Cammi Granato had a Hall of Fame career and tonight she was finally honored for it. She became the first American woman to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame just moments ago.
Granato, who was born into a hockey family and married a former player (Ray Ferraro), was the pioneer for women's hockey across the United States. She won Olympic gold in 1998, silver in 2002 and a World Championship in 2005. She retired in 2006, but is still very much involved in the game of hockey.
Here is some of what Granato had to say in her acceptance speech here in Toronto:
"This is absolutely incredible. I am in awe that I am standing here. I'd like to thank the committee for not only considering us, but believing in us and accepting us and understanding that we love the game as much as men do. You're changing the face of women's hockey alone just by allowing us into this club.
"Hockey has been a part of my life since I can remember.
"Angela, facing off against you year after year, there were times I'd get on the ice and see you and say, 'Not again.' There was one time in particular where I finally beat you on a faceoff and I felt a stick across the back of my legs. She did not like that I beat her. There is not another player I played against that had such a presence on the ice.
"Since I got the call back in June I've had time to reflect on my hockey career, and I've looked at my journey deeper than ever before. It's been really fun to go back and look at my past, my childhood. It was my dream to play for the Blackhawks. We had season tickets and that's what I wanted to do. I had the same dream as my brothers and I didn't think I was going to be any different.
"Playing boys hockey for me was really fun. I never thought anything of it unless one of the people pointed it out. I was just another hockey player. There was a time I played with my cousin Bobby and we were in a tournament in Edina and our coach overheard the other coach say, 'I want you to hit the girl on the first shift and take her out.' Our coach came into the locker room and said, 'Bobby, you're No. 21 today.'
"I was 15 years old when I was having a talk with my mom, and I clearly remember the day, and I realized that my dream of playing in the NHL might not come true. It was just too physical. I remember running into my room after we talked and just crying, just absolutely crushed that my brothers were allowed to take their dreams further and I wasn't. There were two years I didn't play hockey. My mom got information that there was college hockey out east. That was good news for me because I didn't know women played hockey at a higher level.
"When I look back at my national team, U.S. career highlights, I obviously think of Japan in 1998. There is nothing like winning an Olympic gold medal. We had an amazing team, great team chemistry, and it was the most special thing I've been a part of. I remember going to the Great Wall of China, looking at one of my best friends on the team Chris Bailey, and we looked at each other, shook our head and couldn't believe that hockey had brought us to this place.
"Walter Bush, if you're here tonight, thank you and others for pushing to get women's hockey in the Olympics. You made our dreams come true.
"There's one person that I want to thank in hockey, and it's Wayne Gretzky. I was in awe of what he was as a hockey player when I was younger, but when I got to meet him off the ice, my brother Tony was a roommate of his when they played in Los Angeles, he was a nicer person off the ice, a class act. Wayne was a big supporter, he was always behind me. He came to one of our events to give out and award and I never thanked him. I regretted it and regretted it, so Wayne, this is my chance to thank you.
"Mom and dad, you gave me a chance to play. People told you were crazy for letting your girl play hockey. You listened to me when I asked for the chance to play and that is so big, I am so thankful.
"Matt and Landon, my step sons, you're such a big part of my family now after hockey. Matt is here today and Landon can't be here because he's forging his own career in hockey, but thank you guys. My husband Ray, the game of hockey brought us together and I'm so thankful for that. We're an amazing team and we've had some great years already. I love you. Reese, my 10-month old, who is at the hotel right now hopefully sleeping, he has no idea what is happening just that his mom is gone a lot this weekend and he's not happy about that. Riley, my 3-year-old, buddy I am so proud of you and mommy loves you so much.
"Robby, my brother, once told me, shoot for the moon because if you miss you're going to hit the stars. Well, Robby, tonight I hit the moon."