It’s been two years in the making. Arcadia University has everything in place to start playing women’s hockey next fall. Fox 29 Photojournalist Bill Rohrer sat down with their new coach who has already made history--twice.
Kelsey Koelzer can’t wait to get Arcadia University’s women’s ice hockey team out on the ice. She is the team’s first coach and she broke the color barrier becoming the first African American head coach in the NCAA.
"You look at Jackie Robinson he broke the color barrier so many decades ago, Willie O’ree entered the NHL so many decades ago, I do think to myself how do we not get further in the time. That puts it into perspective of what I am trying to do here at Arcadia," Kelsey said. "I think it helps to ground myself and keep me motivated day in and day out to keep pushing forward. So that way moving forward girls have someone they can look up to and it becomes more normalized to have a black person coaching NCAA hockey."
Kelsey was hooked on hockey the moment she laced up her skates. Growing up in Montgomery County, Kelsey’s future started as the only girl in her town to play on a local boy’s teams. "It was certainly challenging growing up, because I had to play boys hockey especially in this area. There was no such thing as an elite all girl’s programs that are traveling to tournaments in Canada and in the Midwest. So growing up I had to play boys hockey to get to the highest level of competition for myself," she said.
Kelsey eventually earned a spot on the Princeton University women’s ice hockey team and was captain her senior year. After she graduated, Kelsey was drafted to play women’s professional hockey. Number one overall—The first African American to ever do so.
"At the time I didn’t know that I was the first African American to be drafted first overall in North American Professional Hockey," Koelzer said. "Finding that out didn’t make that moment really special."
A lot has changed since Kelsey started playing. More women are falling in love with the sport and playing at a high level. But the inequities that women face in this sport are a bitter reminder of the work still ahead.
"I think it is pretty far off, if I am being fair and realistic. I mean the WNBA has made amazing strides in the time that they have been pushing forward, but it has taken them a while for them to get to where they are. I think that women’s hockey is still at the starting block. I think that it is going to take some time and take that support and that effort from folks on the men’s side to really grow our sport and gain traction for the amazing product that we are trying to put on the ice," she said.
Kelsey recruited over twenty women, mostly freshman to play but the team won’t start skating till next fall. "I have something special to offer to these girls and these women that are coming through Arcadia University," Koelzer said. "To be myself and share that love with them and share my energy and love for the sport is the one thing that I am really looking forward to."