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PWHL Minnesota weathers coaching change ahead of inaugural season

Ken Klee previously coached the U.S. women's national hockey team, including to the 2015 IIHF world championship title. (Claudio Bresciani/AFP via Getty Images)

Minnesota’s PWHL team will enter the inaugural season with a new head coach after Charlie Burggraf stepped down from the post. With less than a week before the puck drops on the new professional league, former NHL defensemen and U.S. women’s national team coach Ken Klee has taken over the role.

General manager Natalie Darwitz said that Burggraf told her on Tuesday that he would be stepping away from the job. He cited the decision as the right move for himself and his family.

“We thank Charlie Burggraf for all he did for our franchise, and we wish him only the best in the future,” Darwitz said. “Ken Klee brings a proven record of success to our coaching staff, and we are extremely pleased — for our players, our fans and our organization — that he has joined us.”

Klee was hired “within hours,” according to the Star Tribune. He previously coached PWHL Minnesota players Kendall Coyne, Lee Stecklein, Nicole Hensley and Kelly Pannek with the USWNT.

The former NHLer had been a finalist for the job in the initial search, but at the time Darwitz opted to hire her former Gophers assistant coach. But the familiarity with Klee helped to make the decision easy on Tuesday to offer him the job.

“I went through the interview process, but at the time it wasn’t meant to be,” Klee said. “Now it’s a little later and the time is right. I’m excited. I think super highly of these players.”

The PWHL begins its first season next week with six inaugural franchises. Minnesota will open its season on Jan. 3 in Boston.