In a career that has truly set a gold standard for women in sport, an outpouring of recognition has been bestowed upon Angela Ruggiero. During the last two months, she has been the recipient of two Hall of Fame honors.
Inducted into the Capital One Academic All-American Hall of Fame, she was joined by four other inductees including Duke’s Shane Battier, the University of Florida’s Danny Wuerffel, Denison’s Dr. Grant Jones and DePaul’s Lee Hamilton. As a competitor for Harvard University, Ruggiero was the embodiment of an exceptional student-athlete, able to manage exceptional athletic performance and academic excellence. Helping the Crimson win a national title in 1999, she earned the Patty Kazmaier Award and graduated with the program record for most goals by a blueliner.
Joining her at the induction ceremony was her brother Bill, a significant supporter of her groundbreaking career. Not only were the two teammates with the Tulsa Oilers, marking the first brother-sister combination to play in a professional game together, Bill experienced his own jubilation this year. Along with Dustin Smith, the two were co-winners of the Florida Panthers “Goal of a Lifetime” competition, earning the opportunity to serve as practice goalies for the NHL club.
In addition, Ruggiero was recently announced as the fourth woman to gain induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. She joins the likes of Canadians Geraldine Heaney and Angela James, along with former teammate Cammi Granato, who contributed to the United States capturing the gold medal at the historic 1998 Nagano Winter Games (the first time that women’s hockey was contested at the Games).
A unique fact about Ruggiero is the fact that the other three women in the Hall have also been inducted as members of the IIHF Hall of Fame. Ruggiero becomes the first Hall of Fame inductee that is not yet a member of the IIHF’s Hall. Of note, she is one of only three American women to have competed in four Winter Games, including Jenny Schmidgall-Potter and Julie Chu, who shall likely earn their own places in the Hall.
Considering the remarkable career of Ruggiero, the induction symbolically goes beyond her playing career. Proving that women can have a career after they hang up their skates, her list of accomplishments seems almost endless. Among her most notable, she is a member of the IIHF’s Athlete’s Committee, representing the United States, the IOC’s Athlete’s Commission, the Board of Directors for the United States Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency, along with a term as President for the Women’s Sports Foundation, serving as an advocate for athletes on a global scale.
From a hockey perspective, she is also part of a bold, new chapter in American women’s sporting history. In serving as a consultant to the brand new NWHL, her expertise and encyclopedic knowledge of the game provides direction, while fuelling the ambitions of an amazing initiative to see women earn compensation for competing in hockey. In many ways, this is an extension of her legacy with the Women’s Sports Foundation.
Having grown up in Simi Valley, California, Ruggiero dreamed of one day playing for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. Having met Kings competitor Marty McSorley, he became her idol. As a side note, Granato once served on the Kings’ broadcast team. Her ambitions to play hockey truly represented the hopes of the Wayne Gretzky trade to the Kings in August 1988, an impacting transaction which truly served to develop hockey in the United States’ Sun Belt. It was only fitting that Gretzky also competed at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, where Ruggiero experienced such a remarkable hockey milestone.
For an empowering and influential woman, these Hall of Fame nods are testament to Ruggiero’s legacy as an athlete and a sporting ambassador. A key figure that has proven why young women cannot give up on their sporting dreams, it is another reason why such recognition only adds to her motivation, recognizing the importance of serving as a role model, helping to pave a golden road forward.
Photo credit: Photo: Winslow Townson USA TODAY Sports