When Cammi Granato was a child, her mom would drop her off at the ice-skating rink for figure-skating lessons, and as soon as her mom left the parking lot, Cammi would sneak to the adjoining rink to play hockey with the boys. Her refusal to wear sequins paid off: Last week Cammi Granato was the first woman to be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Granato’s story plays like an against-all-odds Disney movie.
Her parents’ first date was to an NHL game; her three brothers played hockey around the clock at the homemade ice rink in their back yard; and instead of princess stories, Granato spent her childhood watching the made-for-TV version of Miracle on Ice over and over.
Unfortunately, there were no girls’ hockey leagues when she was growing up. So, when she was 5 years old, her parents let her join an all-boys hockey team, which she played on until she was 17. She also batted cleanup for the boys’ baseball team, and played on girls’ soccer, basketball and handball teams.
Granato has said that she never realized she was the only girl on the team until she was 12, and other parents started making a big deal about it.
“As a kid I was an equal. I never thought of myself any different. I wanted to be a Chicago Blackhawk exactly like my brothers. That was my dream. It wasn’t until I got a little bit older that people started pointing out that, ‘Hey, you’re a girl. Why are you playing this game? It’s a man’s game,’” she said in her Lester Patrick Award speech in 2007.
The first time Granato played exclusively against girls was at Providence College, where she accepted a hockey scholarship in 1989. On the wall of her dorm room, she hung a picture of NHL star Tony Granato. When her roommate pointed out that Cammi and Tony had the same last name, Cammi said, “Yeah, because he’s my brother.”
If she’d been good in high school, Granato was a full-blown superstar in college. She was ECAC Player of the Year three times, scoring 256 goals in 99 games during her four years at Providence. She went on to play in seven International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships. She lead the U.S. women’s hockey team to a shocking gold medal victory in the 1998 Olympics, and she is the all-time leading scorer among all women hockey players.
Many commentators said that if Granato really wanted to prove herself as an elite hockey player, she would join the NHL. To them, she simply said, “Nah, I’m 5-7, 140 pounds, and there are no 140-pounders in the NHL. Besides, I don’t want to be the clown in a media circus.”
At last week’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony, she was no clown. Standing alongside NHL greats Mike Richter and Brett Hull, what she had accomplished finally started to sink in.
“When I went on the ice at the Avs game, everything really hit me,” she told reporters. “Everybody applauding and celebrating and sharing the accolade, it set in a little more. And then seeing the guys. I looked at the three guys standing around me and I said, ‘I’m in really good company.’”
In three decades of playing hockey, there was only one thing that made Cammi Granato different than the boys: her full name was on the back of her jersey — because Cammi Granato never wanted to be mistaken for her brother.