by Mark Staffieri
In an off-season filled with many memorable moments in women?۪s sport, the announcement of Angela Ruggiero?۪s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame only adds to the magic.
Although Ruggiero becomes the fourth woman to gain entry into the prestigious hall, she is the first inductee with playing experience in the CWHL. The three previous inductees – Angela James, Cammi Granato and Geraldine Heaney ??? played in the league?۪s predecessor, the NWHL, cementing the CWHL?۪s legacy as home to the world?۪s finest female hockey talent.
After the euphoria of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, the CWHL made its first foray into the United States, establishing a team in Boston, resulting in borderless hockey. As a charter member of the Boston Blades, Ruggiero was more than just one of the team?۪s leaders; she became an ambassador for the team and the league.
During the Blades inaugural season, Ruggiero made her CWHL debut on Oct. 30, 2010 against the Burlington Barracudas. Earning an assist in her debut, it also represented a franchise milestone as it was an assist on the first power-play goal in franchise history.
It would mark the start of a four-game scoring streak to begin her Blades career, in which the squad enjoyed a 3-1 record. During the final game of the streak, a 4-2 win versus the Toronto Furies on Nov. 21, Ruggiero not only scored the first goal of her CWHL career, she completed the game by recording a hat trick, including the game-winning tally. Fittingly, she was recognized with first star of the game honorus.
Finishing the season with 26 points in 22 games played, she recorded five multi-point performances, including an impressive four-point output on Feb. 26, 2011, in a hard-fought 5-4 loss to the eventual Clarkson Cup champions, the Montreal Stars. That season, she would finish second in team scoring to Sam Faber, while ranking third overall in scoring among CWHL blueliners.
As a side note, Ruggiero had once played for the Montreal Axion, a predecessor to the Montreal Stars. Calling the likes of Lisa-Marie Breton Lebreux (a co-founder of the CWHL), Gina Kingsbury and all-world goalie Charline Labont̩ teammates, she helped the Axion reach the 2005 Esso Women?۪s Nationals, the precursor to the current Clarkson Cup.
Helping the Axion to the bronze medal game, she scored two of the Axion?۪s three goals in the final ten minutes, to prevail by a 4-2 tally. For her efforts, Ruggiero was not only named player of the game, but she earned the tournament?۪s top defenscman award, signifying one of the most exceptional performances by an American-born player in the history of the event.
The chance to play with the Boston Blades resulted in Ruggiero continuing to gain the admiration and respect of Canadian hockey fans. Subsequently, the concept of women?۪s pro hockey in the United States became more than viable, and has since had a profound impact on the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.