On a rainy Thursday afternoon in North Vancouver, a week before Christmas, Cammi Granato is on the phone when I arrive at her door a few hours before the Vancouver Canucks play host to the Vegas Golden Knights.
She ushers me in as she continues discussing travel details for her late-January trip to NHL Seattle’s first scouting meeting with the team’s director of hockey administration, Alex Mandrycky.
In September, Granato became the NHL’s first-ever female pro scout. Seattle’s group will have two full seasons to build a database of information on NHL players around the league before the club starts play as the league’s 32nd franchise in the 2021-22 season.
It’s not the first time that Granato has broken new ground in the hockey world. The 48-year-old grew up playing hockey on boys’ teams before suiting up for Team USA at the first-ever IIHF Women’s World Championship in 1990. She was captain of the gold medal-winning U.S. team at the first Olympic women’s hockey tournament, in 1998.
After winning gold, she spent a year as a radio color commentator for the Los Angeles Kings, and contributed to NBC’s hockey coverage. In 2008, Granato became one of the first women to be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. She and Angela James became the first female inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.
Today, Granato is mother to Reese, 10, and Riley, 12. She’s married to Ray Ferraro, who played 1,258 games over 18 seasons in the NHL and is now a highly respected broadcast analyst for TSN and NBC.
Now that her boys are getting older, Granato felt that scouting for Seattle was a perfect way to get back into the game.
“When Seattle was announced, that they were going to get a team, both Ray and I were like, ‘I could see me being involved in some way,’” she said. “I didn’t know exactly what capacity, but I kind of knew I wanted to be, in some way.”
Seattle general manager Ron Francis was a teammate of Ferraro’s on the Hartford Whalers for seven seasons in the 1980s. When it came time to hire his scouting staff, Granato was on his radar.
“Ron called Ray to get my number, then Ron called me,” she said. “That was the first I’d heard about the job in that capacity — and he basically offered me the job.”
“We approached Cammi because her resume and background in the game is outstanding and we’re lucky that she wanted to join us,” said Francis. “It’s a great story that she’s the first female professional scout in the NHL and it’s part of the culture here in Seattle to look at things differently – but that isn’t why we hired her.”
From her home base in Vancouver, Granato is in charge of scouting Western Conference teams — in her case, the Vancouver Canucks and their opponents.
“I focus on them both equally, because I really need to know a lot about the Pacific Division and the Western Conference teams,” she said. “I now have seen the Canucks, obviously, more than anybody else. I can see why, when you know players, the baseline of how they play, it’s easier to scout them as you get experience.”
Granato’s previous scouting experience came in the women’s game, looking at younger players who were coming up through USA Hockey. Over the next two seasons, she’ll work to build a scouting report on every player in the Western Conference before Francis and his staff assemble Seattle’s inaugural roster, starting with an expansion draft in June of 2021.
During games, Granato records her observations into a specially laid-out notebook. When she gets home, she enters her completed reports into a program called RinkNet.
“Our team in Seattle sets up the template and every template is just a little bit different, on how you rank a player or what exactly you want to fill in and how you’re going to fill it in,” she said.
“They set that template up and we file our reports. Everyone files in the same manner: ‘This is what I saw in the game and this is how I rank them, in these ways,’ attributes that they think are important.
“Once you write on a player, those reports get filed and then you can build your database.”
Granato’s workday starts long before she gets to the rink. Before I arrive at her house, she has watched some video on the Canucks’ opponents that evening, the Golden Knights. She has also done a phone interview, as well as handling last-minute preparations for her family’s holiday trip to the Czech Republic.
Ferraro is the longtime color voice of the IIHF World Junior Championship, which starts on December 26. He has already left town, ahead of the broadcast of Canada’s first pre-tournament game against Switzerland on December 19 — loaded down with family Christmas gifts that he and Granato have bought, wrapped and packed over the last three weeks.
Both boys also have birthdays coming up. Granato’s in charge of transporting those gifts.
December 20 is the last day of school before the Christmas break, so Cammi and the boys will depart on December 22. When we head out to collect the boys from school on Thursday afternoon, Granato makes a quick detour to the neighborhood bank, to pick up some Czech currency.
Despite their hockey-playing parents, both boys have chosen soccer as their preferred sport. Most days, that means the after-school routine involves getting Reese and Riley fed, changed, and ready to head out to practices and games. This close to the holidays, soccer is on a break.
On the drive back from school, the boys are excited to discuss the previous night’s Survivor finale. When we get back to the house, Granato says the vibe is much calmer than usual as she makes Reese and Riley a healthy after-school snack and the boys retreat to different corners of the house.
Over the next two hours, they pop back into the kitchen a few times with questions and requests, and to grab more food. Cammi moves efficiently, feeding her boys and herself as we discuss her playing career, her training as a holistic nutritionist, and how the Chicago native made Vancouver her permanent home after she was asked to play for an early women’s professional team, the Vancouver Griffins, in 2002.
“My brother Joey actually moved out with me,” said Cammi, part of a close-knit group of six siblings that also includes former NHL player Tony Granato and current Buffalo Sabres assistant coach Don Granato. “Joey was going to go to school and exchange in Australia. I’m like — come to Vancouver. So he and I and two of my teammates lived together. He’s still here.”
We talk about the hockey camp for girls that Granato ran this summer at the local North Shore Winter Club, the tournament that she has planned for February, and the importance that she places on empowering every girl who comes to her camp.
“It was fun to run it again,” she said. “We used to run it up in Chicago — that’s when Kendall Coyne, Hilary Knight and some of the other girls were there, so it was fun to be back, and interesting doing it as a mom. You look at it differently. You really understand how every encounter means something.
“My whole goal of that camp was to make every girl that was there feel empowered, and I feel like we accomplished it. We really tried to reach all of them. There were some kids that would come in — a few girls in particular, slouching, not so sure on the outside. Then, by the end of the week, they were really open and comfortable.”
We also talk about the team-building that went into her 1998 U.S. Olympic Team, which came together to beat the powerhouse Canadians for the first time ever and capture the gold.
“That year was magical,” she said. “It was very, very cool, and it was also the first time for everyone. There were no hierarchies.”
That sounds a bit like what happened with the NHL’s last expansion team, in Vegas. Dubbed The Golden Misfits, they played with a collective chip on their shoulders as they shattered expectations by reaching the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.
“I can’t tell you the number of people that have asked me if we’re going to follow in Vegas’ footsteps,” she said. “They set the bar really high and it was a bit of a magical scenario for them.”
The other general managers might be wiser when it comes to their next expansion draft, but Seattle will have the same opportunity to start with a clean slate.
“I’m really excited to be a part of that,” she said. “It’s really interesting to be a part of an organization that’s starting from the ground up. To me, that’s so unique. It’s so exciting, to watch to where we are now, to see what’s coming. I feel really fortunate.”
With heavy rain and busy holiday traffic, we plan a 5:45 departure from Granato’s home for the 7 p.m. puck drop in downtown Vancouver. Ferraro’s adult son from his previous marriage, Matt, lives in the suite that’s attached to the house with his wife Manroop and their two young children. Manroop will keep an eye on older son Riley while mom’s at work; Reese prefers to go to a friend’s house.
With a healthy dinner of chicken and black rice in hand, Reese joins Granato and me as we depart. Mom walks him up the driveway to the front door of his friend’s house, then scampers back down the slick, steep pavement without a second thought, demonstrating her impressive natural athleticism.
Traffic is crawling, but the rain starts to ease once we get over the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge and into Vancouver. Eventually, we get close to Rogers Arena, park, and go through security at the media entrance with about 15 minutes to spare.
Granato grabs the night’s game notes and a cup of tea, then settles into her seat on scouts’ row, on the lower level of the Canucks’ press box area. She has entered the expected line combinations for both teams into her notebook ahead of time and makes one adjustment when she learns that Vancouver winger Tim Schaller is substituting for injured Brandon Sutter.
Once play begins, she focuses intently on the game action. During stoppages, she makes quick notes in pencil in her scouting book.
When she returns to her seat after the first intermission, she tells me that Riley called. “Mom, I’m bored. What can I eat?”
In the second intermission, she shows me a text exchange with Riley. They’ve forgotten to pick up the Secret Santa gift that he needs to take to school on Friday. “Is anything open?” he asks.
He’s buying for a classmate who has requested a certain fancy lollipop. With limited shopping options at 9 p.m., Granato uses the intermission to head down to the candy shop in the arena concourse and see if she can find anything suitable. Riley wants to make sure that his gift recipient gets exactly what she wants, so he nixes all suggestions.
The game is entertaining — a back-and-forth affair with plenty of emotion that sends the fans home happy after a 5-4 overtime win for the Canucks.
Most scouts like to beat the traffic by ducking out with a few minutes left in the third period. Granato feels she doesn’t have enough of a foundation yet to allow her to miss out on any action, especially at potentially crucial points in the game.
The boys have been good about her new responsibilities, she says, but they asked several times during the afternoon what time she’d be home.
Overtime made for a late finish. While the Canucks are still celebrating their winning goal, Granato says a quick goodbye and heads for home, where the work of writing up her full report still awaits.
I text her the next day to see how Secret Santa turned out.
“I had to go get it on my own while Riley was at school. However, if you are looking for the world’s largest lollipop 🍭, head to Lonsdale Quay (and then to the dentist).”