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Recollections of Ruggiero: 'One in a million'

by Jon Lane /

Angela Ruggiero emerged as the United States' finest defenseman during her 15-year career that resulted in her becoming the fourth woman inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Ruggiero won four Olympic medals, including gold at the 1998 Nagano Games, and is one of five U.S. players to compete in four Olympics (Jenny Potter, Julie Chu, Chris Chelios and Keith Tkachuk). She also helped Harvard win a national championship in 1999 and was named the country's top women's collegiate hockey player in 2004.

Ruggiero's extraordinary accomplishments also earned her entry into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Dec. 17.

Multiple people interviewed by paid tribute to her career as a player, leader and ambassador to the game. Here's what they had to say:

Ben Smith, United States women's national team coach (1998-2006): "Not only has she affected the game of ice hockey but she's creating and establishing a mark for sport across the world. That goes parallel with her great athletic success. She's been a giant in sport. Hockey is her thing, but she's so accomplished, and continues to grow and flourish and be a standard-bearer for not just women's athletics but for sport worldwide. Her resume rings out everything you need to know. She's one in a million."

Katey Stone, Harvard women's hockey coach (1994-present): "Often times your best players are the ones that are the hardest to coach in many ways. She was strong-headed at times but she was such a great team kid. She wanted what was best for her teammates and for her team. Over the years, Ang [has become] very refined, very polished. She's grown into this amazing woman."

Hayley Wickenheiser, forward for Canada national team (1994-present): "Overall she played with a fire and a passion and a nastiness on the ice that made her tough to play against and easy to play with. She had a great shot and nice vision of the ice and an ability to make simple plays and speed the game up for her team."

Karyn Bye Dietz, alternate captain, U.S. women's national team (1998): "If someone says Angela Ruggiero, the first thing that comes to mind from me is a fierce competitor. She's someone who was big, strong, fast … she was just a force out on that blue line and by far one of our top defenders throughout her playing career."

Mark Johnson, United States women's Olympic coach (2010): "She, for a long period of time, was a face of women's hockey. Certainly if people got a chance to watch her play either at Harvard or one of the multiple Olympics she played in … even the chance I got to coach her up in Vancouver, she had a great tournament. She was a very intimidating force, especially if she wanted to do something. There weren't a lot of people that can get in her way and stop her."

Meghan Duggan, captain, U.S. women's national team: "With all the experiences that Ang has had, the games that she's played and the things that she's been through, she's an incredibly mentally tough athlete. She's played in countless gold-medal finals. She's had amazing triumphs and heartbreaking losses. Those types of things really make you dig down deep inside yourself and figure out what you're made of, and what type of person and what type of athlete you are and you want to be. Ang definitely has the mental toughness that you need. I think the best thing about her is that she admits that. She teaches that and she tries to get everyone on the same page and get the team on board with all that she's learned and all that she knows."

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