Glance around the Vancouver Canucks press box on a frequent basis and one might notice a Hall of Famer in their midst. Or they might not. It’s definitely not obvious, particularly with everyone wearing masks, but there is one sitting there. It’s not a media honouree but an actual inductee, overlooked by even the most seasoned attendees, which is understandable, considering her presence there is almost as new as the franchise she works for.
It’s none other than hockey trailblazer and NHL pro scout Cammi Granato, a villain in the eyes of Canadian fans in the early days of women’s hockey at the Winter Olympics. The first woman to be hired in such a position, she works for the Seattle Kraken under General Manager Ron Francis and Director of Pro Scouting Dave Baseggio.
A 2010 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, Granato helped the USA win a Gold Medal in 1998, the first time women’s teams participated, and a Silver in 2002. Last week she was named to the 18-member Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee, a milestone announced the day after we spoke.
Humility and keeping the secret for the Hall to announce were the two reasons Granato didn’t let on. Nor would I expect her too. She joins a distinguished list of those selecting the future honourees. In the meantime her own enshrinement remains an incredible memory. She and Canadian player Angela James were the first women to break through.
“That experience is just etched in my brain, it was such a wonderful experience and such a big honour obviously to be in,” Granato said. “Just that whole weekend there with my whole family, a lot of my teammates, kind of getting to re-live your entire career is really fun, you even get to re-live how it started. Then you’re in a room with all of these incredible hockey people and it’s just so memorable.”
It also brought with it some level of pressure. Even the most savvy of stars, familiar with the limelight, find themselves getting a bit worked up about the big speech.
“That was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been to speak, and I had done a lot of public speaking with the Olympics, but that one was really important,” Granato added. “I needed to represent properly and get across … I was definitely most nervous for that speech, but it was cool.”
Seeing Granato around a rink in Vancouver, even the big rink, should come as no surprise. The North Vancouver resident used to skate and play with the Canucks Alumni on occasion, but motherhood – she has two teenage children with her husband and former NHL’er Ray Ferraro – squashed her time on ice. She first got together with that group while playing in charity games.
“When my kids were little, the last thing you wanted to do was go to the rink after 8 o’clock, you just wanted to go to bed,” Granato said with a laugh. Their first son was born in 2006, their second son three years later.
Commuting to Rogers Arena is somewhat refreshing these days as Granato gets to actually work alongside other human beings. In preparation for the Kraken’s inaugural season her first two years on the job involved watching games on video or sitting in NHL “bubbles” without crowds. The timing worked out.
“In talking to scouts, year three is usually the year you get more comfortable, and I can see that,” she says. “I know more from the players standpoint, I know the league a little bit better as far as the players and who they are, and what their tendencies are. From there you also learn more about how you can develop your reports and overall you can work on your input.”
Granato says she gets great communication and feedback from her superiors and that the experience has been very good.
That adjective would be an understatement when describing Granato as a player. Also a US Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, the first female to receive that distinction in 2008, an International Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, again, the first, with two other women in 2008, and a recipient of the US’s Lester Patrick Award for distinguished service to hockey, Granato remains the all-time leading scorer in USA Women’s hockey.
Somehow, after 186 goals and 343 points for the program, and helping the team win the 2005 World Championship Gold Medal, she was cut from the US Olympic team for Torino, Italy in 2006. Karma can be a bear, the US lost their semi-final game to Sweden that year and ended up with bronze. Granato ended up working on the NBC Sports hockey crew with her hubby and yours truly. I recall her being quietly upset about the snub while her husband was vocal in his support for her, as he should be.
Granato, the younger sister of longtime NHL’er and current University of Wisconsin Men’s coach Tony, and current Buffalo Sabres Head Coach Don, briefly continued a pro women’s career in the early 2000’s, playing a season for the British Columbia Breakers of the NWHL after earlier playing for the Vancouver Griffins from 2001 to 2003.