minnesota team. She is a two-time Olympic medalist (1 Gold, 1 Silver) and five-time World Championship medalist (3 Gold, 2 Silver) with Team USA, and has experience donning the red, white, and blue sweater at the U18 and U22 level where she helped her team achieve podium finishes. The 27-year-old played her NCAA career at the University of Minnesota from 2014-17 and returned for a senior season in 2018-19 following the 2018 Winter Olympics. Along with back-to-back National Championships (2015, 2016), Pannek led the nation in scoring and was a First-Team All-American and a Patty Kazmaier Award top-10 finalist in 2016-17. She joined the PWHPA upon graduation and played the 2019-21 seasons and the 2022-23 campaign after the 2022 Olympic break
The third of the Minnesota signings is another native. Lee Stecklein is also no stranger to the State of Hockey as a Roseville, MN native who played with Pannek at the University of Minnesota and with Coyne Schofield on the Minnesota Whitecaps over the course of her career. A fixture on the Team USA blue line since joining the U18 program in 2010, the 29-year-old is a three-time Olympic medalist (1 Gold, 2 Silver) and eight-time World Championship medalist (6 Gold, 2 Silver), and has collected hardware in several other international tournaments. Stecklein’s collegiate career featured three National Championships and two seasons as Golden Gophers captain as a junior and a senior.
As a member of the PHF’s expansion Whitecaps, she famously scored the overtime goal to secure an Isobel Cup title. Stecklein then played in the PWHPA from 2019 to 21 and, upon her return from the 2022 Olympic break, won the Top Defender award in the 2022-23 season.
“I am honored to be part of the first wave of players to sign officially with the PWHL, and I am thrilled by the opportunity to continue my career in Minnesota,” said Stecklein. “Thank you to the women who stood united over these years and those who worked daily to make this league a reality!”
“Minnesota extends a warm and enthusiastic welcome to Lee,” said Darwitz. “Lee is a two-way, highly respected defender whose experience and skill set will be a great addition to the team. Lee’s positive influence extends from the locker room to the Minnesota hockey community. We are fortunate to sign a player of Lee’s caliber to our team.”
The 2023 PWHL Draft is scheduled for Sept. 18, where Minnesota holds the first overall pick.
Main Photo: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports