Dawn Braid teaches Sabres players during her tenure with the team (via Buffalo Sabres/Twitter)
Dawn Braid made history when she was named the full-time skating coach for the Arizona Coyotes. Braid, 52, became the first woman hired as a full-time coach with an NHL team. However, Braid says that part didn’t even cross her mind. It’s simply her doing what she’s always loved.
Dawn Braid made history this past Wednesday, but she can’t say she ever expected it.
When the Arizona Coyotes hired Braid, 52, as their skating coach, she became the first woman ever brought on as a full-time coach for an NHL team. Other women have held part-time jobs behind the scenes in coaching capacities, including Braid herself, but her new post is historic. And even though it’s been celebrated and written about throughout the hockey world, Braid isn’t even convinced she’s the first.
“If I am the first, that’s great and it’s quite an honor, but I honestly don’t know,” Braid told THN. “I’ve never promoted that, neither have the Coyotes, but if (I am), that’s great. It’s an honor, but I really don’t know if that’s fact. I’m just excited and thrilled about the opportunity.”
But Braid’s success isn’t an overnight thing and she didn’t come out of nowhere to land a full-time gig with the Coyotes. Her hiring by Arizona GM John Chayka and coach Dave Tippett is the culmination of decades of hard work. Nearly three and a half decades, in fact.
Her first job as a skating coach came at 18 when her father, Bill White, bought a Jr. B club in Vaughan, Ont. Braid, a former figure skater, was encouraged to come out and teach some skating to the club because her father thought it would be beneficial for the players. He saw something in his daughter’s teachings, too.
“My father was the one who kind of told me, ‘Hey, I think you’ve got something here. Go for it, I think you can make it at an NHL level,’” Braid said. “He was the one who always taught me to work hard.”
Her father — who Braid calls her biggest influence — was right, too. From the junior ranks, Braid picked up work with AA and AAA clubs in the minor hockey leagues in and around the Toronto area, including requests for her help from her son’s teammates and coaches. Eventually, it led to a job with The Athletes Training Center in Mississauga, Ont.
She describes her teaching style as detail oriented and heavily based in repetition, but she says she’s still continuing to learn the best way to teach. Braid wouldn’t say there was any one thing that set her apart from other skating coaches, but she’s obviously done something extremely well all these years because never has she run a school and most of her business has come by word of mouth. That includes her first big break when former NHLer Gary Roberts and trainer Matt Nichol brought her in to help out some pro players.
“(The Toronto Maple Leafs’) player development saw me working with them — I think it was Paul Dennis at the time,” Braid said. “He was watching me on the ice and approached me and asked if I would be interested in being the skating coach at their development camp, that I was exactly what I was looking for. That opened doors.”
However, one of the best moments of Braid’s career came at the same time as tragedy struck.
“Unfortunately, my father passed away from brain cancer when I had my first job with the Leafs, just running the skating portion of their development camp,” Braid recalls. “When I did make that breakthrough…unfortunately he wasn’t there to see it happen, in terms of he was very ill at that time and passed away shortly after.”
But Braid has definitely made her father proud. From her job with the Maple Leafs, she has gone on to work as a consultant for the Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames, for whom she remains a consultant. She spent part of the past season as the skating coach for Arizona, too, including time with their AHL affiliate in Springfield. Her excellent work there helped open the door further for her with the Coyotes.
Woman or not, though, Braid says it hasn’t crossed her mind that she’s in a historic position or that she has had to potentially face roadblocks along the way because of her gender. This is simply the result of hard work.
“I’ve never really thought about (gender),” Braid said. “I’ve worked extremely hard. It’s been a lot of years and I didn’t just walk right into this…It’s been a lot of work and through trial and error I’ve built a program. I don’t think I ever went, ‘Oh, that part about being female.’ I just did what I loved doing.”
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