As we celebrate National Coaches Week, we checked in with hockey coach Kori Cheverie, whose star continues to rise after leading Team Nova Scotia’s female hockey team to history at the PEI 2023 Canada Winter Games.
Cheverie’s team returned from the Island with a silver medal and Nova Scotia’s best-ever finish in female hockey at a Canada Games. The previous best? A 2003 squad that finished fifth with Cheverie on the roster.
“I still had that feeling of unfinished business,” she said. “The competitive side of me was like, ‘I want to finish better than fifth. If I did it as a player, as a coach, I want to do better than that.’”
After competing at the Bathurst - Campbellton 2003 Canada Winter Games, Cheverie went on to play for the Saint Mary’s University Huskies in Halifax, where she won multiple awards, before playing six seasons in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League for Toronto.
Cheverie’s coaching career developed alongside her playing career, setting her up to become the first woman to earn a full-time coaching position in U SPORTS men’s ice hockey when she joined the Toronto Metropolitan University staff as an assistant coach from 2016-2021.
She later became the first woman behind the bench as an assistant coach with Canada’s U18 men’s national team program in 2022. She was also previously named a guest coach for the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins this upcoming season, where she will have the chance to work with fellow 2003 Canada Games alum and Nova Scotian, Sidney Crosby.
Her coaching career is also well established within the women’s game. A native of New Glasgow, Cheverie was recently named the first head coach of Montreal’s team in the new Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), with the inaugural season set to launch in January 2024. She was also an assistant coach with the senior women’s national team, helping to coach Team Canada to Olympic gold in 2022 and world championship titles in 2021 and 2022. She is also the head coach of the national women’s development team.
Despite her busy schedule, Cheverie said she feels lucky.
“I get to work full-time in hockey, and I think that that’s something that not many can say that they do,” she said. “That they were able to continue on in the sport that they love and make a full-time career out of it.”
In terms of her role with Team Nova Scotia in PEI, it was an opportunity that arose in the fall of 2022 - just months before the Games were set to begin. Another coach, who had been named two years prior and had since chosen the roster, had to back out due to scheduling conflicts, and that’s when Hockey Nova Scotia asked Cheverie.
“When it comes to your province, and something that you’ve actually personally experienced before as an athlete, it was really a no brainer,” she said. “One of my mentors, a couple of years ago, said to me, ‘if you ever get the opportunity to coach at Canada Games, do it.”
Coming from Canadian hockey coaching legend Mel Davidson, who coached Team Alberta at the Canada Games in the 1990s, Cheverie heeded her words and wholeheartedly committed to the new role, even signing her mom up as the team’s new manager. She said she tried to bring a new energy to the group, treating them like professionals and the high profile athletes that they were.
“We tried to instill in them that belief that they are enough, and they are the athletes that everybody's looking to, and they are the role models that are important here,” Cheverie said. “A big part of it was just that internal feeling - that this is a pro stage, you are important, and we're going to try to do something special.”
Cheverie and her mom organized team fundraisers to ensure the new philosophy could become a reality, so that at training camps, the athletes only had to worry about hockey. The raised money ensured the dressing room was fully stocked, to remove any barriers and distractions from outside the sport.
The coach also worked with local kids teams to start putting her athletes in the spotlight before the Games. The younger hockey players got to participate in warmup with Team Nova Scotia, and the provincial team athletes started doing autograph signings after games and practices.
At the Games, Team Nova Scotia finished second in their pool with a 2-1 record, beating Alberta and Manitoba, but losing 6-0 to Ontario. A thrilling 3-2 comeback win in overtime against Saskatchewan in the quarterfinal meant the team would undoubtedly make history by surpassing Cheverie’s 2003 squad’s fifth place finish, and started growing the hype surrounding Team Nova Scotia.
When the semifinal took place the following day, Team NS faced off against the same Ontario team that had shut them out in the opening round. Going down 2-0, as they had against Saskatchewan, was less than ideal, but Cheverie felt they had the crowd in Charlottetown on their side.
“The entire rink was packed,” she said. “At that moment, it wasn’t just for Nova Scotia; it was for all the maritime provinces.”
A viral video provided evidence of that East Coast camaraderie. After Cheverie’s team came back to win 3-2, Team Newfoundland and Labrador, who had wrapped up their tournament in ninth place the day before, was waiting in the tunnel to celebrate with Team Nova Scotia as they left the ice, destined for a medal.
The Cinderella story was stopped short by a BC team that went undefeated at the Games, but a silver medal solidified this team from Nova Scotia’s place in history, as the best-ever finish for the province in female hockey at a Canada Games.
But “really good, for a team from Nova Scotia,” is not a caveat Cheverie has in her vocabulary. She’s confident the province has the talent to be a consistent contender on the national stage, and only has one goal in mind for her home province at the Québec 2027 Canada Winter Games:
“First! I’ve seen some of the players who are in line for that 2027 team. As long as those athletes believe in themselves, be good people, be good teammates, and hone their craft … I think our province will be in a good spot.”