Laura Schuler is a guest coach at the Capitals development camp

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Laura Schuler watched the ice from the second floor of the Capitals practice facility, her elbows propped up on the railings, a pen in one hand and paper in the other.

Wearing a navy Capitals jacket, Schuler was on Washington’s coaching staff, which she is part of this week.

Schuler, an assistant coach for the University of Minnesota women’s hockey team at Duluth, was a guest coach for Washington’s development camp, which took place from Monday to Friday. The opportunity came through her participation in the NHL Coaches Association’s female coaching development program. Lindsay Artkin, the president of the NHLCA, recommended Schuler to the Capitals.

Without any prior connection to the organization, Schuler progressed through an interview process that led to an invitation. She spent the week learning from coach Peter Laviolette and his staff.

“It was amazing to be in a room and speak among so many incredible minds in hockey,” Schuler said. “We just shared exercises, shared knowledge, and it was so much fun. So I feel at home. »

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Although Schuler is a new face in the Capitals organization, she has plenty of experience in development camps. She worked for a decade with Hockey Canada, specifically with its development program and under-18 team. Much of that knowledge translated to Washington, where she worked with the 35 athletes attending the Capitals development camp.

When asked if she made any suggestions to the coaching staff, Schuler laughed. “No, I don’t make suggestions to them. I let them know what we do and how it’s very similar,” she said. “To me, the hockey of hockey, and learning the details is what’s so important as a coach, and these guys are so good at it.”

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said he’s glad Schuler was able to learn from Laviolette and gain experience working with the Capitals’ coaching staff.

“It’s great for her to be with our coaching staff to see how they plan the schedule, just to see how they work,” MacLellan said.

With an extensive coaching resume, Schuler is entering the second year of her second stint as an assistant coach at Minnesota Duluth. Her first time on the Bulldogs staff was a seven-year tenure highlighted by a national championship in 2010. She has also served as head coach at Massachusetts Boston, Northeastern and Dartmouth.

Schuler played college hockey at Northeastern and later played for Canada’s national team. She was a member of the 1998 Canadian team that won silver at the Olympics and was part of the teams that won gold medals at the world championships in 1990, 1992 and 1997.

Schuler then coached the Canadian women’s hockey team at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they won the silver medal after losing to the United States in the final.

A member of that team, Rebecca Johnston, worked as a guest coach with the Calgary Flames this week. She said she heard the news that Schuler would be a Capitals guest coach on social media, and she’s looking forward to swapping stories from development camp with her former coach.

Johnston is also encouraged by the positive advances for women in men’s and women’s hockey, both in coaching and management roles.

“I think it’s really important to open those doors because I know there are a lot of talented female hockey players with great hockey minds. [who] know the game so well and can teach it so well,” Johnston said.

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The Capitals hired a woman, Emily Engel-Natzke, as video coordinator last month. Engel-Natzke was previously a video coach for the Hershey Bears, Washington’s American Hockey League affiliate. When she found out Schuler would be joining Washington as a guest coach for development camp, Engel-Natzke immediately reached out to express her excitement and offer her help.

“I think it’s long overdue,” Engel-Natzke said of the recent shift toward greater female representation in hockey. “If you just look at Laura’s training history, she should have had this opportunity years ago.”

Schuler said she was grateful to be in Washington and hoped her presence at development camp would reinforce that there is a place for female hockey coaches.

“I feel like hockey is one of the greatest learning labs in the world for learning life skills and life lessons, and I think as long as you put your mind to it, you can do whatever you want to do,” she said. “And hopefully we’ll see that women have the choice, the choice whether or not to coach men or women, and that becomes a norm.”

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