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Women embrace idea of one of their own entering Hockey Hall of Fame

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - The idea of young girls seeing a female face in The Great Hall at the Hockey Hall of Fame was welcomed by players and coaches at the Four Nations Cup women's tournament.

The Toronto Star reported earlier this week that the hockey shrine is rewriting its bylaws which, if approved, would open the door for women to be inducted.

"That would be phenomenal," U.S. forward Natalie Darwitz said Saturday. "Little girls can go and see female faces and not just male."

The International Ice Hockey Federation and USA Hockey helped pave the way for women into the Hall of Fame by inducting women for the first time into their respective Halls.

The IIHF Hall of Fame is housed in a section of the Hall in Toronto. The world governing body of the sport engraved U.S. forward Cammi Granato and Canadian defenceman Geraldine Heaney and forward Angela James on its honour role last year.

The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, Minn., made Granato the first woman to enter it last month.

The players at the Four Nations grappled with the question, as the Hall of Fame's all-male selection committee would have to, of who should be the first woman allowed in.

The Canadians threw out the names of several countrywomen while Granato was the first choice among Americans.

"That's a hard question. How far back do you go? Do you go with a pioneer like Abbie Hoffman?" asked Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser.

"You have to look at international women's hockey since the first world championship in 1990. You look at Angela James, such a dominating great player in the game, Cammi Granato has got to be up there, Geraldine Heaney has got to be in there. Those three names right off the bat come to mind."

The Shaunavon, Sask., native added that former national team goaltender Manon Rheaume, who was the first woman to plan an NHL game, could be considered.

Sarah Vaillancourt of Sherbrooke, Que., threw her support behind Cassie Campbell, who was Wickenheiser's predecessor as captain.

"Everyone knows she's been my idol forever and even though she's done playing hockey, she's still my idol and I can definitely see Danielle Goyette there," she said.

Vaillancourt feels a woman's induction would signal the Hall of Fame finally values women's accomplishments in the game as much as men's.

"We do the same amount of work, we do the same amount of off-ice training in the summer and I don't think everyone realizes that," she said. "That would be a sign of recognition."

The induction of a woman would do double duty, U.S. coach Katey Stone said.

"It's a role model and someone to aspire to be, but it also rewards the great accomplishments of an individual," she explained.

Players must be retired for induction into the Hall of Fame and possible female candidates include:

-Geraldine Heaney: The only woman to win a gold medal in the first seven world championships. She was named top defenceman in two of them. She retired after helping Canada win Olympic gold in 2002.

-Cassie Campbell: The only Canadian hockey player and only female hockey player to captain a national team to two Olympic gold medals. She won six world titles and switched from defence to forward mid-career.

-Cammi Granato: The former U.S. captain tops all-time scoring list at world championship and is the only player to appear in the first nine world tournaments. She captained the U.S. to Olympic gold in 1998 and also to the country's first world championship in 2005.

-Angela James: She led Canada in scoring in the first world championship in 1990 with 11 goals and helped her country win three more world titles after that.

-Riikka Nieminen: The Finnish forward led two world championships and the 1998 Olympic Games in scoring. She ranks among the top 10 all-time in scoring at the world championships.

-Karyn Bye: She led the U.S. to Olympic gold in 1998 with five goals in six games. Bye ranks among the top 10 all-time leading scorers at the world championships.

-Katie King: The forward is the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. at the Olympics with 23 points. She appeared in six world championships and won gold in 2005.

Wickenheiser would head for the Hall the day a woman enters its exclusive membership club.

"I'll be there to see it because that's going to be a moment for everybody in the game," she declared. "Whoever it is, they're making history and they're opening another door for the women's game."

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