Star talent behind bench

Former captain McHaffie hired into coaching role

Morgan McHaffie is transitioning into her new job as an assistant coach for the Gaels following her playing career.
Morgan McHaffie is transitioning into her new job as an assistant coach for the Gaels following her playing career.

When women’s hockey head coach Matt Holmberg had to search for a new assistant coach this offseason, he turned to one of his own. 

Former captain and five-year star of his team, Morgan McHaffie is one of two not-so-new faces behind the bench this year.

“I’ve had sort of an unwritten rule where I didn’t want players coaching former teammates, but I made an exception for Morgan,” Holmberg said. 

Exceptional is certainly one way to describe the new coach, as McHaffie put up 153 points over her half-decade at Queen’s from 2008-09 through 2013-14, leaving just two points shy of the all-time OUA record.  She was crowned an OUA champion in 2011 — the team also finished third at the national championships —  as well as 2013. Along with multiple appearances on the OUA All-Star team, McHaffie was named the 2011-12 OUA Player of the Year.

While not an official assistant coach last season, McHaffie frequently helped out at practice and skated with the team in preparation for her competing at the international FISU games. Also working full-time in Kingston since her graduation in 2014, McHaffie has a jam-packed schedule this season, but strives to make every game and practice she’s available for.

Holmberg said the conversations about coaching the team started last summer. After a year of what Holmberg referred to as quasi-coaching, he offered McHaffie a more formal role. 

“She always does what’s in the best interests of the team,” Holmberg said.

Though perhaps she never really left the program, McHaffie officially re-joined the Gaels earlier this September alongside Kingston native Brooke Beazer, the other addition to the coaching staff.

“It’s crazy how much the program has grown since my first year, seeing the talent and the skill level of the team now in comparison to when I came in,” McHaffie said. 

While her hockey knowledge is obviously high, McHaffie relates to student-athletes, having been one so recently herself. Adjusting to her off-ice role is occasionally difficult, but McHaffie recognizes the benefits of her new job. 

“I find it hard sometimes because I just want to play and get on the ice,” she said. “But I’ve really come to realize that coaching has so many rewards.”

At a recent team meeting, each team member was tasked with presenting their favourite life memory. Much to the delight of the team’s newcomers, McHaffie presented stories of her first OUA title. 

“That was definitely the best experience I’ve ever had,” she said. “I could see the rookies with the fire in their eyes wanting to get to that point.”

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