In 2008, the IIHF celebrated its centennial, and to cap the celebrations the World Championship was held in Canada for the first time. Quebec City and Halifax were the cities, two great hockey towns without NHL teams at the time.
The final weekend also couldn’t have worked out better. Canada and Russia played for gold, a classic rivalry to finish a perfect three weeks of hockey. There was a gala dinner at which the IIHF’s Centennial All-Star Team was announced, and between medal games on the final Sunday the IIHF held its annual Hall of Fame Induction.
That induction on 16 May 2008, featured Mario Lemieux and Igor Larionov (Canada and Russia again!) as well as France’s Philippe Bozon and USA Hockey’s own Art Berglund.
But this time – for the first time – three women were front and centre. Canada’s Angela James and Geraldine Heaney and American Cammi Granato were honoured, the first women inducted into the IIHF’s pantheon of greats.
This wasn’t just about acknowledging that these women were tremendous players and ambassadors for the game – it was the formalizing of that acknowledgement that mattered most.
“It’s great because now we’re finally being recognized not only in our own country but worldwide,” said Heaney. “There are so many young girls playing hockey now, it’s amazing. I really feel we need to promote the game worldwide, not just in Canada, and inducting women now should help that.”
“To be among the first women going into the IIHF Hall of Fame is hard to put into words, but it’s extremely special to me,” Granato said at the ceremony. “I want to thank the IIHF for giving me a whole new dream, to play international women’s hockey.”
Said James: “It’s something that’s started now, and from now on a lot more women will be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” said James. “It’s just a building step for the future of our sport. It’s not female or male. It’s hockey. It’s our game.”
Two years later, the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto inducted James and Granato as the first women, and today the IIHF Hall has nine female Players and two Builders (Fran Rider, Ben Smith) and the HHOF has six Player inductees.
The great women stand beside the great men as equals, respected for their contributions on and off the ice. It may have taken a while, but it was worth the wait.
Click here for the overview of stories.