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Jul. 22—Having already reached the top of the women's professional hockey world, Salem's Karilyn Pilch is ready to take on the National Hockey League.
Pilch has been hired by the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks as a scout in the player personnel department. Her hiring was announced earlier this month.
"I'm thrilled to be joining the Blackhawks organization," said Pilch. "To join an original six franchise in the NHL is a true honor, and I am very much looking forward to working with and learning from some of the best hockey minds in the industry."
Pilch joins a growing list of female NHL scouts including Cammi Granato (Seattle Kraken), Blake Bolden (LA Kings) and Meghan Hunter (Blackhawks)
The opportunity comes just over three months after Pilch helped lead the Boston Pride to the 2021 National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) championship — known as the Isobel Cup — as the team's general manager.
"We live in the city of champions (Boston), so it was incredible!" said Pilch. "The city of Boston, mayor (Kim) Janey and our other professional sports teams were all great to us. (Boston Bruins president) Cam Neely calling the morning after winning to share a congratulations was a call and memory I won't soon forget."
JOINING THE BLACKHAWKS
A former goalie for the Salem High boys hockey team (class of 2005) — the first female to play varsity hockey for the Blue Devils — and the Boston University women's team, Pilch set a goal of working for an NHL franchise when she moved from coaching to front office work.
"Pursuing a career in hockey has been my goal since I first started coaching in 2009," she said. "At that point, the NHL wasn't on my radar. But as I moved through my MBA (master of business administration) at BU (2017-19), and transitioned to the professional management side of the game, the NHL became my target."
That dream became a reality, in part, due to a few local connections.
A mentor at Boston University passed her name along to current Chicago Blackhawks scout Mike Doneghey, the former Merrimack College goalie (1989-93) and assistant coach (1999-2005). From there, Pilch impressed the Blackhawks, and was hired in early July.
"My job is scouting in player personnel," said Pilch, who plans to continue living in Salem. "We're a small group focused on free agents in the NCAA and CHL (Canadian Hockey League). My major responsibility will be scouting talent and building relationships with players, families, coaches and agents to ensure we find the perfect fit of player for the organization."
Is she worried about being a female scouting men's hockey?
"I grew up playing and working with great men and women in hockey," said Pilch. "I've never seen gender as a factor. I've spent 12 years in hockey, coaching, recruiting, managing, running camps, and everything in between. The scouting and recruitment of NCAA student-athletes is probably the most similar to my current role."
Pilch is now dreaming big about her NHL future.
"Being an NHL general manager is certainly a long term goal," she said. "While I'm looking forward to contributing to the Blackhawks with all I've learned as an NWHL GM, this is an incredible opportunity to learn through an entirely new network as I work to grow in my career."
Pilch served as general manager of the Pride for two seasons (2019-21). In her first, Boston went 23-1 and advanced to the Isobel Cup championship, but the game was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Pride returned to the title game this spring, and beat the Minnesota Whitecaps 4-3.
"I'm, quite honestly, still awestruck over that experience," she said. "Our game was the first women's professional hockey championship to be aired on prime time TV (NBCSN).
"To actually have been a part of it brings me to a loss of words. So much of what our players and staff do is to pave the way for future generations, and this was a crowning moment for all of us. I'm so proud of them."
Pilch's colleagues with the Pride believe she has what it takes to make it in the NHL.
"Karilyn has been an amazing GM for the Boston Pride and was instrumental in the team's success over the past two years," said Pride coach Paul Mara. "We'll all miss her, but wish her all the best in her move to the NHL."
KARILYN PILCH'S HOCKEY RESUME
2001-05 — Goalie, Salem (N.H.) High
2005-07 — Goalie, Boston University (career cut short by car accident)
2009-16 — Assistant coach, Saint Anselm College women's hockey
2016-19 — Director of hockey operations, Boston University women's hockey
2019-21 — General Manager, NWHL's Boston Pride