The Washington Capitals announced Thursday they've promoted Emily Engel-Natzke to the role of video coordinator, making her the first woman to serve as a full-time member of an NHL coaching staff.
Engel-Natzke previously filled the same role with the Hershey Bears, the Caps' AHL affiliate. She discussed her place in hockey history with Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press:
"It's kind of surreal. I've never kind of really looked at myself in that lens, and I think if you may have asked me a week ago, I wouldn't have wanted it to be a big deal. But with everything that's going on kind of geopolitically, I think I'm more so just honored to be, I guess, the first. Hopefully that just opens the door even further for people who want to get into this job and this profession."
Engel-Natzke played hockey at Adrian College and started her coaching career at the University of Wisconsin in 2015, working for the Badgers' men's and women's hockey teams as a video coordinator. She's also worked for U.S. Hockey's youth national teams and the senior women's team at the 2019 World Championships.
She joined the Capitals organization with the Bears ahead of the 2020-21 season. Her performance with the minor league affiliate, which posted the AHL's best record in her first year, gave the front office confidence she was ready to join the NHL staff.
"We are extremely pleased to name Emily as our new video coordinator," general manager Brian MacLellan said. "Emily's work ethic, skill set, and passion were displayed in her tenure with the Hershey Bears, and we feel she is ready and deserving of this opportunity. She will be a tremendous asset to our coaching staff."
The 31-year-old Colorado native also received praise from Caps head coach Peter Laviolette, per Whyno:
"This was earned and deserved. We feel like we hired really a qualified person that we brought into the organization two years ago and came in and did an outstanding job, and that's what development is all about. For me, we got the best person and that's the most important thing."
Engel-Natzke joins Chicago Blackhawks assistant GM Meghan Hunter and New Jersey Devils director of player development Meghan Duggan as women who've recently been promoted to high-profile roles within NHL organizations.
Engel-Natzke told Whyno:
"It's been really encouraging that you're seeing women in different roles, whether it's in coaching, whether it's in management, athletic training and equipment management. Hopefully the door just keeps opening a little bit more and I hope in a couple years it's not as big of a deal—it's kind of just another hire."
Washington, led by superstar winger Alex Ovechkin, has reached the playoffs in eight straight seasons, highlighted by winning the 2018 Stanley Cup title.
The 2022-23 NHL season is scheduled to get underway Oct. 11.