Five women in NHL assistant GM jobs, different paths to historic opportunities

Émilie Castonguay Vancouver Canucks AGM

By STEPHEN WHYNO Associated Press

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.”


Cammi Granato Vancouver Canucks AGM

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.”


Meghan Hunter Chicago Blackhawks AGM

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.’”


Hayley Wickenheiser Toronto Maple Leafs AGM

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.”


Kate Madigan New Jersey Devils AGM

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.


One Time Canuck Igor Larionov Gives Interview On New Role As Head Coach of the Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo In 2022-2023 In The KHL.

In Nizhny Novgorod, the team board and new head coach Igor Larionov talked about the new season and the preparation for the upcoming 2022-2023 campaign.

According to the team’s General Director Alexander Kharlamov, all teams in the club’s vertical are preparing for the new season according to plan: The guys are out of vacation, so we can call the season open. The main team began training, Chaika is working on the training camp, and the guys from the sports school began their classes. Everything is going according to our plan.

Torpedo changed coach this offseason, when David Nemirovsky left the team’s bench to be replaced by the famed Igor Larionov. The Professor talked about the condition of the players: “I won’t say that everyone came in bad shape, but not in the best condition. We have time to improve some things and make them better. We want to bring some good, interesting hockey to the team, and we want the players to understand the principle. To go further step by step, without referring to any circumstances — neither on a small budget, nor on heavy loads, nor on anything else.”

Larionov also noted that it’s important for players to understand which club they represent: Me [and the coaching staff] came to a team with a rich and deep history. For guys who are new to the team and don’t know where they came to, we put up 25 pictures of former players and coaches in our locker room. When you come to the team, you don’t have to think about what name is written on your back. It’s important that they understand where they came. It’s a very important nuance to connect the team to the city so that the players exactly understand where they are. Nizhny Novgorod is a hockey town with a rich history. We need to pull ourselves together for success.”

The coach talked about what motivated him to accept the offer from Torpedo: “I’m interested in a project where I can prove myself. All the more, I have roots in this region. My mom was born here in the village of Gorelovo, Borsky District. The financial issue for me is always in fifth or sixth place. It is important that I had enough freedom for creativity. To win something, you need to understand where you can apply your experience so that it would be useful. And in the conditions that we have. I have already explained to the players — we aren’t going to buy here, we want to develop. It’s always easier to buy than to grow. We forget that we have Russian talent that can become good players. That’s the number one challenge for us. If we raise four or five players that few people knew today to the next level — that will be our biggest success.”

Speaking about the style of play he would like to see the team play, he stressed: We want to play some exciting hockey, which should be fun to play. And the creativity, the hockey intelligence and the physical condition of the players have to be at the highest level to bring it all out. Not only do you have to run fast with your feet, but you also have to have balance with your hands and head. We must have four units that can attack. Last season, eight players scored 14 goals. That’s not good for anything. Our job is to give the guys confidence that they can play. If everybody is 10-15% better than they are now, it will be a big result. Our game will be aimed at attacking. We are not interested in playing for a 1-0 result. We want to score a lot in every game. That is what our trainings are already aimed at. In the KHL we can be guided by Metallurg. We want to play some combinational, ‘creative’ hockey.”

The Professor noted that for him and his coaching staff the team is important: “We don’t rush anywhere and that’s how we’ll build the team. It takes 12 hours to build a Toyota, and it takes six months to build a Rolls-Royce. So, there’s no need to force anything. We will examine step by step every young player under the microscope and correct those nuances that are necessary. As for the coaching staff, I’m not afraid to say that Andrey Kozyrev is one of the most promising professionals who is deeply involved in the game and understands what we want to do. Mikhail Vasilyev has a lot of experience not only in Russia, but also in Europe. And Nikolai Khabibulin is a legendary character who can pass his experience to our goalies. The coaching staff consists of people who are ready to give an opportunity to our players to move forward not only in the game, but also in life. The coaches are open to communication around the clock. Both with the players, the fans, and the press. Soon we will go to the training camp in our region. The doors will be open for everyone there so everyone can come and look at their favorite team.”

The coach concluded by stressing the importance of an individual approach to each player: There will be no sprints this season, there will be a marathon. That’s why we have to reconsider a lot of things in terms of preparation. Training, daily regime, meals… It’s very important to eat right and take a rest. Twelve games in twenty-four days in September is a serious load. To make sure we won’t fall into a hole, to make sure the players are good in every game, we will monitor everyone every day.”

Main photo credits: HC Torpedo