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Who Will Become the First Woman to Serve as an NHL GM?

A day will come in the National Hockey League when a woman is named general manager of a franchise. Ian Kennedy breaks down 20 candidates that have the credentials to serve as an NHL GM one day.
Courtesy of Meghan Chayka

Courtesy of Meghan Chayka

A day will come in the National Hockey League when a woman is named general manager of a franchise.

With the firing of two GMs- Montreal’s Marc Bergevin and Vancouver’s Jim Benning - already this season, women were in the conversation. Being in the conversation however, isn’t enough.

In other professional leagues, women have already made inroads into coaching and managerial positions. Susan Tose Spencer was the first woman to serve as a general manager in the NFL back in 1983, and Kim Ng is the current general manager for the MLB’s Miami Marlins.

It has yet to happen in the NHL; not yet at least.

The absence of women from managerial roles in hockey is not due to a lack of qualified candidates. Ken Campbell of The Hockey News put together a list of 10 women who could break this barrier back in 2020, but as hockey continues to lag behind in gender equity, the group of women ready to fill roles grows. Here are 20 people who could become the first woman to serve as an NHL general manager.

1. Émilie Castonguay: When Kent Hughes was listed as one of the final candidates for the Montreal Canadiens vacancy, Émilie Castonguay should have been mentioned in the same breath. Castonguay, an NHLPA certified agent, represents the likes of 2020 first overall draft pick Alexis Lafreniere, and Team Canada captain Marie-Philip Poulin. Momentum Hockey group’s Director of Legal Affairs and Hockey Operations, Castonquay holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from Niagara University where she played four years of NCAA hockey. Following this, Castonguay earned her law degree from l'Université de Montréal. In between degrees, Castonguay interned with then Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Guethier.

2. Danielle Goyette: As the director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Goyette’s on- and off-ice resume is impressive. On the coaching side, Goyette spent more than a decade behind the bench as head coach for the University of Calgary Dinos, being named Canada West Conference Coach of the Year in 2019-2020. As a player, Goyette won eight World Championship golds, and two Olympic gold medals with Canada, earning induction into both the Hockey Hall of Fame and IIHF Hall of Fame.

3. Hayley Moore: Holding a degree from Brown University, where she starred as a player, Moore is currently the Vice President of Hockey Operations for the American Hockey League (AHL). Moore was the General Manager of the Premier Hockey Federation’s (PHF) Boston Pride in their inaugural season, and later served as the PHF’s (then NWHL) Deputy Commissioner, and team president for the Pride. Moore also has coaching experience, winning an Ivy League title as an assistant with Harvard.

4. Meghan Chayka: The founder of Stathletes, Chayka has become a powerful voice, and mind, in the hockey analytics business. While a GM like Toronto’s Kyle Dubas has a strong understanding of data and analytics, Chayka is a master. She holds a degree in finance from Brock University, a masters in economics from McMaster University, and is currently a Data Scientist in Residence at the University of Toronto. With NHL teams and World tournaments using Chayka’s technology, and the ever evolving world of sports pushing for new ideas, it’s only a matter of time before an NHL club considers Chayka.

5. Jayna Hefford: Current chair for the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), Hefford has an acute knowledge of labour issues, as well as the need to empower women in sport. With four Olympic gold medals and seven World Championship wins, Hefford’s playing resume is substantive. Her career on the ice earned induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018. Hefford also served briefly as the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) interim commissioner.

6. Karilyn Pilch: The former General Manager of the PHF’s Boston Pride, Pilch built talented rosters leading Boston to a pair of Isobel Cups. Pilch, who holds a business degree from Boston University, also became the University’s director of hockey operations prior to joining the Pride. Pilch already has her foot in the NHL door, as she left the Pride to join the Chicago Blackhawks player personnel department and serve as a scout.

7. Meghan Hunter:  Yes, she’s from the Hunter hockey family, but this isn’t about them. Meghan Hunter currently works as the Director of Hockey Administration and as an amateur scout for the Chicago Blackhawks. This came after years of working alongside Stan Bowman as an executive assistant. On the ice, Hunter was a star as well, graduating from the University of Wisconsin as the school’s all-time leading scorer at the time.

8. Anya Packer: The current GM of the PHF’s Metropolitan Riveters, Packer already has GM experience at an elite level. A former Boston University and NWHL standout, Packer stepped into the role of Executive Director of the Premier Hockey Federation Players' Association. Also, Packer has become a champion of inclusivity and mental health awareness in sport, something the NHL desperately needs.

9. Florence Schelling: Although her name might not be as known in North America, Schelling was the first woman ever to serve as a GM for a men’s professional hockey team when she held the role for Switzerland’s SC Bern. A graduate of Northeastern Univeristy, Schelling also earned a master's in business administration from Linkoping University. The four-time Swiss Olympian's tenure with SC Bern was brief, but she will undoubtedly be considered for future roles.

10. Gina Kingsbury: The woman in charge of populating Canada’s National Women’s team, Kingsbury already has a major role. The selection and composition of a team perennially expected to be World Champions, and this year, Olympic champions brings pressure. Kinsgbury holds a degree in psychology from St. Lawrence University, and won two Olympic gold and three World Championships as a player for Canada.

11. Alexandra Mandrycky: Similar to Chayka, Mandrycky is a data specialist, earning the respect of NHL organizations. Holding a degree in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech, Mandrycky was hired as a data analyst by the Minnesota Wild in 2015. In 2019, Mandrycky joined the Seattle Kraken as Director of Hockey Administration. In this role, she oversaw Seattle’s search for a GM. Currently, she is serving as director of hockey strategy and Research for the Kraken.

12. Hayley Wickenheiser: It would be hard to leave Wickenheiser off any list discussing women in hockey. At the NHL level, former stars of the game including Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, and Ron Francis are serving as GMs, so it makes sense that another Hockey Hall of Fame member like Wickenheiser would join the fold. Hired in 2019 as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ senior director of player development, Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser, holds a medical degree from the University of Calgary. The former men’s and women’s professional hockey player is an 11-time gold medal winner for Team Canada.

13. Angela Ruggiero: Ruggiero is a Hockey Hall of Fame and IIHF Hall of Fame member. She has played men’s and women’s professional hockey, and has Olympic and World Championship gold to her name. Those are her playing credentials. Off the ice, Ruggiero has a master’s in sport management from the University of Minnesota and is a graduate of Harvard Business School. She is the founder and CEO of Sports Innovation Lab, and has served as an International Olympic Committee Board Member. She was also integral in Los Angeles’ successful bid for the 2028 Olympic Games.

14. Cammi Granato:  Recently hired as a scout by the Seattle Kraken, Granato is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, IIHF Hall of Fame, and winner of the NHL’s Lester B. Pearson Award. Similar to Wickenheiser, Granato is following the path many former players have taken from hockey stardom to front office success. The World Champion and Olympic gold medallist has worked as a hockey commentator for NBC, and is a Providence College graduate.

15. Danielle Larouco: Currently the General Manager of the PHF’s Boston Pride, Larouco holds a degree in economics and organization behavior & management from Brown University where she starred as a player. Larouco has worked at the grassroots level, and looks like an up and comer in the hockey world.

16. Noelle Needham: Hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2018 as an amateur scout, Needham is already one of the few women to hold a managerial position, as she is now assistant general manager of the United States Hockey League’s Chicago Steel. Needham played her NCAA hockey at Minnesota State University.

17. Jennifer Botterill: Another Harvard University grad, Botterill’s name has appeared recently in discussions for jobs within NHL organizations. She has eight gold medals for Canada at the Olympics and World Championships and works as a Hockey Analyst for Hockey Night in Canada and Sportsnet.

18. Meghan Duggan: Recently hired by the New Jersey Devils hockey operations department, Duggan is the team’s manager of player development. As a player, Duggan won seven World Championships and an Olympic gold representing the USA. She holds a degree from the University of Wisconsin

19. Kate Madigan: Another member of the New Jersey Devils, Madigan is the organization’s executive director of hockey management and operations, and has openly stated she’d like to be a GM in the future. Prior to that, Madigan worked as the team’s director of pro Scouting Operations. She’s learned the ropes of each corner of the Devils’ front office, and holds a master's in accounting and a bachelor's in business administration from Northeastern University.

20: Theresa Feaster: Feaster has explicitly stated she aspires to be a general manager. Currently, she is the director of hockey operations for the NCAA’s Providence College. Feaster is also a graduate of Providence and was a video coach for Team USA’s U-20 team.

The NHL needs more diversity, and this starts at the top. It’s only a matter of time until one of these women, or another qualified woman in hockey, breaks ice as a general manager in the NHL.

Other names to watch: Namita Nandakumar, Danièle Sauvageau, Thérèse Brisson, Kendall Coyne Schofield, Hilary Knight, Marie-Philip Poulin, Digit Murphy, Alexis Mood, Blake Bolden, ​​Rachel Doerrie, Katie Million, Kelsey Harbison, Brittany Miller.

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