Angela Ruggiero might have just ended her hockey career, but her sense of humor remains in its prime.
“Now,” said the former star Harvard and Team USA star, “I can use my degree for something other than the power play.”
Ruggiero, one of the greatest women’s hockey players of all time, formerly announced her retirement from hockey on Dec. 28. She won four Olympic medals with the United States, including a gold medal at the first Olympic women’s hockey competition held in Nagano in 1998.
During her 16-year career with the national squad, Ruggiero played more games (256) than anyone in the history of Team USA and earned 208 points (67 goals, 141 assists). She represented Team USA in 10 IIHF World Championships, winning the gold medal three times.
Yet, while Ruggiero will go down as one of the greatest ambassadors that women’s hockey in America has ever had, her impact on the sport is far from over.
Ruggiero is a U.S. Olympic Committee board member and during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, she was elected to the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission. She is one of three U.S. representatives of the 114-member IOC.
The 31-year-old native Californian did not go into great detail about what she hopes to accomplish with the IOC, but in part, she hopes “to represent the U.S. Obviously it’s in my blood and I love USA Hockey — and they need a voice.”
In general, the work that she is doing with the national and international hockey committees — “my second career, as I call it” — should provide a platform for Ruggiero to shine on the big stage once again.
“I’m excited to continue my work on the international scene,” she said. “Being elected to the IOC was such an honor and at the same time, a responsibility. I don’t take that lightly. I want to make sure I’m representing the athletes of the world and representing the U.S. Olympic Committee and doing all I can to promote the sport on a global level.”
Specifically, Ruggiero hopes to elevate the respect given to women’s hockey in more countries, especially those that already strongly support men’s hockey.
“What I’m seeing (more than anything else are) societal differences that are hindering our sport,” Ruggiero said. “I’m urging countries like Russia and the Czech Republic that have outstanding men’s teams to help their women’s programs, to support their women’s programs. They obviously have the tools and opportunities … and they need to share that on the women’s side.”
While countries such as Russia and the Czech Republic are often contenders in men’s hockey tournaments, the United States, Canada, Finland and Sweden have often made up the final four in women’s tournaments, with Canada and Team USA meeting in the gold-medal contest of all 13 IIHF World Women’s Championships and three of four Olympic Winter Games.
Competing in 10 of those world championships and all four Winter Games as a defenseman — arguably the greatest this country has ever seen — Ruggiero won four world championships and one Olympic gold medal. She finished her international career with 208 points (including 67 goals) in 256 games.
“While I’ll miss being on the ice,” she said, “it’s an exciting time for me.”
Needless to say, Ruggiero isn’t the only one eager to find out what lays around the corner for her.
"I'm excited to see what she'll do next," said Caitlin Cahow, Ruggiero’s longtime friend and defensive partner with Team USA. “It’s always sad to lose a teammate, but with Angela, you’re losing a presence. And her presence will be greatly missed.”
Perhaps the only people who were happy to hear about Ruggiero’s announcement, Cahow joked, are the Canadians.
As for Ruggiero’s American counterparts, the news — which Ruggiero first delivered at a meeting of the team’s leaders, including Cahow, at a recent training camp held in Blaine, Minn. — was followed by hugs, tears and laughs.
After all, Cahow said, these women are not just longtime teammates, they have become family.
Still, Ruggiero’s hockey family knows she is bound for success even if it is not in a Team USA uniform.
“Whatever she chooses to do, she will have tremendous success and continue to enhance the lives of other people,” USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean said.
Ruggiero plans to remain in coaching, though for now that aspect of her life will be limited to working with youngsters. As for coaching on the college level, or perhaps internationally, Ruggiero said that could happen one day — but much further down the road.
She also is considering applying to business school next year because, as Ruggiero puts it with a laugh, “I’d like to get a real job relatively soon.” Ruggiero already has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota.
Wherever the journey takes her, Ruggiero’s future appears to be in good shape. As far as the future of Team USA, well, it might be brighter than you think.
“I’m not worried,” said Ruggiero, who took on an additional leadership role when the legendary Cammi Granato retired in 2005. “There are some great leaders on this team. Whether it’s Julie Chu or Meghan Duggan or Caitlin Cahow, Molly Engstrom or Jenny Potter, those five will really put the team in a good spot moving forward. There is a great amount of leadership there. … The team is in such great position moving forward.”
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Drew Silverman is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.