Hockey Hall of Famer Cammi Granato has had NHL opportunities, but it wasn’t until Seattle’s new franchise offered her a professional scouting job that she took her latest pioneering step within the sport.
Granato, 48, was among five pro scouts announced by NHL Seattle on Wednesday and becomes the first woman to hold such a job. But she’s used to being a hockey first, having become the first woman enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2010. That followed an illustrious career highlighted by captaining the United States to an upset win over Canada in the inaugural women’s Olympic gold medal game in Nagano, Japan, in 1998.
“It’s an honor — especially if that changes the way other organizations think or that changes the way young girls think about positions they can take in hockey if they’ve been around the games all of their lives,” Granato said. “It just kind of opens up that door. So I feel pretty humbled to have that role.”
Deborah Wright in 1992 became the NHL’s first female scout when the San Jose Sharks hired her part-time to monitor amateur players. Angela Gorgone then became the first woman to serve as an NHL scouting coordinator in 1993 with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
Haley Wickenheiser was hired last year as an assistant director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who also added Noelle Needham as an amateur scout.
Joining Granato with Seattle will be former NHL mainstays Ulf Samuelsson and Stu Barnes, ex-Carolina Hurricanes scout Dave Hunter and longtime Ontario Hockey League (OHL) coach John Goodwin.
Granato will be based in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she currently resides. She played college hockey at Providence College in Rhode Island and Concordia University in Montreal — being named the top U.S. female player while attending graduate school at the latter in 1996.
She also earned silver at the 2002 Winter Olympics and became a commentator for NBC’s NHL coverage and women’s Olympic hockey coverage. She is the younger sister of former NHL player Tony Granato and is married to television commentator Ray Ferraro, who teamed with NHL Seattle general manager Ron Francis in Hartford.
“She may have the best resume of the entire group that we hired,” Francis said Wednesday. “She’s been to an Olympics, she’s won a gold medal and a silver medal. She was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010. Her husband is Ray Ferraro, one of the top analysts in Canada.”
Granato’s family was close to that of new NHL Seattle assistant GM Ricky Olczyk. While playing in college, they’d drive down together to school from their Chicago area homes; Olczyk to Brown University and Granato to nearby Providence.
“We played summer league hockey together and we were teammates,” Olczyk said. “I was a defenseman and would move the puck up to her and she would go around everybody. She was one of our leading scorers with all the guys.”
Granato left broadcasting to raise her two sons, Riley and Reese. Now, with both aged 12 and 9, respectively, a job based out of Vancouver with limited travel makes more sense.
“Jobs came around as I got a little bit older that I felt like there would be too much travel,” she said. “So I turned them down but I knew that eventually I’d want to get involved. And then Ron (Francis) reached out to me a little more than a month ago and offered me this position and it was an amazing fit.”
The four other scouts hired will also be based in their current hometowns.
Samuelsson, 55, teamed with Francis in Hartford and in Pittsburgh — where they won two Stanley Cup titles — and served under him as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes’ American Hockey League affiliate. Samuelsson, who will be based out of San Diego, also served as assistant coach of three NHL teams, most recently the Chicago Blackhawks.
His hiring had long been expected given his closeness to Francis. The Swedish-born defenseman was regarded as one of the NHL’s dirtiest players — blamed for shortening the career of Boston Bruins star Cam Neely with a 1991 hit — though also as someone who changed perceptions about how Europeans could play the game as ruggedly as North Americans.
Barnes, 48, will be based in Dallas, where he played and worked as an assistant coach with the Stars. He teamed with Francis in Pittsburgh during a career that included stops in Winnipeg, Florida and Buffalo.
Hunter, 54, who will be based in Boston, was a pro and amateur scout for the Hurricanes when Francis was in the front office there.
Goodwin, who turned 58 on Wednesday, was a coach of the OHL Oshawa Generals and will be based in Toronto. As a junior player with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 1980-81, he led the league in scoring the same season rookie Francis joined the squad.