Something happened during the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony this year that made it unmistakably different from any other time in history. Yes, Brett Hull was inducted, and so was Brian Leetch, but that’s not it.
Give up? Well, what made the induction ceremony so unique was that a woman was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for the first time in the history of the sport.
Cammi Granato became the Hall's first female inductee. Catherine Michelle "Cammi" Granato (born March 25, 1971 in Downers Grove, Illinois) broke through a barrier that caught more than a few off guard.
Granato captained the U.S. Women's Hockey Team that won a gold medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics. She is the younger sister of former NHL player and former Colorado Avalanche head coach Tony Granato, and a graduate of Providence College. Granato played hockey for Concordia University in Montreal until CIAU added more restrictive rules on non-Canadians.
She currently lives in Vancouver, British Columbia and has played in every world championship for the U.S. She's the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. Women's Hockey Team with 343 points in 205 games. In May 2008, Cammi was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame with two other women hockey players (Geraldine Heaney and Angela James)—the first women to be given such an honor.
It is pretty easy to understand why Cammi got involved in hockey rather than figure skating or cheer-leading. She grew up rough housing and skating with her brothers. Her father was a beer distributor who played amateur hockey. Granato had four brothers and one sister. One brother, Tony, played on several teams in the NHL, and went on to coach the Colorado Avalanche. Another brother, Don, played in the minor leagues. Despite their varying levels of skill, all four of her brothers played hockey.
Her parents tried to get her interested in figure skating, but she wanted to play hockey. Her brothers tried to make her play goal, but she was determined to skate with everyone else. Granato began playing hockey when she was five, but her parents did not initially support her wishes until they saw how serious she was about the game. Granato played club hockey from ages five to 16 on a boys team, the Downers Grove Huskies.
Granato encountered some problems as a player, with other teams targeting her for injury. Also, her parents did not want their sons to play against her, especially as she got older.
She was once deliberately given a concussion by a player in a game, and suffered a shoulder injury another time. By the time she reached her full height, she was only 5'7" and 141 lbs. Granato stopped playing for the team during her junior and senior years in high school because of social pressures and fear of injury as the boys became bigger than her.
While hockey was her favorite sport, Granato excelled at others too. She played on a boys baseball team, and at the high school level she had success on the girls basketball and soccer teams. Granato was also a gifted handball player, and although she received national recognition, she remained focused on hockey.
Granato’s parents often had to endure unkind comments regarding their daughter and Tammi had to handle unkind accusations about her femininity. Despite the taunts and negativity, Tammi continued developing her skills in the game she loved. She is married to former NHL player Ray Ferraro and they have a son Riley, who was born in December 2006.
She is also a rink side reporter for NBC's NHL coverage. She was named USA Women's Player of the Year in 1996. She was dropped from the US National team unexpectedly before the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, after being a part of the program since its inaugural season.
Cammi provided support for special needs children by starting the Golden Dreams for Children Foundation. She also runs an annual hockey camp during the summer in Chicago for young girls.
On August 12, 2008, it was announced that Cammi would be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of fame, the first woman to ever be into the Hall. The induction ceremony took place on October 10, 2008 at the University of Denver.
Because of the efforts of Cammi, girls like Brighid Martin (pictured next to Granato) have also started to play and excel on all boys hockey teams. “Brighid is one of the best skaters on our squad,” said Atlanta Junior Knight's Squirt coach J.A. Schneider. The 10-year old Martin is similar to Granato, as she has other interests and has displayed talents as a singer and is talented pianist. This season, Brighid has also shown she can score goals and do work in the corners to retrieve the puck for team.
“I am proud of her and even if she doesn’t’ continue to play the experience will be unforgettable,” said her mother Clare Martin, who serves as an assistant coach at the Marietta Ice Center in Marietta, Georgia.
“Even if there’s no Stanley Cup to compete for, the Olympic gold medals are just as shiny on the women’s side and those trophies at the World Championship feel just as amazing when they’re hoisted over your head," said Ryan Kennedy, columnist for The Hockey News magazine.
One thing is for sure—the game of hockey is exhilarating and exciting, and in today’s world, it makes sense for everyone who wants to play to get a chance. It is, after all, the best game on earth.