Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - One on One with Cammi Granato
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One on One with Cammi Granato

6 DECEMBER 2011
In 1989 Cammi Granato was offered a hockey scholarship at Providence College in Rhode Island.
In 1989 Cammi Granato was offered a hockey scholarship at Providence College in Rhode Island.
Catherine Michelle Granato, best known to the hockey world as Cammi, was born March 25, 1971 in Downer's Grove, Illinois, a village 20 miles (31 kilometres) west of Chicago. Cammi was one of six children in the Granato family, which included four brothers and a sister.

The family owned season tickets to the Chicago Blackhawks, and that, in part, fuelled her hockey aspirations. "It was my dream to play for the Blackhawks," she stated. "I had the same dreams as my brothers. I didn't know I was any different."

While she yearned to play in an arena like her brothers, a passion for hockey was partially satisfied at home. "I remember the days in the basement playing hockey with my brothers. We used mini-sticks and a tape-ball. We played some intense games!"

During her international career Cammi Granato won an Olympic gold medal, Olympic silver, one World Championship and eight silver medals in World Championship tournaments.
During her international career Cammi Granato won an Olympic gold medal, Olympic silver, one World Championship and eight silver medals in World Championship tournaments.
(Dave Sandford/Hockey Hall of Fame)
At the age of five, Cammi was registered on a boys' team, and quickly established herself as one of the better players in the area, regardless of gender. "Playing boys' hockey for me was really fun. I never thought anything of it. I was just a hockey player."

It wasn't always easy, though. "We played a tournament in Kitchener (Ontario)," she recalled with a chuckle. "Girls weren't supposed to play boys in this province. I entered this tournament as Carl Granato."

Starring at forward, Granato played on all boys' teams until the age of fifteen, but chose not to play in her last two years of high school. By then, body contact was permitted and the boys had not only grown larger and stronger, but also targeted the skilled but smaller Cammi. "I was having a talk with my Mom. I realized that my dream of playing in the NHL might not come true. The boys were getting bigger. It was just too physical. I was crushed that my brothers were allowed to take their dreams further but I wasn't."

In 1996 Cammi Granato was named USA Women's Player of the Year.
In 1996 Cammi Granato was named USA Women's Player of the Year. (Dave Sandford/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Instead, she continued with other athletic pursuits, including basketball, handball, soccer and tennis on women's teams and baseball on the boys' team. "Nothing made me feel like I did when I was on the ice," she admitted.

A return to hockey came in 1989 when Cammi was offered a hockey scholarship at Providence College in Rhode Island, one of the few schools in the country that recruited top women's hockey players. In her inaugural year at the college, she was named freshman player of the year and later, was selected as the Eastern College Athletic Conference's Women's Hockey Player of the Year. In 1992 and 1993, Granato, who had been named co-captain, led the Friars to league titles. In 93 college games, she scored 135 times and assisted on 110 others for 245 points. Cammi graduated in 1993 with a degree in social sciences.

In 2007, Cammi Granato was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for her contributions to hockey in the United States.
In 2007, Cammi Granato was
awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for her contributions to hockey
in the United States.
(Dave Sandford/Hockey Hall of Fame)
While playing at Providence, Cammi became a founding member of the United States Women's National Team, and helped lead the team to a silver medal at the inaugural Women's World Championships in 1990.

At that time, the national team only gathered at certain times of the year, so after graduating from Providence and without any NCAA eligibility remaining, Cammi furthered her hockey career by moving to Montreal to earn her masters degree in sports administration at Concordia University. In 123 games, Granato scored 178 goals and 148 assists for 326 points, and was instrumental in Concordia capturing three consecutive provincial championships. In 1996, she was named USA Women's Player of the Year.

Women's hockey became an official Olympic Sport at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. Cammi had graduated from Concordia in 1997, and was then able to devote herself full-time to the U.S. Women's National Team. Named team captain, Cammi and her teammates earned an upset gold medal victory over the favoured Canadians.

Although invited to attend a New York Islanders' training camp, she declined, choosing instead to contribute to Los Angeles Kings' broadcasts. That choice was abandoned after one season so she could continue her playing career.

2002 saw Cammi captain Team USA once again at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. She and the team were devastated after losing a close contest to Canada and in doing so, had to settle for an Olympic silver medal.

Cammi Granato's ended her international career as the all-time leading scorer in women's international hockey.
Cammi Granato's ended her international career as the all-time leading scorer in women's international hockey.
(Dave Sandford/Hockey Hall of Fame)
With full intention of returning to the Olympics one last time in 2006, Granato was devastated when she did not make the final line-up. "I'm heartbroken right now," she said. "I could never fathom (that) this is how my hockey career would end. My only focus was the Olympics because in my sport, that is the ultimate. Everything is geared toward that, and my entire life was geared around getting there and winning gold."

Cammi Granato's international career concluded having played 54 games, scoring 54 goals and 42 assists for 96 points, making her the all-time leading scorer in women's international hockey. During that time, teams on which she played won an Olympic gold medal, Olympic silver, one World Championship and eight silver medals in World Championship tournaments. In 2007, Cammi was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for her contributions to hockey in the United States. The next year, Cammi broke the invisible ceiling when she was inducted into the IIHF's Hall of Fame along with Geraldine Heaney and Angela James. That same year, Granato made history by being the first female inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

In 2010, one additional triumph was achieved. Following an amendment to the Hockey Hall of Fame induction by-laws, women were granted the opportunity to enter hockey's most prestigious institution in 2010, and along with Angela James, Cammi Granato became the first woman to be elected as an Honoured Member in the Hockey Hall of Fame. At her Induction ceremony that November, Cammi beamed. "I am in awe that I'm standing here!" She noted, "You're changing the face of women's hockey by accepting us into this prestigious club."

Her hockey career far from over, Granato was rinkside reporter for NBC's NHL coverage and a colour commentator on NBC's coverage of women's ice hockey at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. She started the Golden Dreams for Children Foundation, providing support for special needs children. She also operates an annual hockey camp for girls during summers in Chicago and is a partner in BelaHockey, a company that creates hockey accessories for girls.

A true pioneer, Cammi Granato helped shatter the invisible ceiling that existed before women's hockey found its place on the international stage.

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.