WASHINGTON — The Washington Capitals are making history. Their promotion of Emily Engel-Natzke to video coordinator makes her the first full-time female coach in the National Hockey League.
Engel-Natzke found out she was being promoted to Washington around 9 a.m. So her wife, Spencer, felt the best way to celebrate was with their favorite morning treat.
"I told my wife, and she was really excited," Engle-Natzke said. "She immediately decided we needed celebratory donuts. There’s still kind of that awe factor ... a little bit of disbelief. But it turns to excitement really quickly."
Engel-Natzke has spent the past two seasons with Washington's American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears, as a video coach. Her love of the game dates back to her childhood in Colorado.
“I ended up falling in love with the goalie [position] growing up," she said. "So, I was a goalie, and I played in high school, and played club hockey at the college level. I just always loved being around the sport."
Before making the leap to the Capitals organization, she earned a degree in film production from the University of Colorado and worked for the University of Wisconsin. It was at Wisconsin where she had the opportunity to work with the women's basketball team, and the women's and men's hockey teams. In 2017, the university created a full-time video coach position just for her.
“I knew I didn’t want to go in the film business, and I’ve always loved sports, so I figured out this was a profession and a job I could do,” says Engel-Natzke.
A video coach is a member of the coaching staff who uses technology and game footage to help coaches and players do their jobs better. Game days are especially demanding.
“I'm going through everything during the game, marking everything, time on ice, systems, so again the coaches have everything they need," she said. "Then I'm getting that information out to the coaches and players afterward."
She set her sights on the NHL knowing no woman had ever secured a full-time coaching position within the league.
“I think people told me it would be hard to work in the NHL because it hadn’t really happened before," she said. "But honestly, I’m a stubborn person, and I was determined."