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Brianna Decker Talks Next Step of Her Career, Unified PHF-PWHPA League



Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

As part of the San Jose Sharks’ Women of Teal festivities last Saturday, recently-retired Olympic and NWHL champion Brianna Decker reflected on her playing career and transition to coaching.

During her illustrious international career with the United States, Decker won an Olympic gold medal in 2018, two silver medals, and six World Championships. In her professional career, she won the National Women’s Hockey League (later renamed the Premier Hockey Federation) Most Valuable Player award twice and led the Pride to a league championship in 2015-16.

The 31-year-old forward announced her retirement last Thursday. In her final game against Finland in last year’s Olympics, Decker suffered torn ankle ligaments and a broken left fibula.

“Now I’m back at Shattuck-St. Mary’s coaching,” Decker told San Jose Hockey Now. “I’m going to pursue that path right now. I obviously miss playing quite a bit, and it’s been a bit of and adjustment, but I’m finding that same passion coaching as I did when I was playing.” She currently serves as the associate head coach and special adviser for the women’s prep school team.

Women of Teal is an annual San Jose Sharks event that kicks off Gender Equality Month in San Jose. As part of the celebration, Decker coached two girls hockey clinics for aspiring young talent in the Bay Area.

She also helped with the ceremonial puck drop ahead of the San Jose Sharks taking on the Washington Capitals.

It was not Brianna Decker’s first time on the ice in San Jose. At the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at SAP Center, she joined fellow Olympians Kendall Coyne Schofield, Rebecca Johnston, and Renata Fast to help introduce the different events. Her unofficial time of 1:06 in the Skills’ passing drill beat the eight male All-Stars’ times.

“I think that might have been a once in a lifetime thing,” Decker laughed.  “Just happened to be at the right time.”

Currently, Decker also serves as a team and player development adviser for the PHF. She made headlines upon taking that position last September, as one of the first high-profile players to leave the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association in favor of joining the PHF. Many top women’s hockey players had been previously boycotting the PHF/NWHL.

“I really enjoy it. I think it’s an important role as far as allowing the players to have comfort and coming to me for a lot of different things. When they’re not happy with coaches, management, when travel or facilities are a struggle,” she said of her job. “I’m glad that I can be a resource for them to go to [PHF Commissioner] Reagan Carey about things.”

Many, including Decker, want the PHF and PWHPA to unify and form one league.

“Go back to what I probably have been saying the last five, six years.” said Decker. “We need to have one league in order for this thing to work. The PHF is doing a great job. I think it’s come miles and miles compared to how they were, when they were the NWHL and when I was playing for them.”

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On the PHF, Decker continued: “They’re organized. They’re working on things every single day. They’re driven. Having Reagan Carey in there, it’s been a lot different. At the end of the day, we’ve got to have players all in one league in order for this to work, making it easier for fans and people who are supporting us.”

Now in a different stage, Decker has been overwhelmed by the support that she’s received from those impacted by her decorated playing career. “When I was on my journey, playing, you don’t realize how much of an impact you have on fans, different coaches, players, teammates. Now that I announced my retirement, it was an unbelievable amount of love and support that I got. The messages were incredible.”

However, Brianna Decker is eager to see what the next phase of her career has in store. “I’m making the right decision for myself, even though it was tough. I was really happy to see the impact that I had on my peers, coaches, and fans, because they impacted me throughout my career.”

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