For the first time in 19 seasons, Katey Stone is not on Harvard’s bench. She’s not reviewing film in her office.
She’s not recruiting her new class of stellar athletes. Instead, the second-winningest coach in Division I women’s ice hockey history will begin her first stint leading Team USA at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the first woman to head the team.
Stone, who graduated as a four-year letterwinner in hockey and lacrosse from New Hampshire, is no stranger to the Olympic hockey scene. She has coached an astounding 12 Olympians at Harvard and this Olympic team will feature three of her current players from Harvard -- Lyndsey Fry, Michelle Picard and Josephine Pucci -- and one of her former players, Julie Chu.Fry says her coach’s personal contact is different at Team USA than at Harvard, and that she acts more professional.
“She’s doing the same job, though,” Fry said. “She’s coaching the same way. She’s coaching to win.”
Fry's time at Harvard is highlighted by a .690 winning percentage that only hints at Stone’s success. In her 19 seasons thus far, Stone has led the Crimson to nine NCAA tournament appearances, five Frozen Four appearances, three title game appearances, and a national title in 1998-99 -- the same year Team USA last won a gold medal in women’s ice hockey.
After taking over the national program in 2010, Stone has lead Team USA to three top-two finishes in the Four Nations Cup.
To commit to Team USA full time, Stone is in the midst of a year-long leave from Harvard. That ends in April. In her absence, she has maintained little contact with the school and her players, checking in only with interim head coach Maura Crowell.
Stone has not allowed the focus to be taken off the Crimson in the Olympic year, emphasizing “it’s their time, their staff, their team.”
She has, however, enjoyed the perks of stepping away from college hockey for the year:
“It’s been so awesome to give these girls the opportunity [without recruiting them.] Anyone involved in the NCAA knows the struggles, but here, there’s no obstacles. I don’t have to worry about competition, financial aid, academics, budgeting. I get to focus on coaching. I’ve become a better coach.”
But whether she’s playing Cornell or Canada, Stone plans to approach the games the same way -- keep trying to be one goal better than your opponent. While most would see the competition as very different, Stone insists, “The blood flows the same way. You get just as fired up, trust me.”
“It’s not a job,” Stone said of coaching Team USA, “it’s a joy.”