With Kim Ng being named the GM of the Miami Marlins, and in doing so becoming both the first woman and the first Asian American GM in baseball history, it’s natural to wonder when the NHL will follow suit and put a woman in the position of running a team’s hockey operations department. Sadly, the answer to that is probably not anytime soon. Hockey, as is often the case with these things, is notoriously behind the curve on this one.
That, however, is not for a lack of qualified candidates. Slowly but surely, women are making their marks in NHL front offices, with the expansion Seattle Kraken and the Toronto Maple Leafs largely showing the way. And since there are virtually no transferable skills that make a great former player a great GM, there’s no reason to believe there are not women out there who can do the job. If Jay Feaster can put together a Stanley Cup champion despite not knowing how to skate, then Julien BriseBois can do it 26 years later with the same team despite never having played competitive hockey, a woman can certainly do the same.
As far as former players are concerned, aside from international competition, college hockey is the highest competitive level they can find before turning pro. So a good number of them have university degrees from places such esteemed institutions as Harvard, Cornell, McGill and the University of Toronto. Generally speaking, there are no flies on the people who graduate from schools like that. And the ability to identify hockey talent, manage a salary cap, run a multi-million dollar department and have the people skills needed to interact with both allies and competitors are certainly not the exclusive domain of men.
With that in mind, here are 10 women who might one day find themselves in the same position of power as Kim Ng:
1. Florence Schelling: When SC Bern was looking for the person to turn around its Swiss League fortunes last spring, it turned to Schelling, the greatest women’s goalie the country has ever produced, making her the first woman in the world to take the helm of a top-level men’s team. Schelling has a master’s degree and has been around the game all her life. For the next couple of years, she’ll get the experience of running one of the most prestigious hockey programs in Europe.
2. Hayley Wickenheiser: We’re going to go out on a limb here and assume that someone who has the wherewithal and discipline to put herself through medical school while working in player development with the Maple Leafs and spearheading PPE drive during a COVID pandemic has what it takes to be a GM in the NHL. It’s pretty clear Wickenheiser could do whatever she wants, inside or outside of hockey, including running a big league hockey department.
3. Noelle Needham: The former scout for the Maple Leafs left the organization to become the assistant GM of the Chicago Steel of the USHL. Needham has coached at high levels and also has business experience, co-founding Legend Hockey, an elite training and development program in Sioux Falls. With two seasons as an NHL scout on her resume, and the opportunity to help run a high-level program at the junior level, Needham is doing a good job of padding her resume.
4. Emilie Castonguay: If Bill Zito can do it, why can’t Castonguay? For years before becoming assistant GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets, then moving into the big chair with the Florida Panthers, Zito was a player agent. Castonguay became the first woman to be an NHL Players’ Association certified agent in 2016 and she currently serves as both an agent and executive VP and director of legal affairs for Momentum Hockey. And she recently negotiated the entry-level contract for 2020 first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere.
5. Alexandra Mandrycky: When the Kraken make their debut in the fall of 2022 – fingers crossed the pandemic won’t affect that, too – their opening night roster will have Mandrycky’s finger prints all over it. After spending four years as a data analyst with the Minnesota Wild, Mandrycky joined the Kraken as director of hockey administration. With a degree in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech, she obviously has the necessary smarts. And now she’ll spend the next couple of years getting valuable experience at the NHL level.
6. Cammi Granato: One of the Kraken’s first hires was Granato, one of the most decorated players in women’s hockey history. A pro scout for the Kraken, Granato has earned her chops in the hockey world. She has deep, deep family roots in the game and has been able to build up a network of associations in the hockey world. She’ll also have significant say over which players the Kraken end up with on their roster.
7. Meghan Chayka: As the co-founder of a sports data and analytics company that focuses on hockey, Chayka is a pioneer in the data analysis side of the game. As president of Stathletes since 2010, Chayka was already ahead of the game in an area of the sport that is growing in both importance and recognition. Chayka funded the business with money she and her partner won in a business competition while in graduate school.
8. Kendall Coyne Schofield: Proving she was not only one of the fastest women’s skaters, but one of the fastest skaters period, at the All-Star Game in 2019, Coyne Schofield has done as much as any women on the planet to help grow the game. She is a television analyst for the San Jose Sharks and was one of the key drivers behind the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association.
9. Dani Rylan: Again, going out on a limb here, but we’re going to assume that anyone who can start a league from scratch, then essentially close down its biggest competitor for players, has what it takes to work for an NHL team. Against all odds, Rylan established the National Women’s Hockey League with the intention of paying players a living wage. There have been setbacks, but you have to admire the determination Rylan displayed in keeping the league afloat for five seasons.
10. The third-line left winger for the Leaside Wildcats peewee team: We don’t even know who this kid is at the moment, but we do know there are hundreds of thousands like her around the world. And the same way Kamala Harris could inspire a generation of young girls to go into politics, Kim Ng gives girls hope that they, too, can shatter the glass ceiling. Now all we need is a hockey equivalent, but anything is possible.