In spring 2013, Jody Katz was named as the new Hockey Operations Leader for the CWHL. Heading into the 2013-14 campaign, she will lend her expertise to the budding league. With a well-rounded background in playing, coaching and administration, Katz has paid her dues in a career that spanned close to fifteen years.
As a player, Katz played at both the Canadian Interuniversity Sport and the NCAA level. She won the 1997 CIAU National Championship with the Concordia Stingers of Montreal. Her head coach at Concordia was the legendary Les Lawton (the first women’s hockey coach to win 500 games). Of note, one of her teammates was future CWHL competitor Delaney Collins.
At the NCAA level, she was part of the inaugural season of the Niagara Purple Eagles in 1999-2000. She would help lead the program to its first (and only) appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four. “I played collegiate hockey at Niagara University for head coach Margot Page (former member of the Canadian National Women’s Team).
Ironically, Katz would cross paths with a future colleague at the 2001 Frozen Four. “Digit Murphy (the Boston Blades coach and GM for 2012-13) was the head coach for the Brown Bears, who also qualified.”
Lindsay Vine, who would play for Brampton in 2012-13, was a teammate of Katz at Niagara. “Vine and I were teammates for three seasons. As part of the senior class, we were ranked Number 2 in the country.”
After her playing career had reached its twilight, Katz would contribute to Niagara add to her educational repertoire. She would graduate from Canisius College in Buffalo, earning a Masters of Sports Administration.
In the inaugural NCAA Division I season for the Robert Morris Colonials (2005-06), Katz served as an interim head coach. Of note, Katz has a Level 4 Coaching Certification with USA Hockey also.
“Coaching was amazing. It is almost better than playing. I consider myself to be technically sound. It was very stimulating, and challenging to make in-game adjustments. I bring a teaching system to playing the game, and I challenged my players to be their best every day.”
Among the players she coached at RMU, her best may have been goaltender Brianne McLaughlin. She was named to the United States Winter Games squad that competed at Vancouver 2010 and was claimed by Brampton in the 2012 CWHL Dispersal Draft.
“She is one of the best goalies in the world. Truly, one of the best character people you will meet in hockey.”
In 2010, Katz would join the CWHL sorority. For the next three seasons, Katz was the architect behind a squad that qualified for three consecutive Clarkson Cup tournaments, including an appearance in the 2012 finals versus the Montreal Stars, respectively. “I felt it was an amazing opportunity, and it was a chance to be closer to home.”
Katz wore many hats with the Brampton Thunder, including general manager, and a stint as coach for part of the 2011-12 campaign. She had replaced head coach Angela James (whom the CWHL scoring title is named after), who departed for personal reasons.
Of note, James was the first Canadian woman (and female visible minority) in the Hockey Hall of Fame. While James did not finish the season with Brampton, Katz admired her presence with the franchise. “Her competitive nature really showed people on the team what it takes to win at the highest level of the game.”
In addition to her role with the CWHL, Katz is the Director of Recruiting along with assistant coach duties for the Brock Badgers in the Ontario University Athletics conference. To show how small the world of women’s hockey can be, the coaching staff of Brock features a familiar face from her Niagara days. “The head coach at Brock was an assistant coach when I was a player at Niagara.”
When news came in the spring of 2012 that Niagara University had folded its women’s hockey program, it was one that brought with it melancholy for Katz. “I think it was disappointing. They had the tools to be a top-ranked program year in and year out. I disagree with the analysis done as to what sports would succeed there in the long term.”
“I cherished the memories and my time playing there. Their presence helped to grow other hockey programs and helped build hockey in nearby regions.”
While Katz moves on to a new (and well-deserved) role as Hockey Operations Leader, she reflects on her role in Brampton with pride. “The biggest thing I wanted to do as a General Manager was for other people in women’s hockey to say that they wanted to emulate what I was doing.”
One of Katz’s greatest accomplishments as a General Manager was her track record of drafting solid players in the CWHL Draft. Although Brampton featured living legends like Lori Dupuis, Jayna Hefford and Cherie Piper, her work evaluating talent paid remarkable dividends.
Superstars she drafted like Vicki Bendus and Bailey Bram represent the future of the Brampton franchise. In addition, she drafted several diamonds in the rough with great character. These include: Dania Simmonds (who never missed a game at Union College), Tara Gray (a two-time NCAA Frozen Four champ), Laura McIntosh (the all-time leading scorer at Ohio State), Charissa Stadnyk (former captain at Princeton), and CIS goaltender Liz Knox (who became the first rookie to start a Clarkson Cup championship game).
“I spent a lot of time evaluating NCAA and CIS talent. Our program had a phenomenal handle on kids coming out of school. We were looking to cater to our needs in the Draft rather than take a stab in the dark on just stats.”
Employing great acumen and maturity, Katz is ready to write the next chapter of her career. She is confident that her superlative leadership in Brampton shall help the CWHL take its next great leap. As she stated in a CWHL press release, “I have absolutely loved helping Brampton build a championship culture as general manager, and am looking forward to applying what I learned while with the team to my new position, in order to help the league continue to develop, grow and become the very best we can be.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”