Angela Ruggiero: Addition of Cassie Campbell-Pascall helps to play 'catch-up'

TORONTO -- Angela Ruggiero was thinking about legends. It's difficult not to when standing steps away from the Hockey Hall of Fame, at the 2018 induction ceremony, as she was on Monday.

She was thinking about those women who blazed a trail that's led players like Jayna Hefford, a member of 2018's induction class, to immortality in their sport; about those women who were perpetually out of the conversation for the Selection Committee until 2010, when American Cammi Granato and Canadian Angela James were the first women selected for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame; about who else could earn the honor in the coming years.

"There are a lot of early players who came along before they had a chance to play in multiple Olympics, like Angela James," said Ruggiero, the U.S. hockey star who was inducted in 2015.

The Hall of Fame selection process comes down to something Ruggiero has passionately advocated throughout her career: representation. That goes for her hockey career, and her time as IOC Athletes' Commission chair.

On Tuesday, her hopes were answered by the Hall of Fame: Cassie Campbell-Pascall, a two-time gold medalist for Team Canada and former commissioner of the Canadian Women's Hockey League, was appointed to the Selection Committee along with Mark Chipman, executive chairman of True North Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Winnipeg Jets.

In total, there are six women enshrined in the Hall: James, Granato, Ruggiero, Hefford, Geraldine Heaney and Danielle Goyette. That number is expected to grow to seven in 2019 when Hayley Wickenheiser, the iconic Canadian star and Olympic medalist, is eligible for the first time.

Are we now seeing a wave of women entering the Hall of Fame?

"I would like to see that," Ruggiero told ESPN. "But you're almost playing catch-up in a way, with all the legends that came pre-Olympics or early on before Cammi [Granato] and Angela [James] opened the doors. There's a lot of catch-up."

The fact is, the Selection Committee that put Ruggiero and the other women in the Hall of Fame was all-male.

"There were strong advocates to get us in the Hall in the first place, and those were men saying, 'It's time.' To really understand the game and to understand the players that impacted the game at that level, having more women's voices at that level would be helpful," Ruggiero said. "Those that lived in the game. Played some role in the sport. So that you're not just reading articles or looking at stats to determine [Hall of Famers]. You're talking to players. Similar to what happens on the men's side."

Ruggiero is optimistic that a more diverse Selection Committee means the past and present of women's hockey will continue to get its due.

"Once you play catch-up, and you're up to speed with the modern era, I would definitely like to continue to see a regular occurrence of female athletes. It just sends a real strong message to the sport, and to the community," she said.