Saskatchewan

Moose Jaw woman becomes 1st female coach in WHL

Olivia Howe's hockey career has come full circle.

Olivia Howe won national titles as a player in high school and college

The players don't treat their new coach, Olivia Howe, any differently because they know her track record and resume, Moose Jaw Warriors General Manager Alan Millar said. (Submitted by the Moose Jaw Warriors)

Olivia Howe's career has come full circle.

She started playing hockey in Moose Jaw at six years old. Now she is back in the city, gearing up for her first coaching job with the Western Hockey League. 

Howe (no relation to Gordie) signed on to be an assistant coach with the Moose Jaw Warriors this month. She is the first woman to coach in the league, something she only found out about after taking the job. 

"That's pretty shocking to me," Howe said. "I think coaching positions are just for people who are qualified. I don't think it really matters male or female."

A hockey family

Howe's hockey career started the same as many others. She grew up seeing her older family members play and one day was asked if she wanted to give it a shot. 

"After spending all those years on the outdoor rink as a child — I really enjoyed it and never looked back," Howe said. 

She enjoyed being on a team, the friendships she made and that she could keep pushing herself.

"There's always a new challenge and there is so much to accomplish," Howe said. 

Olivia Howe (right) was the captain of the Notre Dame Hounds when they won the women's national hockey championship. (Olivia Howe/Facebook)

Howe played with the Notre Dame Hounds in high school and then got a scholarship to play in upstate New York at Clarkson University. She won national championships with both teams.

She had dabbled in coaching at a young age by helping out at spring and summer camps, but her first official coaching job came after university when she returned to the Notre Dame Hounds as a junior girls hockey coach. 

She said it was tough at first not being out on the ice.

"You see the game a lot differently when you're standing back watching it and trying to teach," Howe said.

Olivia Howe's university team won a national championship while she was on the team. (Olivia Howe/Facebook)

Moose Jaw Warrior's General Manager Alan Millar said he created Howe's new coaching role after seeing her resume. Howe had been successful at every level and wanted to continue developing, Millar said.

"We felt we could put together an opportunity that would benefit our club, but also give her a real good development opportunity to help her grow in the game," he said. 

I was pretty shocked, mostly excited — just a great opportunity for me. I didn't think anything about this whole female-male dynamic.- Olivia Howe

Millar said he didn't think about her being the first female on a coaching staff in the WHL.

"We saw somebody that was very interested in coaching, scouting and had a passion for the game," Millar said. 

He knew it wasn't common, but also that women were doing great things as coaches in other sports. 

The Clarkson University Golden Knights won the university championship while Olivia Howe was a part of their team. (Submitted by Olivia Howe)

"I was pretty shocked, mostly excited — just a great opportunity for me. I didn't think anything about this whole female-male dynamic," Howe said. 

Howe said she hopes to learn and grow as a coach in the WHL and continue working toward a higher level.

Her advice for young women wanting to coach was to not be afraid to put yourself out there. 

"Take an opportunity that might not be normalized yet," Howe said. 

About the Author

Heidi Atter

AP/Journalist

Heidi Atter is a journalist working in Regina. She started with CBC Saskatchewan after a successful internship and has a passion for character-driven stories. Heidi has worked as a reporter, web writer, associate producer and show director so far, and has worked in Edmonton, at the Wainwright military base, and in Adazi, Latvia. Story ideas? Email heidi.atter@cbc.ca.

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