The month of March is known to be International Women’s History Month. Last year, Last Word On Hockey published a piece pointing out the lack of diversity in the NHL. To say that the gender gap was disappointing is an understatement. However, the Vancouver Canucks and the National Hockey League have come a long way since last March and, even though it can be better, things are improving.
Women In The NHL: How The Vancouver Canucks Decreased Their Gender Gap In A Year
The NHL is obviously known for its lack of diversity. Throughout the last few years, they’ve been trying to create a more friendly and inclusive environment but there’s a long road ahead of them. So far, what is seen from the league itself is performative activism and not a lot of change. However, that can’t be said about all 32 teams.
The Seattle Kraken was barely even born in the last season and they already had a smaller gender gap than centenary teams. They started off by hiring Hockey Hall of Famer Cammi Granato as one of their pro scouts. She was the first-ever woman to hold the position in the NHL. Their director of hockey strategy and research is also a woman, Alexandra Mandrycky, hired even before a general manager was named. And since joining the league, the Kraken has been working towards making hockey more accessible and inclusive for everyone.
Nevertheless, even though not many teams have followed the lead on this, this season has been full of good news for women in hockey.
The Émilie Castonguay And Cammi Granato Hires By The Canucks
The Canucks were in desperate need of changes for a few years. Their former general manager, Jim Benning, was one of the reasons the team was sinking so deep and so fast in the standings. After a disastrous 2020-21 season and a terrible start for their 21-22 season, changes were finally made. They fired their entire front office as well as former head coach Travis Green. This is old news for some, but it’s a big part of what comes next so stick with it.
Vancouver named Bruce Boudreau their head coach only a couple of days after the almost complete cleanse. However, they took their time to rebuild their front office, interviewing multiple candidates for the jobs. That’s where things get interesting.
On January 24, the Vancouver Canucks announced Émilie Castonguay as their Assistant General Manager. She was named before they even got a general manager and became the first-ever woman to take the role in the team history. Castonguay became the second woman AGM in NHL history, behind only Angela Gorgone, who occupied the role for the Anaheim Ducks.
"Sometimes (as a woman) you get intimidated but you shouldn't, if you have the knowledge and you've done the work, there is a place for you here."
🗣️ Canucks Assistant GM Émilie Castonguay pic.twitter.com/lgfLnS8iTp
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) January 24, 2022
Then, they named Patrik Allvin as their GM on January 26 and everyone thought the case was closed for a while – they had a proper front office put together and could move on. However, on February 10 the Canucks announced another assistant GM: Cammi Granato. The former Kraken pro scout left the scouting world to take in a much bigger role: be in the front office of an NHL team. It is a true change from the all-male office the Canucks had prior to December – and a huge step in the right direction for the entire hockey community to see.
Other Women Around The NHL
The Canucks are currently the second team with women occupying positions in their front office (the Buffalo Sabres being the first one, with Kim Pegula as their co-president and owner). However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t more women in other positions around the league.
In the scouting department, there are currently four former players in three different teams. Blake Bolden is a pro scout for the Los Angeles Kings, becoming the second woman to take the role (and the first black woman in an official scout role for the Kings). Krissy Wendell-Pohl works with the Pittsburgh Penguins; Meghan Hunter and Brigette Lacquette are both with the Chicago Blackhawks. Former player Meghan Duggan is the manager of player development for the New Jersey Devils.
"The color of my skin was just one obstacle. Playing boys hockey was another. … If I could knock a few players over, if I could put the puck in the back of the net, I would be okay."@SportBlake is the 1st black woman to compete in the NWHL (@PHF) & be a pro scout for @LAKings pic.twitter.com/aG6oXM1vrq
— The Talk (@TheTalkCBS) February 28, 2022
The NHL itself has some women in important roles. Kimberly Davis is the NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives and Legislative Affairs. Maria Dennis is their Players Association Director, Player Health and Safety & Associate Counsel. Heidi Browning is the Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. These are three women occupying important roles in one of the biggest sports leagues in the world. And yet, it isn’t close to enough.
Change Has Happened – But More Teams Need To Follow
It would be unfair to continue saying the league hasn’t changed at all. The changes might be small, but they happened. However, it is impossible to say that what has happened in the past year is enough. Because it isn’t. In a league the size of the NHL, it’s offensive that they only have two teams with women in front-office positions. It’s even worse that in a 32-team league only three have women scouts. And Cammi Granato was the first-ever woman pro scout? For a team that debuted this season? At this point, it’s impossible to decide what’s worse.
Of course, there are many other women who were not cited in this article but work for the teams in many departments. These are only the ones that occupy significant roles that have been highlighted by the media and the NHL itself. But, while there are women in the media, communication and public relations departments, helping the teams in the background, there need to be more of them in bigger roles. Make women the assistant general managers – or dare to make them general managers and presidents – of teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Blackhawks. Put them under the spotlight and let them lead and manage, let them build teams and make decisions. Let them have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup.
What needs to happen next is teams realizing that just holding celebratory games and signing pledges aren’t enough. Actually, it’s not even close to enough, it’s the bare minimum. Believe, invest and trust women to take care of teams. Because they will succeed in every single level, as they’ve always done.
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