Defender Courtney Birchard, who spent a decade anchoring the blueline of Team Canada, today announced her retirement from pro hockey, officially making the transition into coaching a full-time endeavour.
Birchard, a Toronto native who played with New Hampshire in the NCAA, started her pro career with the Brampton Thunder in the CWHL, spending five seasons between 2011 and 2017, with a stop in the Alberta Midget men’s league in 2013-14. Birchard spent her final pro season in Europe, splitting the 2017-18 season between Ice Dream Košice of the Slovak League and Linköping of the Swedish League. Birchard then turned her focus to coaching, spending the 2018-19 season as head coach of the Toronto Furies in the CWHL before the league folded, shifting back to the NCAA for the 2019-20 season as an assistant coach at Princeton.
Birchard, who debuted with Team Canada in 2010, played at three World Championships and seven Four Nations Cups over the course of 64 international games, winning World Championship Gold in 2012 and a pair of Silvers (2013, 2015), along with three Nations Cup Golds (2010, 2013, 2014) and four Silvers (2011, 2012, 2015, 2016), with the 2016 Four Nations Cup serving as her final appearance. In those 64 games, Birchard notched 29 points before shifting her focus to coaching internationally as well, working behind the bench as an assistant to guide Canada’s Under-18 team to Gold in 2019.
Birchard’s retirement announcement also came on the same day as fellow teammate Jenelle Kohanchuk, who spent only 15 games on Team Canada, winning Four Nations Gold in 2013 and 2014, as well as silver in 2016. Kohanchuk, a 2014 Clarkson Cup champion with the Toronto Furies, spent four seasons pro following her NCAA career at Boston University. She too is shifting her focus to coaching, running both a coaching business and working with Balmoral Hall of the Junior Women’s Hockey League.
Over the course of her career, Birchard captured the IHLC on seven separate occasions, the first in the 2010 Four Nations Cup final, and the final at the opening of the same Cup six years later. We wish Courtney and her family the very best for her retirement and the things to come!