International Ice Hockey Federation

Granato’s golden legacy

Granato’s golden legacy

U.S. legend discusses state of women’s hockey

Published 28.03.2016 07:33 GMT-7 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Granato’s golden legacy
Cammi Granato, America's all-time leading scorer, made history in 2008 as one of the first women inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame. Photo: Matthew Manor / HHOF-IIHF Images
Before there was Hilary Knight, there was Cammi Granato. In her 15-year IIHF career from 1990 to 2005, she was the face of USA Hockey.

The Chicago-born forward retired as the all-time leader scorer in international women’s hockey, after winning the inaugural Olympic gold medal in Nagano in 1998 and leading the Americans to their first-ever Women’s Worlds title in 2005. Granato was a three-time tournament all-star (1992, 1997, 2002). All in all, the longtime American captain racked up two gold medals and nine silver medals in IIHF competition.

In 2008, she and former Canadian rivals Angela James and Geraldine Heaney became the first women inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame. Granato and James were also the first women to make the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.

Today, she resides in Vancouver with her husband, former NHLer and current TSN commentator Ray Ferraro, and their children. caught up with Granato during a Florida vacation and got her thoughts on the past, present, and future of women’s hockey.

On how much contact she has with the sport these days

I can’t be as involved as I wish I could. I could be more involved if I wanted to fly everywhere, but I gave up a lot as far as family life when I played. Now I’m just really happy doing what I’m doing, raising my kids. I choose to not be too busy. Otherwise, I would be more involved if I felt differently. But they’re my number one priority. So it’s kept me away from being more involved in the sport, which is hard.

But I did coach my first hockey team this year, which was a lot of fun. I had no expectations. I was excited but wondered if I could handle the commitment. I loved every minute of it. My son Riley was at Hollyburn in West Vancouver. It was a lot of fun with a bunch of seven- or eight-year-old boys. Ray helped out when he was home too.

On her memories of winning Olympic gold in Nagano

It’s one of those memories that doesn’t go away. I can put myself back there at any moment – any part of the game or any part afterwards. I’d always thought about winning. I watched the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team and thought about what it would be like to win. It was always the celebration. I thought, ‘I want to know what that feels like, to have that exhilaration and be so on top of the world after winning.’ I’d always focused on the feeling. Getting to jump into the pile and winning, that was what I always dreamed about.

But I never thought about the medal. I’d never thought about what it would be like to see or have a medal. When I saw the tray of medals coming, I almost couldn’t breathe. I totally had forgotten that we were actually getting this medal, having this symbol of what we just won. I just didn’t think of it. When it got hung around my neck, it was a really special, special moment. The weight of the medal, when it hits your chest, it’s emotion. The emotion, you just can’t believe it. I tried not to sob, but I wanted to just break down because it was so overwhelming and exciting. Then getting to show it to my parents, to me, that was a really neat moment. I’d never thought about that moment either.

On how the Canada-U.S. rivalry was when she played

There was definitely a dislike for each other. When we were younger, we didn’t really know how to handle that. I don’t think the teams knew how to handle it that well off the ice. Say we were going to get on an elevator and the door opened and there were six Canadian girls there. We’d just stand there and let it pass. We wouldn’t get on. You weren’t really allowed to say anything to anybody. We were a team and they were a team, and we were separate. There were a lot of glares. We did not like each other.

Yet as time went on, we realized, “We are after the same thing here.” Respect grew over the years. I think we learned that it was on the ice, and when we left the ice, that’s where we left it.

On specific Canadian foes that she came to appreciate as people off the ice

Hayley Wickenheiser and I were pretty good rivals. Same with Cassie Campbell. I got to know them later and it was totally different.

Angela James was the one person I was intimidated by when I played against her. She was a huge rival. She was fierce. But since we got inducted together in the Hall of Fame, I’ve really come to admire her and like her as a person off the ice. And I never would have known that, because she was such a competitor on the ice. You never liked playing against her or wanted her to have the puck. But I kept seeing her through the Hall of Fame stuff, and she’s just a great person. It’s been really cool to see the growth there. Her personality on her ice was her persona. That’s how she played. Off the ice, she was really relaxed and easy-going, a fun person to be around.

On the different styles of the North American superpowers today

From what I can see, the U.S. has a lot of speed, and going north-south and getting the job done is how Canada plays. It almost stays the same along the national lines with the men and the women. The Canadians are gamers. They know how to rise in big games.

Typically with the U.S., you have a lot of great skill and finesse. This team in particular, watching them over the last few years, is really built on speed.

On whether bodychecking (currently outlawed) has a place in women’s hockey

No. I say that even though I was quite excited that they had checking in 1990. Just the year before that I’d stopped playing with the boys, and I had been checking since I was a pee-wee. I was pretty excited for it. And then I ran into a couple of girls on Team Switzerland and it was like hitting a brick wall. I said: “Whoa! I don’t know if checking is part of my game anymore.” Not that it was ever. But we had a couple of pretty good injuries because of the size and strength differences between some of the women. Some were so big. There were girls who were 5-10 or 5-11 and 190 pounds and then there were girls who were 5-4 and 125 pounds. It didn’t fit the game.

A lot of hockey people say that what they like about the women’s game is that the no-bodychecking rule allows for the real, pure part of the game to shine. That’s a big part of our game. I think checking would take that away.


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