International Ice Hockey Federation

WW Top 25 Stories: #17

WW Top 25 Stories: #17

Cammi Granato cut before Turin

Published 19.03.2015 22:43 GMT+1 | Author Andrew Podnieks
WW Top 25 Stories: #17
A few months after hoisting the trophy at the 2005 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, Cammi Granato (in the middle) was cut from the team. Photo: Soren Andersson / Bildbyran
24 August 2005. Surely there was a misprint, a typo, an April Fool’s joke, something to explain the announcement in August 2005 that Cammi Granato had been cut.

But no, coach Ben Smith, the guiding hand for the U.S. national women’s team since 1997, the man who led his team to a stunning Olympic gold in 1998, and the man who finally got the U.S. its first Women’s World gold just a few months earlier, had decided that Granato, at age 34, was too slow, too old for the new women’s game. She would not be going to Italy with her teammates and was cut from the team preparing for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.

The last time such a decision of similar magnitude had been made came in 1997 when coach Shannon Miller cut Angela James from Canada’s Olympic roster. Canada ended up with a silver. Connection? Who can know, but in 2006, it was difficult to see any good coming out of the move, especially as Smith didn’t identify a young and rising star as the reason for cutting the legendary Granato.

It can be safely stated that Granato was the very face of the U.S. women’s program. She played in the first Women’s Worlds in 1990 at age 18. She had played in all eleven major events from that time through the historic 2005 Worlds. She was the all-time leader in IIHF women’s hockey in goals, assists, and points. No one could have seen this move coming, not Granato, not her teammates... and not her opponents.

Granato kept in touch with her teammates and was hired by Olympics broadcaster NBC as a commentator for women’s hockey in Turin. So, yes, she went to Italy, but not as a participant, not to walk in the Opening Ceremonies, but to watch, to observe, to comment.

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"Everyone asks me, `Why are you punishing yourself?' But because something happened, I'm supposed to close the door to another opportunity?" she explained.

"How would it be easier to turn down a job I could get more work in, that could lead to something more? I don't know the potential with this. Why would I miss this?"

Painful, yes, but it was a smart and practical decision as well. "I'll always believe I belonged on that team," she said. "There's no doubt."

Granato’s situation became all the more difficult as she watched her team lose to Sweden in the semi-finals, failing to qualify for the gold-medal game for the first time ever.

There was no comeback or second act, no defiance or lawsuits, only the realization that her career was over. Granato was one of the first women inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2008 (with James and Geraldine Heaney), and one of the first into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010 (with James).

The unkindest cut of all in 2005 did nothing to diminish her contributions to the game, contributions which will forever be remembered.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of women's hockey in the IIHF, writer Andrew Podnieks is counting down the top 25 stories in women's international hockey history. One story each day will appear until the Number 1 story is unveiled the morning of the gold-medal game of the 2015 Women's Worlds in Malmo, Sweden, on April 4.

Earlier Top 25 Stories:
#18: Visitors win twice in North American finals
#19: IIHF makes Women’s Worlds official for 1990
#20: Rogge issues challenge to women’s hockey
#21: IIHF goes to all-women officials
#22: Shannon Miller recruits Euros for NCAA
#23: IIHF introduces junior event for women
#24: Zorn a goalie and skater both
#25: Russia-Switzerland a dandy display in 2011


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