Cammi Granato, Cammi Granato olympics, Cammi Granato medal
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Cammi Granato, First Woman to Be Inducted Into the Hockey Hall of Fame

November 07, 2010
by Christopher Coats
Cammi Granato was America’s first female hockey star, starring on the U.S. national team for 15 years and leading the team to gold in the 1998 Olympics, a victory that inspired girls in all parts of the country to begin playing hockey. For her record-breaking career and her efforts popularizing the women’s game, Granato will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday.

Cammi Granato’s Early Days

Catherine “Cammi” Granato was born on March 25, 1971, into an Illinois family that seemed to live and breathe hockey. Though her mother encouraged her to take up figure skating, Cammi wanted to be like her older brothers and play hockey.

She began playing with a boys’ hockey team at the age of 5 and played on male teams until she was 15. She also played on the boys’ baseball team, and the girls’ soccer, basketball and handball teams.

“As a kid I was an equal,” Granato said in 2007. “I never thought of myself any different. I wanted to be a Chicago Blackhawk exactly like my brothers. That was my dream.”

Granato’s Hockey Career

Granato earned a scholarship in 1989 to play on the Providence College women’s team, where she was named ECAC Player of the Year for three years in a row. She was also chosen in 1990 to play on the inaugural U.S. Women’s National Team, for whom she would continue playing for 15 years. After graduating from Providence, she went on to attend graduate school at Concordia University in Montreal and star on the university team.

She was recognized by many as the best female player in the world; her brother Tony, who played 14 seasons in the NHL, said of her in 1997, “She has surpassed me. She’s not my sister. I’m her brother.” That same year, she was invited to attend the New York Islanders training camp, though she declined.

Granato’s most famous achievement came at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, where she captained Team USA in the first ever women’s Olympic hockey competition. The U.S. shocked heavily favored Canada in the gold medal game, and Granato was selected to carry the American flag in the closing ceremony.

“After those Olympics, there was an explosion of female hockey programs in the United States and Granato was launched into the spotlight, making her one of the most recognizable female athletes in the world,” says USA Hockey. “Her picture on the Wheaties box, her first book, broadcasting for the National Hockey League and the annual Cammi Granato Gold Medal Hockey Clinic for Girls all followed.”

“The biggest change for me that I noticed was that from that point on, you could walk into a rink and feel like you belonged,” Granato recalls. “When a girl was carrying a hockey bag, it wasn't because she was carrying her brother’s. She was carrying her own. It just gave the sport so much credibility. There was a major change from the day before the Nagano Olympics to the day after.”

Granato would go on to win a silver in the 2002 Olympics and a gold in the 2005 World Championships, but her career ended in disappointment when she was unexpectedly cut from the 2006 Olympic team. She retired as the all-time leading scorer in women’s international hockey with 54 goals and 42 assists in 54 games.

Granato’s Honors

Granato received the Lester Patrick Award for contribution to hockey in the United States in 2007. The following year, she became the first woman to be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and, along with co-inductees Angela James and Geraldine Heaney, the first woman in the International Hockey Hall of Fame.

Granato will receive her greatest honor on Monday, as she and James become the first women to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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