The Seattle NHL franchise has hired its first round of scouts -- including former Team USA star and Hockey Hall of Famer Cammi Granato, who will become the NHL's first female pro scout.
Granato's hiring continues a trend for the NHL's newest team -- scheduled to enter the league for the 2021-22 season -- which is committed to "a diverse slate of candidates for every role." The franchise is currently at just over 60 employees; more than 50 percent of its vice presidents are females.
"When I was being interviewed, it was very apparent this organization was thinking outside the box," GM Ron Francis said. "When I took the job, I was encouraged to continue that mantra: think outside the box. Cammi's name came up. I know she's a female pro scout for us, but her résumé is why she got the job -- not because she's female."
Granato, 48, captained Team USA to a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics, the first winter Olympics to include women's ice hockey. Granato has been inducted into the International Hockey Hall of Fame (2008), the US Hockey Hall of Fame (2009), as well as the Hockey Hall of Fame (2010).
Granato lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and will begin working in late October. She will attend Canucks home games and be responsible for scouting players in the Western Conference -- analyzing their game and projecting future performance ahead of the team's expansion draft, which will occur in summer 2021.
"I know the game, and I'm confident in that," Granato said, "I've been around the game since I can walk. It's really cool to be able to do it as a job and I'm looking forward to contributing my opinion."
Granato said she has had job opportunities come up over the past decade, however she turned them down for family reasons. Granato said that her husband, TSN analyst Ray Ferraro, travels Monday through Friday for work.
"I've got a 12- and a 9-year-old," Granato said. "When they were little it just wasn't feasible to leave, when they have one parent on the road. Now they're getting to an age where they're a little older and settled so this opportunity when it came around was a perfect fit for me and for our family. I didn't feel like I was compromising anything by saying yes. Yet, I get to be in the game and get to be involved."
When asked why women traditionally have not gone into scouting, Granato said: "I think we could probably ask that question about so many things in sports. Maybe even more than sports. Why? There isn't really an answer besides they weren't considered. Right now, I feel there is this energy and momentum and you're seeing women in different positions getting jobs they are qualified for, but never got the opportunity for."
In 2018, the Toronto Maple Leafs hired the NHL's first full-time female amateur scout, Noelle Needham. Needham got the job after GM Kyle Dubas had several candidates write scouting reports anonymously -- in essence, a blind audition. Needham joined former Canadian star Hayley Wickenheiser in the Maple Leafs hockey operations department; Wickenheiser was named Toronto's assistant director of player development in 2018 -- the highest hockey operations role ever held by a woman. The Maple Leafs also employ Judy Cohen in their analytics department, Meg Popovic as the team's director of well-being and performance, and Barb Underhill, a former world champion pairs figure skater who serves as a skating consultant.
"I just think the more diverse you can make your organization [the better] -- and that's just not a male and female thing," Dubas told ESPN in 2018. "We did not make any of these hires looking for social credit."
The Seattle NHL team's operation department now consists of three members: Francis, assistant GM Ricky Olczyk and Alexandra Mandrycky, the director of hockey administration.
Mandrycky was actually the team's first operations hire, preceding Francis. She joined the organization after working in the analytics department with the Minnesota Wild. "Being a woman in hockey, I understand that I bring a different viewpoint," Mandrycky said. "I did when I was with Minnesota and I think Ron and Ricky understand that here. To have that opportunity to bring more diverse voices onto the hockey side is really exciting."
"Ricky and I will also be part of that scouting staff this year," Francis said. "We don't start for two years, and therefore we don't have revenue coming in for two years. We're trying to do this with that in mind as well -- giving us as much information as we can while limiting the cost factor to the organization as we try building it up."
Francis said Seattle will be covering major events this season, including the U17 tournament in Medicine Hat and Swift Current, the U20 Four Nations Cup in Helsinki, IIHF World U20 Championships, the US U18 Championships in Plymouth and most likely the World Championships in Switzerland. "So we'll be watching a lot of hockey," Francis said.
Francis said he expects to connect with the scouts on regular scouting calls and bring them in at some point during the season for scouting meetings. According to Francis, they will conduct a dry run as if they are signing free agents this summer, as well as a dry run for the expansion draft.
As for Granato, she hopes her hiring could have a ripple effect.
"Maybe it'll inspire more women to apply for jobs like this," Granato said. "And maybe it will inspire more organizations to make the same move."