Considering the remarkable quality of their offseason acquisitions, the Calgary Inferno have placed themselves in an enviable position for remarkable long-term success. Among said acquisitions, one of the most significant was Gina Kingsbury joining the Inferno’s coaching staff.
Having once played for the Calgary Oval X-Treme, along with close to a decade as a member of Canada’s national women’s ice hockey team, which included two Winter Games gold medals, Kingsbury’s legacy as a player is remarkable. The chance to return to Calgary and add to her growing coaching resume is one worthy of a heroes welcome.
Since becoming a coach, Kingsbury has proven to be an influential mentor. At the Okanagan Hockey Academy, her defensive acumen helped mold Micah Hart into one of Canada’s most promising blueline prospects. Gaining a gold medal for Canada at the IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds, along with an appearance on MTV Canada, Hart’s career was significantly influenced by Kingsbury.
During the 2014-15 season, Kingsbury gained an opportunity to coach at the NCAA hockey with one of the premier programs in the nation. Joining the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, the first to win five NCAA Frozen Four titles, she had the chance to learn from one of the most accomplished coaches, male or female, in NCAA history, Shannon Miller.
In addition, Kingsbury found another positive influence on the Bulldogs coaching staff, working with Laura Schuler. Although Kingsbury’s time at UMD was an unforeseen brush with history, as it resulted in Miller’s final campaign, the chance to learn from Miller’s encyclopedic knowledge of the game was an exceptionally important time in her career.
“I must say last year was a great year even considering how it ended. The group of athletes and staff that we had was one of the best groups I have ever been a part of.
To be able to learn from one of the best motivational coaches ever in our game, Shannon Miller, and one of the most detailed oriented coaches, Laura Schuler, it certainly was a privilege and an experience that I will take with me forever.
I truly enjoyed working in the college environment where I believe the impact you can have as a coach is far beyond the X’s and O’s of our game, and that is something I really appreciated.”
Coincidentally, Schuler is also in Calgary this season, serving as the head coach of Canada’s national women’s team. Of note, Schuler becomes the first female player who competed in the Winter Games to serve as Canada’s head coach.
While Schuler’s presence adds to a memorable season for women’s ice hockey in Calgary, momentum was gained with the Calgary Inferno being featured in Financial Post magazine. Goaltender DeLayne Brian graced the cover as the piece talked about the arrival of professional women’s ice hockey.
Among the images in said piece, one of the most endearing is a shot of Kingsbury’s red shoes. Standing on the bench in red stiletto heels, which must be a skill in itself, the image is highly powerful. As Kingsbury’s shoes grace the left of said image, while a series of skates and socks are visible on the right, there are two empowering elements that stand out.
From the outset, the fact that the shoes are red not only reflects the Inferno’s colors, but it also reflects the color of Canada’s flag. In addition, Kingsbury has the five interlocking Olympic rings tattooed on her foot. Taking into account her world class playing career, she holds the potential to help develop a new generation of players to emulate her success.
Interpretation aside, the reality is that such exposure is one that Kingsbury is highly proud of. Highly motivated to bring the best out of the Inferno players, she sincerely wants to see the game elevate to the next level, ensuring that the succeeding generation does not have to endure the struggles of yesteryear.
“The more exposure our game gets the more it grows, and I think every player that had the opportunity to play this great game wants to see it grow. It amazes me to see how far it has come already and knowing that there is still so much growth ahead is exciting to me! The red stilettos making a statement made me laugh and I was sure glad the picture was taken calf down (smiles).”
Proud of the progression that the game has already experienced, Kingsbury admires the character and determination of the athletes that wear the Inferno’s colors. Observing how so many players balance hockey with career obligations, their work ethic is an element that motivates Kingsbury, making her inaugural season with the Inferno a true labor of love,
“The type of athletes we get to work with (is what I enjoy most). It is great to be able to work with driven, well rounded athletes that want to get better and are sincerely committed to pushing themselves every day. We have a great group of players that even if they have a 9 to 5 job they come to the evening practice eager and wanting to learn, makes coaching that much more enjoyable and meaningful!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: CWHL Images, Financial Post Magazine (Postmedia)