The NWHL All-Star weekend starts tomorrow, and thus far, each team only has one coach — a former Nashville Predator.
Hall Gill and Chris Mason will be coaching the NWHL All-Star teams. Including them certainly solidifies the Predators’ involvement in the NWHL All-Star Game, but then, so does using Bridgestone and the Ford Ice Center. Gill, a former defender, spent 2 years with the Predators and has only coached at a high school level. Chris Mason was a goaltender in the Predators organization for many years, and has coached senior men’s hockey (Allan Cup Hockey West) and junior hockey (NA3L), but not long term.
Given the different market, it’s not as easy for the NWHL to find retired players around the Nashville area who could be a part of their event. In light of that, maybe having a Predators alum or two dropping the puck makes more sense, although it would be fun to see if they could get a Nashville icon like Billy Ray Cyrus or even Carrie Underwood to attend. Granted, price might be a major issue in making this happen, but any local country singer or band would be a fun way to tie the event to the area, outside of just the NHL presence. Part of the fun of traveling All-Star Games is the different cities that the players and fans get to travel to, and missing out on Nashville’s culture would be a shame.
Just like my suggestions for the CWHL game, why not have two coaches from the league behind the benches? They work hard just like the players do, and there’s no question that coaches make a huge impact on seasons as short as the NWHL’s.
After last year’s dismal season, the Pride are vastly improved. Their new head coach Paul Mara, formerly with the USWNT, has certainly played a role in their resurgence, and would be a great pick to stand behind one of the teams’ benches. Another great pick — or should I say picks — are Jack Brodt and Ronda Engelhardt of the Whitecaps, who have guided a non-traditional expansion team to an 8-4 record, beginning with a six-game win streak.
There are many NWHL alums who have moved on to coach full time. Unfortunately, for many of them, it would be impractical to attend the All-Star Game in Nashville. Even if it was local for any of them, the fact that it takes place over a weekend where most of their teams are likely to be playing rules them out.
That being said, there’s still at least one coach that I think could have been invited — but she’s not a hockey coach. Cindy Parlow Cone is a retired professional soccer player with two Olympic gold medals who has coached at both the college and professional levels. She’s also a Tennessee native, so inviting her would tie together the threads of professional women’s sports and Tennessee as a venue.