One thing the five women who hold assistant general manager positions in the NHL have in common is that none saw this opportunity presented to them earlier in life.
“I never expected to be an assistant general manager in my wildest dreams,” said Meghan Hunter of the Chicago Blackhawks. “I didn’t necessarily rule it out, but I just didn’t see a way to get there.”
Now Kate Madigan of New Jersey from Hunter, Émilie Castonguay and Cammi Granato of Vancouver and Hayley Wickenheiser of Toronto have each gotten to this point by taking different paths.
Castonguay in January became the first woman in the league to be named AGM since Angela Gorgone in 1996-97, when the Canucks’ new president of hockey operations, Jim Rutherford, named her to the position. She spent more than five years as an NHL Players’ Association certified agent, including representing 2020 No. 1 pick Alexis Lafrenière.
“It’s a different perspective,” she said earlier this month. “These are different priorities, and it’s a different challenge.”
The all-time leading scorer in international women’s hockey, Granato led the United States to gold in Nagano 1998, the first time women’s hockey competed in the Olympics. Along with Canadian Angela James, she was one of the first women inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.
Granato tried her hand at broadcasting after hanging up her skates and was hired by expansion Seattle Kraken as a scout in 2019. She joined Castonguay with the Canucks in February.
“There were times when I didn’t think it was an option for women,” Granato said. “It wasn’t something I thought would happen in my lifetime because I’ve always been the only one in this time of ‘the first of things’ and sometimes those things don’t come.”
A finalist for varsity player of the year, Hunter became a women’s hockey coach at the University of Wisconsin: “I naturally turned to coaching because I really thought that was all there was to the time.
Hunter spent time with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League and Hockey Canada, joined the Blackhawks in an administrative role in 2016 and rose through the ranks in scouting and hockey operations. Chicago promoted her to the AGM in June.
“My path has never been linear,” Hunter said. “I wanted to play in the NHL, so when I realized that wasn’t a reality, I was like, ‘Wow, if I’m working in that, that’s pretty cool.'”
An early rival to Granato, Wickenheiser is one of the finest hockey players Canada has ever produced. She won four consecutive Olympic gold medals from 2002 to 2014 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019.
After retiring, Wickenheiser embarked on player development with the Maple Leafs while working to complete her medical degree at the University of Calgary. She still practices medicine, even after Toronto promoted her to director of player development in early July.
“There was a lot of buzz around it,” Wickenheiser said. “Nothing changes in my daily life from what I have been doing for a year, a year and a half.”
Madigan earned an accounting degree from Northeastern University and worked at Deloitte for two years before turning to hockey.
“She made the transition from Deloitte to public accountancy and put herself forward, didn’t take the safe route: she put herself forward and people believed in her,” her father said, Jim, who is now the athletic director of Northeastern. “They gave him a position to succeed.”
Named at the Devils’ AGM a day after Wickenheiser with the Leafs, Madigan is entering her sixth season in New Jersey after serving as general manager of hockey management and operations. She also worked two years in the video/player information operation before being promoted to director of professional scouting operations in 2021.