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How Angela Gorgone became the NHL's first female assistant GM

The Hockey News
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The story of the NHL's first female assistant GM

Angela Gorgone. Author: TFP Media

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How Angela Gorgone became the NHL's first female assistant GM

The Hockey News
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Angela Gorgone helped revolutionize the scouting process. It wasn’t easy, but her post-hockey career has been a piece of cake.

BY MIKE COMMITO

It was the night before her first official meeting as the scouting co-ordinator for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Angela Gorgone was out for dinner with assistant GM Pierre Gauthier, director of player personnel David McNab and the scouting bureau. She was in uncharted waters. After having spent the previous four years in the New Jersey Devils’ front office as a hockey assistant, Gorgone now found herself on the west coast in a new job, with a new team.

One of her first duties was to inform the scouts that the organization was adopting a computerized system for its scouting process. It was 1993, and most scouts were still mailing their reports and relaying quick information by rotary telephone. Yet here was Gorgone, just 26 at the time, having to tell these seasoned veterans they were about to enter a brave new world.

The scouts just stared at her. When she returned home that night, she cried. The season hadn’t even started yet and she thought her scouting department already hated her.

Despite that first impression, Gorgone persisted, just as she had done while climbing every step of the executive ladder through the front office ranks, and she eventually won them over. “Once they learned how to do it,” she said, “they couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.”

Even though her first evening out with the Mighty Ducks didn’t go according to plan, Gorgone was exactly where she wanted to be. Ever since she was five years old, she had wanted to work in the NHL.

As a youngster growing up in Long Island, Gorgone watched games with a loose-leaf binder, keeping track of the score and statistics. When it came time to prepare for college, she faced a quandary. “They don’t make a school where you go there to become the GM of a hockey team,” Gorgone said. “So that was my dilemma.”

She eventually decided on Bowling Green State University, in part because her favorite Rangers’ player at the time, George McPhee, was an alumnus, and the school offered a sports administration program. While she was at Bowling Green, she worked as the hockey team’s statistician and videotaped practices. After doing that for three seasons, she had the chance to intern with the Devils. She was able to leverage that opportunity into a full-time position with the club as a hockey assistant in 1989.

While in New Jersey, much of Gorgone’s work focused on stats tracking, particularly time on ice, but she also waded into hockey operations. She increasingly found herself working on arbitration briefs, including the case that awarded the Devils Scott Stevens from the St. Louis Blues in 1991. And it was in New Jersey where she received one-on-one tutelage from GM Lou Lamoriello. “She was just outstanding,” Lamoriello said. “Her passion for the game was exceptional, her knowledge, her dedication. Everything.”

For Gorgone, the experience was invaluable. “People talk about how tough Lou is –and he is – but he always treated me with the utmost respect,” she said. “And 80 percent of everything I learned in the hockey business was from Lou.”

Gorgone learned more than the ins and outs of the industry from Lamoriello. She also learned a lot about commitment and discipline. In her final season with New Jersey, the Devils were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs on the road against the Penguins. As Gorgone was about to head back to the hotel, she ran into Lamoriello. He asked her where she was going and why she wasn’t getting ready to hop on the plane. She explained she had arrangements to fly home the following day and that her car was parked at the Meadowlands, not at the team’s practice facility in South Mountain, where the club was headed.

But Lamoriello had other plans. He told her he would drive her to her vehicle after the team had a quick meeting once they got back to New Jersey. Nearly three hours went by while Gorgone patiently waited for him. By the time they arrived at the Meadowlands, it was roughly 4 a.m. She thanked Lamoriello for the lift. His response? “ ‘No problem. See you at 8 a.m.,’ ” Gorgone recalled. Although New Jersey’s season had just ended, there was still plenty of work to do for next season.

That episode was just one of the many lessons in hard work Gorgone gleaned from Lamoriello. But after four years in New Jersey, she was ready for a change. Jack Ferreira, GM of the newly minted Mighty Ducks, had called Lamoriello about Gorgone regarding a front office position in Anaheim. Lamoriello said he gave her the highest recommendation one could give, and Gorgone became the club’s inaugural scouting coordinator. “We hired her because she was qualified – period,” Ferreira said. “She was really a hockey fanatic.”

Just a year earlier, the San Jose Sharks had hired Deborah Wright as a part-time scout, making her the first woman to scout for an NHL team. Now Gorgone would blaze a trail of her own. “She was part of the hockey department and, unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of women who are part of that, so in a way she was a pioneer,” Gauthier said. “She had the passion, she had the knowledge, and she was part of us, she really was.”

Although Gorgone didn’t encounter any resistance, she remembers feeling she needed to be perfect all the time. “I never wanted to give them a reason for them to say, ‘Oh well, that’s because she’s a woman,’ ” she said.

Gorgone continued to make history and push down barriers with the Ducks when Ferreira promoted her in 1996 to assistant GM, a position no woman has held since. Not long after her appointment, she moved on to Nashville to become manager of hockey operations.

It seemed as though Gorgone was destined to continue her ascendancy in the NHL, but after two years with the Predators she felt it was time to take a step back. She was burnt out. Her job, particularly as the scouting coordinator, required nearly a year-round commitment, and there were years when she didn’t have a vacation. Although she loved her work, she felt the pace was unsustainable.

After leaving the hockey world, Gorgone got certified as a personal trainer and worked in the fitness field for nearly a decade. She met her husband, Chris, in 1999, and the couple had a son, Ryan, in 2006. Now Gorgone Swartz, she lives in the Bay Area with her family.

It was in preparation for her son’s fourth birthday party that Gorgone stumbled onto her next career path. At Ryan’s party, a parent asked Gorgone if she could whip up some cupcakes for another birthday party. She obliged, and from there it snowballed into a full-fledged business. A year later, Gorgone opened Bake My Day, a bakery that specializes in a variety of tasty treats. In an average year, she typically produces upwards of 200 cakes, 2,100 cake pops, 800 cookies and 750 cupcakes. “I went from the Queen of Hockey to the Princess of Pastry,” she said.

Looking back on the trajectory of her hockey career, Gorgone has no regrets. If she laments anything, it’s only that she never had the chance to work for her beloved New York Rangers and that she never won a Stanley Cup. Although she has been out of the hockey world for nearly two decades, Gorgone has left an important legacy. “I achieved a lot,” she said. “I’m proud of what I did.”

This is an edited version of a feature that appeared in the November 7 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.

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How Angela Gorgone became the NHL's first female assistant GM