McHaffie looking to buck the trend

Former women's hockey all-star joins mentorship program for female coaches

Morgan McHaffie was one of the greatest women’s hockey players in Queen’s history, with two OUA championships and 153 career points.
Morgan McHaffie was one of the greatest women’s hockey players in Queen’s history, with two OUA championships and 153 career points.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Just a year after trading in her skates for a whistle and a white board, Morgan McHaffie is gaining support as she progresses in the coaching community.

The former all-star for the Gaels’ hockey team will be working under the Coaching Association of Canada’s Women in Coaching  mentorship program. McHaffie will be part of the CIS pilot project that currently involves only Ottawa, Ryerson, and Queen’s. 

Under this, McHaffie will receive financial support from the program, along with guidance from two Gaels coaches, head coach Beth Barz of women’s rugby and Matt Holmberg of women’s hockey.  For McHaffie, these coaches make her want to give back.

“My life would be a lot different if I didn’t have sports, or have the coaches that I did,” McHaffie said. “I’ve always wanted to be able to give that back and help others”.

Last year, Queen’s varsity programs only had two female head coaches — Barz and Brenda Willis of men’s volleyball. The aim of the mentorship program is to enable more females across Canada to pursue coaching positions.

After spending last year as an assistant coach for the women’s hockey team, McHaffie was approached by Holmberg about the internship.


After a five-year playing career, McHaffie (centre) joined the women’s hockey staff last year as an assistant.      Photo supplied by Ian MacAlpine

“Growing up, I always knew I wanted to coach,” she said. “It was really nice of him, and I took on the role and we went from there.”

During McHaffie’s five-year playing career with the Gaels, she was dominant. She finished with 153 career points, just two points shy of the all-time OUA record, leading the Gaels to provincial championships in 2011 and 2013.

McHaffie wants to use the lessons she learned in the locker room as a player to connect with athletes on another level.

“I’ve been there and been in their shoes, and I know what it’s like to balance school, your personal life and hockey,” McHaffie said. “It’s nice that I can bring that to the team, and work one-on-one with some players when they might be struggling with other things”.

While finding opportunities as a female coach can be difficult, McHaffie believes that the growing number of female coaches at the professional level has paved the way for women in sports to garner more respect.

In the eyes of her coaches, McHaffie displayed many qualities, both on and off the ice, that showed that coaching would be a seamless transition.

“You meet her, and you feel a sense of connection right away,” Barz said. “She develops her rapport really easily and finds some common ground to speak with people on and put you at ease quite quickly.”

During her time playing as a Gael, head coach Matt Holmberg considered McHaffie as a coach on the ice.

“She was always well prepared, had a great work ethic and got along with everyone,” he said. “It was like she was another assistant coach out there, with the way she handled herself and how she was a leader.”

Being such a vital part of the program for five years as a player, she was already someone Holmberg wanted to work with.

“We had already planned to have Morgan as part of the staff,” Holmberg said. “It just turned out that Morgan’s association with us was exactly what [the Coaching Association] was looking for, so this just enhanced the experience.”

With one season of experience behind the bench for McHaffie, players and coaches alike have felt her presence and think greatly of it. They hope to have her around for years to come.

“She’s someone who’s been around the Queen’s women’s hockey program for seven years now,” Holmberg said. “She and I have a great relationship, and I know the players enjoy having her around, so I think as long as she is involved, Queen’s women’s hockey is very fortunate.”

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