Two members of Canada’s National Women’s Team, Courtney Birchard-Kessel (Mississauga, Ont./Princeton University, ECAC) and Jenelle Kohanchuk (Winnipeg/Balmoral Hall, JWHL) have officially announced their retirements from international competition to continue in the game in a coaching capacity.
“The commitment to our sport and the way Courtney and Jenelle represented our country throughout their careers is a testament to the type of players and people they are,” said Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams. “They have been part of our program’s growth and success over the years, including coaching in our National Women’s Program. They’re dedicated to mentoring and inspiring other women to reach their goals, both on and off the ice, and we wish them all the best moving forward.”
Birchard-Kessel, 30, made her debut with Canada’s National Women’s Team in 2010. She retires with 48 points in 86 international games.
Internationally, she represented Canada at seven 4 Nations Cups, winning three gold medals (2010, 2013, 2014) and four silver (2011, 2012, 2015, 2016). Birchard-Kessel played in three IIHF Women’s World Championships, winning gold in 2012 and adding a pair of silver medals in 2012 and 2015. In three appearances at the Nations Cup with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team, she collected two gold medals (2008, 2011).
Birchard-Kessel also represented Ontario Red at the 2005 National Women’s Under-18 Championship, winning a gold medal. She added a gold medal with Ontario at the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
“I started playing hockey with a dream to represent my country on the national stage, but it led me to so much more,” said Birchard-Kessel. “Not only did I have the fortune to represent Canada, I got to travel the world while playing the game I loved. It shaped me into the woman I am today and allowed me to meet so many amazing people and experience so many amazing things. I will forever be grateful.”
Kohanchuk, 29, represented Canada on the international stage in 34 games, making her debut with Canada’s National Women’s Team in 2013. She closes her career with five goals and 15 points.
She won back-to-back gold medals at the 4 Nations Cup in 2013 and 2014, and added a silver medal in 2016. Kohanchuk also suited up with Canada’s National Women’s Development Team at the Nations Cup, winning three gold medals (2010, 2011, 2013).
Kohanchuk represented Manitoba at the 2007 National Women’s Under-18 Championship, winning a bronze medal. She added a silver medal with Manitoba at the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
“Hockey helped shape me into the person I am today and it taught me more than life can imagine,” said Kohanchuk. “Starting from the beginning, it showed me what it means when they say ‘fall down seven times, and stand up eight.’ Whether it was learning to skate, getting cut from a hockey team, or losing in the championship, it showed me everything will be better if I get back on my feet and keep moving forward. These values were embedded into me and shaped me in my way of life. I was challenged every day to become better – a better athlete, a better hockey player, and better yet, an even better person.”
“Stepping away from playing hockey is an emotional experience, but I have no regrets and cherished each and every moment during my hockey career. Having the opportunity to wear the Maple Leaf and represent Canada on a national and international stage was an experience of a lifetime. My dream to represent Canada as a little girl came true, and I am beyond thankful to look back and tell my 10-year-old self that I did it.”
Both players have now turned their attention to coaching. Birchard-Kessel helped Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team to gold as an assistant coach at the 2019 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship. She is a second-year assistant coach with Princeton University following one year with the Toronto Furies in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), where she guided the team to the Clarkson Cup semifinals and was a finalist for CWHL Coach of the Year. Birchard-Kessel was also an assistant coach with the Oakville Hornets of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), while Kohanchuk owns a hockey skills and development business, and serves as head skills coach with Balmoral Hall of the Junior Women’s Hockey League (JWHL).