NHL: Another role for Émilie Castonguay

As has been her habit for several years, Émilie Castonguay will take part in the National Hockey League draft, which will be presented at the Bell Center tomorrow night.

However, the Quebecer will not be in the stands with the players who represent her ex-agency, but as Assistant General Manager at the Vancouver Canucks table. Whatever the title, the young woman knows the next two days will be exciting.

“It will be different than usual, but it will be this fun at the table because no one knows what will happen, Castonguay said via video conference on Wednesday. We’ve been working very hard for several months and we hope to claim the players on our lists. »

“When you’re an agent you have players being drafted by different teams, whereas here it’s really the culmination of all the work we’ve done with our scouts. »

Since his appointment on January 24, things have been anything but quiet for the daily newspaper Castonguay. It has to be said that it’s not just work that’s missing from Jyrki Lumme’s former club.

The Canucks have missed the playoffs six times in the past seven seasons, ruling out a hiccup during the unpredictable 2019-20 season, and haven’t won a round since losing the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins in 2011.

“I was hired before the March deal deadline and most of the members of management had never worked together before. We had to get to know each other first and then quickly start evaluating the team,” said Castonguay.

“Also, we had to look at the expiring contracts, prepare the draft, and get to know the recruiters… while also changing the culture we were trying to adopt. It was a job built brick by brick. It never ends! »

The learning curve may seem steep for anyone not drawn to this environment, but the principal in question assures that his past has adequately prepared him for the challenge.

“I didn’t have any surprises as such but being on the other side of the table gives me a new perspective,” said Castonguay. The priorities and challenges are not the same.

“As an agent you always want to make the best offer for your customers, but as a team the issues are of course completely different. As an agent, I can know the process and, above all, put everything in perspective. »

Castonguay’s arrival also took place in a special context as she didn’t join a team that already existed. The Canucks had actually wiped the slate clean before hiring veteran Jim Rutherford as president of hockey operations. Then came general manager Patrick Allvin, a former assistant to Rutherford with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and assistant general manager Cammi Granato, a former player.

“Jim is incredible. He lets us do our work and supports every decision and idea we make. Castonguay said his strength is in using his experience to make us think further and further. We’re building something special. »

Castonguay’s appointment had generated a great deal of interest in January, with no woman holding such positions in the National Hockey League at the time. She has since been joined by Cammi Granato (Canucks), Meghan Hunter (Chicago Blackhawks), Hayley Wickenheiser (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Kate Madigan (New Jersey Devils).

“I think I was the first domino to fall to break the glass ceiling,” Castonguay said. There are many women who are qualified for these positions, and all the better if my attitude has opened doors for others. That means all credit goes to Jim.

“But to be honest, I can’t wait for another call. I understand it’s a must, but I always thought it was just about hiring competent people. »

Speaking of other calls, the free agent market opens next week. With just over $2 million at the time of writing, the Canucks will need to get creative to reverse the trend of the last few years.

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