Gina Kingsbury went out on top.
It was September 2010 and just months after one of Canada’s most-thrilling
gold medal performances.
Kingsbury and her Canadian teammates defeated the United States 2-0 in
Vancouver to win gold at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. At that point,
Kingsbury had spent the better part of 10 years on the ice with Canada,
playing in 116 international games and winning three IIHF World Women’s
Championship gold medals (2001, 2004, 2007) and two Olympic gold (2006,
But while her playing days were coming to an end, there was no way the
Rouyn-Noranda, Que., native would be kept away from the game. She joined
the coaching ranks immediately after her retirement, and has made her way
back to Hockey Canada as director of women’s national teams.
“It just felt right to come back and work for Hockey Canada,” says
Kingsbury. “Obviously, being a player before, I still have that passion of
growing the game in our country. That logo still means a lot and there is
still a lot of pride involved in it. For me, it was a little bit of a
no-brainer that this would be the best fit.”
Kingsbury’s path back to Hockey Canada began when she took on the role of
assistant coach with the female hockey program at the Okanagan Hockey
Academy in Penticton, B.C., and she later joined legendary coach Shannon
Miller as an assistant at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
In the spring of 2015, Melody Davidson – general manager of national
women’s team programs with Hockey Canada – approached Kingsbury at a skills
camp about possibly returning to the organization in the newly-created
Kingsbury started office life about 18 months ago. She quickly learned that
a lot of the work behind the scenes – scouting current and future national
team players, coordinating and organizing camps, the logistics involved in
flying and shuttling players all over the country and world – was a lot
more intense than she ever realized during her playing days.
“As an athlete, you come into camp and everything runs so smoothly and
everything is so peachy,” says Kingsbury. “All you have to do is play
hockey and you don’t realize that doesn’t just come naturally. There’s a
lot of work that is put in behind the scenes and a lot of time and effort.
For me to be able to see our managers in those programs basically plan and
get these camps ready, it’s impressive and makes me appreciate my career. I
made sure that I mentioned that to them as well.”
These days, she and her team are busy preparing for the 2017-18 Olympic
centralization year. In the spring, between 25 and 30 players will be
centralized in Calgary as part of the process leading to the 2018 Winter
Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
That will be Kingsbury’s first chance to win gold on the managerial side of
the hockey business. She believes her experience as a player helps her in
the current role.
“In any company, if you’re able to fill a lot of different roles, you get
to know the bones and the structure of it,” she says. “This is the same
with what I’m doing right now. Being a player for so long, going through
the camps and everything the athletes have to go through, I certainly still
have a little bit of an athlete’s perspective on their struggles and
triumphs. I can put that into perspective and try to help as much as
possible, now, on the other side.”