Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Angela Ruggiero, a four-time Olympic hockey medalist, retired as the all-time leader (male or female) in games played (256) in a USA hockey jersey. Many consider her to be the best American female hockey player of all time.
Angela and her brother Bill were inspired to take up the game when Wayne Gretzky arrived in Los Angeles. Soon enough it became apparent both kids were very good at hockey, so good that they quickly outgrew any competition had to offer in Southern California at that time. So the Ruggiero parents left the warm sunshine of California so that their kids could pursue their hockey dreams.
A huge sacrifice? Absolutely. But it was all worth it given Angela's accomplishments at the collegiate and international levels. In 2005 she even managed to join her brother Bill for one professional game in the Central Hockey League game, in which she became the first woman to play a position other than goalkeeper in a professional game.
She joined the U.S. national team at 16 and later excelled at Harvard, where she earned a scholarship and graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Government. On the ice she became a leader through 10 world championships and all four women’s Olympic hockey tournaments, winning a gold medal in 1998, silver in 2002 and 2010 and bronze in 2006.
A recurring shoulder injury and her growing responsibilities to the IOC’s Athletes Commission and other assignments led her to realize her greatest impact on women's hockey now lies off the ice rather than on it.
“The biggest thing for me is the responsibility I have to the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee, and I’m really passionate about that. The more I’ve done work with the IOC the more I’ve come to realize I’m really excited about this, the work that I’m doing and the impact that I can have if I’m fully committed to it," she said at her press conference.
“In a way, by being fully committed to the Olympic movement globally, I’m better able to promote women’s hockey and talk about women’s hockey and put a face to women’s hockey, to all the IOC members,” she said. “To all the International Ice Hockey Federation members, to anyone really in the global community and do what I can to promote the game at that level.
“I still love hockey. It’s just I’m at a different stage of my life and I think I’m just ready to grow in other ways outside of just being a hockey player.”