Before there was the Frozen Four and the Kazmaier Award, and before there was the Women’s Hockey East and the NCAA (and even the AWCHA), even before the full kick in of Title IX, and the quadrennial chasing of Gold Medals, there was one towering figure on skates (but not on figure skates).
That would be Cammi Granato.
Even now, nearly 17 seasons after her final Providence College twirl (which seems light years ago), Granato is the face of women’s college hockey.
She’s college hockey’s Wayne Gretzky.
“One of the first quality women’s hockey action photos I recall seeing in my ECAC days was one of Cammi Granato in her Providence uniform,” said Joe Bertagna, Hockey East commissioner. “There was an awkwardness to many of the early women’s photos. And then there was the picture of Cammi. She looked like a ‘hockey player,” not a “women’s hockey player.”
And now, as of last Monday night, Granato is it’s Hockey Hall of Famer.
Her inclusion, along with that of Canadian national icon Angela James, among the game’s immortals is only fitting, considering how she carried women’s hockey out of its era of clannish curiosity and into the bloodstream (if not the mainstream).
“I think it’s a fantastic thing for women’s hockey,” said UConn coach Heather Linstad. “To have her name among the (men) is really nice. It’s great in that respect. It just speaks volumes.”
Well decorated for her role with the U.S. National Team (both pre and post Olympic era), there is no telling how many young girls have been pulled into rinks by the allure of red, white, and blue.
However, Granato’s legacy to college hockey is every bit as significant.
Just ask Linstad, who was a pretty fair Friars player herself before starting her coaching career at Northeastern.
She credits the Granato factor for steering the NU program through a particularly antsy time.
“I was at Northeastern at a time when they wanted to drop women’s hockey,” Linstad said. “I had to work very hard to get Northeastern to rethink their idea. I think, having Cammi to play against, and having her spark the interest in college hockey as it was growing (was key). When I needed a huge spark plug of that nature, she was there to help make sure Northeastern didn’t drop women’s hockey. I think it would have devastated women’s hockey in general, and the growth of women’s hockey.”
Linstad is at least somewhat responsible for putting Granato on the PC path.
As a senior on the 1989 team, she was assigned the task of showing the youngster from Downers Grove around campus.
“As I tell people, she replaced me,” Linstad said. “When I was a senior, I (hosted) Cammi as a recruit on her visit. Then I ended up coaching against her when I was at Northeastern. If only I knew I was going into coaching.”
Perhaps a little ignorance was a bit blissful.
It’s fair to say that more than a few of those 139 goals found the back of the Huskies net, with Linstad as witness.
“She had the big numbers like a Gretzky,” said Linstad, “and that’s how she played. She had some unbelievable moves. Defensemen get used to certain forwards, but everytime you played Cammi, she came up with something different. Something special.
“You never looked at her and said ‘she’s not doing it for the right reasons.’ When she was on the ice, she did things the right way. She controlled the game in college hockey.”
And in some ways, she still does.
NOTES: The outpouring of support for Yale’s Mandi Schwartz, who has waged an intrepid two-year battle against leukemia, is astounding.
The effort to support Schwartz in ways tangible and intangible continues this weekend, when the Bulldogs will promote a “White Out for Mandi” at Ingalls Rink.
This came the other day from Schwartz’s teammate, Aleca Hughes.
“We are trying to fill the Whale to capacity with fans wearing all white. Donors are pledging per fan to come to the game, so the more that come, the more money we raise. And there will also be signed Red Sox, Bruins, and Blackhawk jerseys, posters, Red Sox tickets, Bruins tickets, and Rangers tickets as part of a silent auction going on during the game. I’ll attach the link for the event so you can read more.
This is the link: http://www.yalebulldogs.com/mandi/whiteout
We add our hearty stamp of approval.