In the world of professional sports, the role of Assistant General Manager (AGM) has historically been dominated by men. However, a remarkable shift is underway in the NHL, with five women currently breaking barriers as they serve in AGM roles across the league. What unites these trailblazing women is not only their shared passion for hockey but also the fact that they never envisioned such an opportunity earlier in their lives.
Meghan Hunter of the Chicago Blackhawks candidly shared, “I never expected to be an Assistant General Manager in my wildest dreams.” Her sentiment resonates with her fellow female AGMs, as they, too, never saw a clear path to reach such heights in the hockey world. Their journeys to these esteemed positions have been diverse and inspiring.
Émilie Castonguay: A Trailblazer
In January, Émilie Castonguay achieved a historic milestone by becoming the NHL’s first female AGM since Angela Gorgone in 1996-97. Her appointment came as the new Canucks President of Hockey Operations, Jim Rutherford, recognized her immense talent and experience. Castonguay had spent over five years as an agent certified by the NHL Players’ Association, where she notably represented 2020 No. 1 pick, Alexis Lafrenière.
Transitioning from player representation to an AGM role presented Castonguay with a unique perspective, distinct priorities, and fresh challenges. Her groundbreaking role is a testament to the changing landscape of hockey management.
Cammi Granato: A Hockey Icon
Cammi Granato is a name synonymous with women’s hockey excellence. As the all-time leading scorer in women’s international hockey, she captained the U.S. to gold in the inaugural women’s hockey Olympic event in Nagano in 1998. In 2010, she and Canada’s Angela James became the first woman to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
After her illustrious playing career, Granato briefly explored broadcasting before joining the Seattle Kraken as a scout in 2019. Her journey continued as she joined Castonguay with the Canucks in February. Reflecting on her remarkable career, Granato said, “There were times I didn’t think that this kind of opportunity was available for women, but I’ve always been one of the ‘firsts,’ and sometimes those things don’t happen in one’s lifetime.”
Meghan Hunter: A Non-Linear Path
Meghan Hunter, a finalist for top college player of the year, initially pursued coaching in women’s hockey at the University of Wisconsin. She recalled, “I just naturally gravitated into coaching because that’s all I really thought was out there at the time.” However, Hunter’s path was far from linear. She gained experience with the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights and Hockey Canada before joining the Blackhawks in an administrative role in 2016.
Her determination and commitment led her to climb the ranks in scouting and hockey operations, eventually culminating in her promotion to AGM with the Blackhawks in June. Hunter’s story serves as a testament to the value of perseverance and adapting to changing circumstances.
Hayley Wickenheiser: A Legend’s Transition
Hayley Wickenheiser, an early rival of Granato’s, is one of Canada’s most celebrated hockey players. She boasts four consecutive Olympic gold medals from 2002-2014 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019. After retiring from professional play, Wickenheiser entered player development with the Maple Leafs while also pursuing her medical degree at the University of Calgary.
Despite her remarkable achievements, Wickenheiser remains grounded. She still practices medicine while continuing her work in hockey, even after Toronto promoted her from Director of Player Development in early July. For Wickenheiser, it’s business as usual, as she humbly stated, “Nothing changes in my day-to-day of what I’ve been doing the past year and a half.”
Kate Madigan: A Transition from Accounting to Hockey
Kate Madigan’s journey to becoming an AGM is a testament to taking risks and pursuing one’s passion. After graduating with accounting degrees from Northeastern University, she worked at Deloitte for two years. However, her love for hockey led her to make a significant career change.
“She made a transition from Deloitte and public accounting and put herself out there, didn’t take the safe route,” shared her father, Jim, who currently serves as the athletic director at Northeastern University. Madigan’s willingness to take risks paid off, as she earned her place as an AGM with the New Jersey Devils. Her journey involved roles in hockey administration and operations before her promotion to Director of Pro Scouting Operations in 2021.
In conclusion, the presence of five women as Assistant General Managers in the NHL is a testament to their unwavering dedication to hockey and their determination to overcome barriers. Their journeys, though unique, share common themes of breaking stereotypes, embracing change, and excelling in male-dominated roles. These trailblazing women continue to inspire not only aspiring female hockey executives but also the entire sports industry as they redefine what is possible in the world of professional hockey.