Kelsey Koelzer to be first Black hockey coach in NCAA

The history-making hockey player is the first Black person to coach hockey in the National Collegiate Athletic Association division. 

Ice hockey trailblazer Kelsey Koelzer is living proof that no arena is off-limits when it comes to Black excellence. Koelzer is the head women’s hockey coach at Arcadia University, making the 25-year-old the first Black hockey coach in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) division. 

The Horsham, Pennsylvania native has been playing hockey since she was four years old. As a child, she played on all boys’ teams until she was a young teenager. While a student-athlete at Princeton University, she played hockey and became the team’s first ever All-American.

Her other athletic honors include being a three-time First-Team All-Ivy League honoree and the number one draft pick for the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) in 2016, which was another Black first. 

“Initially, my mom did not want to let me play hockey because it was not something that girls did back in 1998/99,” Koelzer told 6 ABC Action News. “As you’re growing through the sport it becomes even more apparent how rare it was for girls to play hockey.” 

Kelsey and a young fan By Corey Masisak/The Athletic

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As a Black woman, Koelzer says she’s dealt with both gender and racial discrimination in the overwhelmingly white and male-dominated sport. While updated statistics about the racial demographics of the NWHL and National Hockey League (NHL) are scarce,  there are only 43 players of color in the NHL out of 700, according to WDET

“The first obstacle I ever faced in hockey was being the girl as opposed to being the Black player. That’s something I faced right off the bat, whether it was parents, players, or coaches,” Koelzer said in an NBC Sports interview. 

“I did at times, feel the kind of targeting that a lot of girls feel on the ice.”

Koelzer also told the Black News Channel that during a high school game, a player on a competing team used the N-word toward her. 

“The shock kind of hit me for a couple of seconds and then kind of the rage took over and I chased him off the ice and I shoved him from behind and was pushing his back and stuff like that,” said Koelzer. Clearly, any efforts to dissuade her from the sport were unsuccessful. 

In 2019, Koelzer was hired to lead the recruitment and program development for the Arcadia Knights women’s hockey team at Arcadia University. As a longtime player, Koelzer has said that coaching the team would be a brand new experience for her but one that she’s looking forward to accomplishing. 

Kelsey Koelzer is the first Black ice hockey coach in NCAA history. (Photo Credit: Arcadia University Athletics)

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“Hockey has been that staple number one activity my whole life. Getting the chance to transition to this side of the game is special for me,” said Koelzer. “Having the chance to know I’m potentially making it easier for someone like me to have a chance down the line to do the same, I think that’s something that helps to motivate me and helps put things into perspective for me.”

Koelzer is also encouraging the youth to embrace sports they’re passionate about, even if they are underrepresented in them. 

“If you have the love for the game, the skill, and put in the hard work, then you belong there and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

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