Hockey coach speaks on power, success

by Josh Linehan

With the University’s recent triumph at the women’s ice hockey final four still fresh in their minds, 150 people gathered at the Gateway alumni center to hear a lecture given by one of the world’s foremost experts on women’s hockey.
Shannon Miller, the former coach of the Canadian women’s national team and current coach of the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s women’s team, spoke Tuesday evening as part of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport’s distinguished lecture series.
Miller has seen and experienced the explosion of women’s hockey firsthand. She coached the Canadian national team for seven years, leading the team to four gold medals in international competition. The team also lost its last game with Miller behind the bench to the United States in the inaugural women’s hockey Olympic gold-medal game.
But times weren’t always so glamorous for Miller. During her first six years as coach of the Canadian team, she was a volunteer coach who kept a full-time job as a police officer to make ends meet.
Tuesday night, Miller spoke of the importance of a journey, not only from tiny arenas and tinier crowds to the screaming hordes at the final game in Nagano, Japan, but also from a female beat cop on the streets of Calgary to the only female head coach at the Olympic games.
“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire,” Miller said. “To be a successful person, and to be a successful team, you need a vision that sets your soul on fire at the thought of accomplishing it.”
Seeing the game from all different perspectives, Miller also enumerated the differences between international and intercollegiate competition, as well as different programs that develop talent for higher-level teams.
Miller praised Title IX, saying it gave female athletes in America a leg to stand on when attempting to advance programs on all levels.
“While you’re obviously not at a 50-50 level yet, (Title IX) is a wonderful tool for female athletes in this country to have and one no other country in the world has,” Miller said.
Professor Mary Jo Kane, head of the Tucker center, introduced Miller. She also spoke of the work being done at the center, the first and only such program of its kind in the nation, and its context in the larger social issue of gender equity.
“Sport is a territory that brings out the best in all of us and belongs to all of us,” Kane said.
Miller also spoke of larger concepts, and also of her dismissal from the Canadian team following the Olympic loss and her subsequent departure to Duluth.
“It’s not about being a leader in Canada, or being a leader in Duluth — it’s about being a leader for women, and women’s sports in general,” Miller said.
Miller led the Duluth Bulldogs to the final four in Boston where they finished fourth. The team was ranked first in the nation for much of the season and defeated Minnesota, the eventual national champions, in their conference tournament.
And after being the only female coach in a women’s sport at the Olympics, Miller was pleased to be one of four female coaches at this year’s tournament.
Through it all, Miller has maintained the same approach in her personal life and in hockey.
“My approach to leadership is to have a plan. And then get ready to change your plan,” Miller said.

Josh Linehan welcomes comments at [email protected]