The NHL’s glass ceiling is finally shattering as more women take on front office roles

In Thursday and Friday’s NHL entry draft, there were multiple women on the floor, including five female AGMs.

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MONTREAL — Emilie Castonguay knew she wouldn’t be an anomaly for long.

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The former player agent made history in January when she became the Vancouver Canucks’ first female assistant general manager, and a rare woman working in the NHL’s front office.

“Sometimes there’s just one domino that needs to fall and I think that’s where the glass ceiling was broken,” Castonguay said. “And I knew after that, the floodgates would open.”

She was right.

In Thursday and Friday’s NHL entry draft, there were multiple women on the floor, including five female AGMs.

Assistant General Managers Emilie Castonguay (left) and Cammi Granato of the Vancouver Canucks attend the first round of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at the Bell Center on Thursday in Montreal, Quebec.
Assistant General Managers Emilie Castonguay (left) and Cammi Granato of the Vancouver Canucks attend the first round of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at the Bell Center on Thursday in Montreal, Quebec. Photo by Jeff Vinnick /NHLI via Getty Images

Cammi Granato, who joined the Canucks’ front office in February, sat next to Vancouver general manager Patrik Allvin, discussing the players and, at one point, looking at a photo Allvin’s sons sent of the morning sky. from his home in Sweden. Castonguay sat next to Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford and pored over the team roster.

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At the Toronto Maple Leafs’ table was Hayley Wickenheiser, who was promoted Tuesday to assistant general manager of player development. Meghan Hunter of the Chicago Blackhawks and Kate Madigan of the New Jersey Devils were also in the draft room after being promoted to assistant general manager positions earlier this month.

“There were times when I didn’t think this was an option for women. Growing up, there was no representation, so it wasn’t something I thought would happen in my life,” Granato said.

Granato has long been breaking down barriers for women in hockey.

She captained the US team that beat Canada to gold at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and remains the all-time leading scorer for the US women’s team. She and Canadian Angela James became the first women to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010. She then became the NHL’s first scout when she was signed by the Seattle Kraken.

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“I think the mindset that is changing is that women are qualified,” Granato said. “I think before it was like, ‘Well, women can’t do this job, women aren’t qualified, women don’t know hockey.’ But that’s not true.

Chairman Brendan Shanahan and assistant general manager Hayley Wickenheiser of the Toronto Maple Leafs talk before the first round of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at the Bell Center on Thursday in Montreal.
Chairman Brendan Shanahan and assistant general manager Hayley Wickenheiser of the Toronto Maple Leafs talk before the first round of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at the Bell Center on Thursday in Montreal. Photo by Bruce Bennett /fake images

Front offices aren’t the only area where women enter the NHL.

The Montreal Canadiens recently hired three-time gold medalist Marie-Philip Poulin as a player development consultant and the LA Kings added Canadian Olympian Manon Rheaume as a hockey prospecting and operations advisor. In the American Hockey League, the Coachella Valley Firebirds will have Jessica Campbell behind the dugout as an assistant coach when they begin their inaugural season.

The wave of women filling positions across the league has been building for a long time, Hunter said.

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“You could almost feel it. The timing was so right and it’s so amazing,” she said. “I could see that it was happening, that we started to break down some barriers.

“Women bring diverse opinions to different organizations, so it’s really amazing that we finally have the opportunities.”

Coming out of the University of Wisconsin, the Hunter women work in hockey operations. Instead, she worked behind the bench, even coaching Castonguay at Niagara University.

“Naturally, I focused on coaching women’s hockey and started down that path,” Hunter said. “My path was definitely not linear. I really didn’t know where I was going after my playing career.

“I just did what I enjoyed and worked really hard at it and I’m thankful that these opportunities come at the time that they do.”

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The NHL broke another barrier last week when the San Jose Sharks hired Mike Grier as the league’s first black general manager.

Having more diversity in the front offices is “fabulous,” said Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland, a longtime NHL executive.

“To attract minorities and women to our sport, you think of all the women hockey players on the Canada team, the USA team, little kids.

“So I think it’s great for our league, and I hope it continues more and more.”

People moving into these NHL jobs deserve it not because they check a box, but because they’re talented, Castonguay said.

“I’ve said it from the beginning: For me, it’s just about hiring the right, most competent people, whether they’re men or women,” he said.

“And I feel like that’s what we’re doing. So as long as it follows that trend and we’re doing it for the right reasons, I’m all for it.”

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