Nicole Kirnan Set to Become First Female Coach in Men's Hockey

Nicole Kirnan will make history on March 1 as she becomes the first woman to coach in professional men’s hockey, Image obtained from
Nicole Kirnan will make history on March 1 as she becomes the first woman to coach in professional men’s hockey, Image obtained from
Mark StaffieriContributor IIFebruary 28, 2013

A former women’s hockey player with the St. Lawrence Skating Saints in NCAA Division I, Nicole Kirnan is set to make hockey history. According to, the owner and president of the 1000 Islands Privateers of the Federal Hockey League will assume the role of head coach.

Kirnan will serve as the Privateers bench boss for the two remaining contests of the 2012-13 FHL campaign. A March 1, 2013 match against the second place Danbury Whalers will signify her coaching debut. Of note, the Privateers are based out of Watertown, New York.

Hailing from Syracuse, New York, the 33-year-old will be the first woman to serve as a head coach at the men’s hockey level in North America. She will be replacing outgoing coach Paul Kelly,who is departing because he is returning to the Privateers lineup.

Currently, the Privateers have a record of 17 wins and 25 losses. Of their nine contests that have gone to overtime, five were OT wins, while four were OT losses. Despite the losing record, the club has managed to clinch a playoff berth.

The games against Danbury will be an opportunity for the Privateers to evaluate their first-round opponent in the postseason. Kirnan and the Privateers will open the playoffs on the road on March 8, and a pair of wins to finish the season would bring with it great momentum for the postseason.

For Kirnan, any hopes of becoming the first female head coach to win a league title will be dependent on scoring leaders Peter Campbell and Adam McAllister. Campbell leads the Privateers with 34 goals and 54 assists, while McAllister is second on the team with 57 points. The two will be needed to maintain their high scoring ways.

Her first foray into coaching was with NCAA Division III school Manhattanville College (based out of Purchase, New York). In a four-year coaching stint (2002-06), she led the club to the NCAA tournament in every season. While at Manhattanville, she completed a masters degree in Sports Business Management.

She has also been involved with USA Hockey in various capacities. As a player, she participated in several USA Olympic hockey festivals (including a stint in 1996 on the US Junior National Team). In addition, she has worked with USA Hockey as an evaluator and coach with the National Development Camp.

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