The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/28/11 at 05:49 PM ET
Three-time U.S. Olympian and women’s hockey stalwart Angela Ruggiero could and did keep up with men in terms of her physicality, competitiveness and downright viciousness, and in competition with women, she evoked comparisons to Chris Chelios in terms of her ability to balance scoring ability with physical intimidation (even in a no-checking game). Today, USA Today’s Kevin Allen reports that the California-born, Harvard-educated and Michigan-raised Ruggiero has chosen to retire at 31 years of age:
“I think I’ve done as much as I can to prepare for this day,” Ruggiero told USA TODAY. “It’s going to be really hard, but I’m also really excited about what lies ahead.”
In 1998, Ruggiero was the youngest player on the U.S. team that won the first women’s Olympic hockey gold medal at the tournament in Nagano, Japan. Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, said Ruggiero was the female version of former international and NHL standout Slava Fetisov.
“She has not only been the best defenseman in the last 15 years, Angela Ruggiero has defined this era of women’s hockey,” Fasel said.
Ruggiero, 31, has played 16 years in the U.S. program, playing more games (256) in a Team USA uniform than any other ice hockey player in the country’s history. In total, she finished her career with the U.S. Women’s National Team Program having recorded 208 points, including 67 goals and 141 assists.
Having hurt her shoulder at the world championships last spring, Ruggiero said she had time to think about how she was going to balance her life moving forward. She has been representing the athletes through her involvement on the International Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee. It was becoming increasingly more difficult to train while fulfilling those duties.
“If I continued to train, I know I could make the Sochi (2014 U.S. Olympic) team,” Ruggiero said. “I’m not declining in my playing. For me, I’ve always felt like 100 percent is required no matter what you are doing. I don’t think it would be fair for me to play on a team if I was not 100 percent dedicated.”
Ruggiero said she is looking at a couple of job opportunities. “I’m hoping that more opportunities will open up now that I’m retiring,” she said.
Put simply, Ruggiero was and is my favorite female hockey player by far, and is one of my favorite hockey players ever. She has the heart of a lion, is downright nasty and she gave her best every time she hopped over the boards. She’s just a fantastic player who’s going away too soon, but she’s also an even better person, and she’ll do very well in the business side of sports.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.