As 1st female NHL scout, Cammi Granato brings pioneering spirit to Seattle's expansion team

Cammi Granato says she's always had to prove herself "in a game that was considered a man's sport." Now the Olympic gold medallist is breaking barriers as the NHL's only female scout.

NHL's only female scout looking to build a winner in Seattle

Cammi Granato, who had a Hall of Fame career with the U.S. national team, became the first female scout in the NHL when she was hired by the Seattle expansion team in September. (Getty Images)

Evaluating hockey talent is nothing new to Cammi Granato.

In the past, the Olympic gold medallist would argue the strengths and weakness of players either with her brothers around the family dinner table, or later with her husband Ray Ferraro, a former NHL player and current broadcaster.

Granato's thoughts and evaluations carry even more weight now that she is the only female scout in the NHL.

"Your opinion actually matters," said the former U.S. Olympic team captain and Hockey Hall of Famer. "It [used to] only matter when Ray and I bet, and I would win the bet. I would be excited I was right."

Granato has been hired by the Seattle expansion team as one of five professional scouts as the franchise prepares to begin play in the 2021-22 season.

Based in Vancouver, Granato attends Vancouver Canucks games where she watches and assess players. Her opinions and observations will help build a data base for when the yet-to-be-named Seattle team begins filling its roster.

"We've been told a little bit of what to look for as far as a player's abilities or assets," Granato said. "We haven't identified what the actual identify of the team will be made up of, what type of players in particular we are looking for.

Granata jokes she honed her evaluation skills arguing over players with her husband Ray Ferraro, right, a former NHLer and current broadcaster. (Getty Images)

"Right now, the importance is to get a data base, not just for the expansion draft, but also once we're through with that."

During games Granato jots down notes about different player's skating skills, their offensive and defensive abilities. She wants to see how they react in back-to-back games and tries to judge the intangibles like attitude and compete level.

"You can't see it all in one game," she said. "I'm going to need a lot of games to see all of those things.

"You certainly can identify some of them as you watch. When you are watching the same division over and over you start to unveil those aspects of the game."

Granato has played hockey at college and the elite international level and has worked as a colour commentator, but she admits being a scout is a new experience.

"There is a learning curve," she said. "I'm going into it knowing I have a lot to learn. I'm keeping a really open mind to make sure they are my opinions and not what other people see.

"I feel like it's a natural thing to watch players. I've done it my whole life, watching hockey, noticing certain tendencies of players."

There are differences between the women's and men's game, but the fundamentals remain the same when judging talent.

I feel its a natural thing to watch players. I've done it my whole life, watching hockey, noticing certain tendencies of players.- Cammi Granato

"I think it's based maybe on the fact I was an offensive player who saw the ice really well," she said. "I understand the competitiveness, I understood when you want the puck, when you want to score. I understand when you are confident and when you're not.

"Those sorts of things jump out at me a lot quicker. It's not gender based, just the type of player I was."

Scouts from other organizations are at many of the same games, gathering information which might decide trades this season and impact next year's draft. They are concentrating on the present while Granato is more focused on the future.

"You're building from scratch," she said. "We're still two years out. In a way there's not this urgency. You can take your time.

"For someone like me who is new in the scouting world, I can get a full season under my belt learning these players, learning their tendencies. There is another year to watch them again. I think there are benefits to that. There is an excitement to building from scratch. It's really cool."

When Seattle GM Ron Francis announced Granato's hiring he was adamant she was chosen because of her experience and accomplishments in the game, not because she was a woman.

'I feel like I have to prove myself more'

Granato doesn't feel pressure but knows plenty of eyes are watching her.

"I am definitely aware I am the only female pro scout sitting up in the press box," she said. "I get it. It's not anything new for me because that's sort of been the way it's been my whole life. I was always playing in a game that was considered a man's sport. I was always involved in something where we were either pioneers or breaking barriers. It's nothing new.

"I feel like I have to prove myself more. That's why I'm really trying hard to make all my reports based on my thoughts. I'm really trying to stay focused on my opinions."

Granato feels welcomed in the scouting community. And she doesn't care if some people secretly don't think she belongs.

"It's not something I haven't faced before," she said. "I've had a lot of people try to tell me I shouldn't be in the game my whole life and I never listened to them. It just comes with the territory and I'm fine with that. It doesn't bother me.

"I want to give all my effort and be good at it."


Jim has written about sports in Canada for more than 40 years for The Canadian Press, CBC Sports, and Swimming Canada. He has covered eight Olympic Games and three Paralympics. He was there the night the Edmonton Oilers won their first Stanley Cup and has covered 12 Grey Cups.