Four-time U.S. Olympian Ruggiero gets Hall nod

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
USA's Angela Ruggiero holds up an American flag following the gold medal win against Canada during their finals match at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, in February 1998. USA won 3-1.

Angela Ruggiero knew she wanted to play hockey.

"I wanted to play for the Los Angeles Kings," said Ruggiero, whose family moved to Harper Woods from California. "I showed up on career day in second grade with my hockey gear. I knew I wanted to play hockey.

"I just didn't know where it would take me."

Monday, she reached the pinnacle of her career.

Ruggiero, 35, was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame along with players Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Pronger. Peter Karmanos Jr., and Bill Hay were inducted in the builders' class.

A four-time Olympian (one gold, two silver, one bronze), Ruggiero twice was named the best defenseman in the tournament (2002-2006).

She also played on four gold-medal winning world championship teams and six silver-medal winning teams.

Angela Ruggiero

No other women's player has represented USA hockey as often.

"However many years later to play in four Olympics and travel around the world and here today to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, it's something I never could have imagined," Ruggiero said. "I'm thankful to my mom, my dad, teammates, and the people who supported me in that dream as a seven-year-old in California, of all places.

"I was lucky to pursue something that wasn't a clear path for me but because I had a great support system around me," Ruggiero is in the Hall of Fame.

Ruggiero said when she began playing hockey, there were approximately 5,000 girls playing the sport around the country and opportunities were limited.

Now, almost 30 years later, women's college hockey programs are sprouting, there's talk of professional leagues, and girls' hockey is becoming stronger.

"I benefited so much from women's hockey starting in the Olympics in 1998 and being part of that first gold medal team, I had so many trailblazers come before me," said Ruggiero, mentioning Cammi Granato, one of the USA's all-time greats. "I'm more than pleased I could do that for others and hope that women's hockey grows and expands in the NCAA and professionally.

"Hockey is hockey, regardless of gender, and I'm excited to be part of this team (2015 Hall of Fame class)."

Ruggiero is a student at Harvard Business School and serves on the International Ice Hockey Federation athlete's committee.

"I've visited the Hockey Hall of Fame many times, and never get tired of learning about the rich tradition of the inductees," said Ruggiero, who is the fourth woman ever elected for induction. "The fact that I'm now joining them is very special, and the greatest accomplishment I can think of as a hockey player."