One thing all five women who serve in assistant general manager roles around the NHL have in common is none saw this opportunity available to them earlier in life.
“I never expected to be an assistant general manager in my wildest dreams,” Meghan Hunter of the Chicago Blackhawks said. “I didn’t necessarily rule it out, but I just didn’t see a path to get there.”
Now, Hunter, New Jersey’s Kate Madigan, Vancouver’s Émilie Castonguay and Cammi Granato and Toronto’s Hayley Wickenheiser have each gotten to this point by taking different paths.
Castonguay in January became the league’s first woman named AGM since Angela Gorgone in 1996-97 when new Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford named her to the post. She spent more than five years as an agent certified by the NHL Players’ Association, most notably representing 2020 No. 1 pick Alexis Lafrenière.
“It’s a different perspective,” she said earlier this month. “It’s different priorities, and it’s a different challenge.”
The all-time leading scorer in women’s international hockey, Granato led the U.S. to gold in Nagano in 1998, the first time women’s hockey was involved in the Olympics. Along with Canada’s Angela James, she was one of the first women inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.
Granato dabbled in broadcasting after hanging up her skates and was hired by the expansion Seattle Kraken as a scout in 2019. She joined Castonguay with the Canucks in February.
“There were times I didn’t think that was an option for women,” Granato said. “It wasn’t something that I thought would happen in my lifetime because I’ve always been the one sort of in that age of ‘the first of things’ and sometimes those things don’t come.”
A finalist for top college player of the year, Hunter moved into coaching women’s hockey at the University of Wisconsin: “I just naturally gravitated into coaching because that’s all I really thought was available at the time.”
Hunter spent time with the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights and Hockey Canada, joined the Blackhawks in an administrative role in 2016 and climbed the ranks in scouting and hockey operations. Chicago promoted her to AGM in June.
“My path’s never been linear,” Hunter said. “I wanted to play in the NHL, so then when I realized that wasn’t a reality, I was like, ‘Wow, if I work in it, that’s pretty cool.’”
An early rival of Granato’s, Wickenheiser is one of the best hockey players Canada has ever produced. She won four consecutive Olympic gold medals from 2002-2014 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019.
After retiring, Wickenheiser went into player development with the Maple Leafs while also working to finish her medical degree at the University of Calgary. She still practices medicine, even after Toronto promoted her from director of player development in early July.
“There’s been a lot of buzz around it,” Wickenheiser said. “Nothing changes in my day to day of what I’ve been doing the last year, year and a half.”
Madigan graduated with accounting degrees from Northeastern University and worked at Deloitte for two years before shifting into hockey.
“She made a transition from Deloitte and public accounting and put herself out there, didn’t take the safe route: put herself out there and people believed in her,” said her father, Jim, who’s now the athletic director at Northeastern. “They put her a position to be successful.”
Named an AGM of the Devils a day after Wickenheiser with the Leafs, Madigan is going into her sixth season in New Jersey after working as executive director of hockey management and operations. She also worked two years in the video/player information operation before being promoted to director of pro scouting operations in 2021.
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