Cassie Campbell-Pascall had to text Lanny McDonald shortly after she hung up the phone with him, just after the famously moustachioed former player called to inform her that she was in line to become a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s selection committee.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist and former Team Canada captain was worried she seemed a little blasé about the news.
“I hope I sounded excited enough,” Campbell-Pascall wrote to McDonald, the player-turned-chairman of the HHOF board. “I couldn’t say or do much, because I had all the other moms around me.”
Yes, she got wind of the news a few months ago while she was waiting to pick up her daughter, Brooke, from school, with loads of other parents around, so Campbell-Pascall didn’t want to cause an uproar, especially since it was news she couldn’t talk about.
On Tuesday it became official, as Campbell-Pascall became the first-ever woman named to the HHOF selection committee.
Her inclusion on the committee is an absolute no-brainer, too. First off, it’s about time a woman — and not just any woman, but one of the most decorated and influential in hockey — was part of the committee responsible for selecting players to be included in the hallowed Hall.
Secondly, Campbell-Pascall’s presence on the committee acknowledges work she’s been doing for years, since she has been instrumental in pushing for inclusion, and helped get the first two women — Cammi Granato and Angela James — inducted into the HHOF, back in 2010.
“It’s kind of just an extension of what I’ve already been doing,” says Campbell-Pascall, who’s also a colour commentator and rinkside reporter for Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada. “I pushed hard to get Cammi and Angela in, and I’ve been nominating players and helping committee members nominate players and putting together packages and gathering letters for players. I guess the committee kind of thought, ‘Well, she’s sort of doing this anyway, so why not give her the opportunity?’”
That she’s the first-ever woman in this role is meaningful, but it also makes Campbell-Pascall think of the many other deserving women in the past. “It’s kind of sad in a way, that in the year 2018 this is the first woman to do something,” she says. “I struggle with being the first because I know there has been so many other deserving candidates. I guess someone has to take it for the team and take that first category. But hopefully this just opens the door for more women in more different roles.”
Campbell-Pascall spoke to Sportsnet shortly after she’d landed back home in Calgary on Tuesday afternoon, after being in Toronto for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony a night earlier, where she watched former teammate and good friend Jayna Hefford become the sixth woman enshrined in the Hall. Campbell-Pascall saw a bunch of her former teammates, but couldn’t tell any of them the news until it became public on Tuesday.
“All of them were like, ‘Why the heck didn’t you tell us?’” she says, laughing. “I couldn’t, and I didn’t want to take away from Jayna’s night, either.”
Campbell-Pascall has attended a handful of induction ceremonies, but had to miss the historic one back in 2010 when Granato and James were inducted, because she was days away from giving birth to her daughter. When she saw Granato and James’ plaques in the Hall of Fame about a year later while in Toronto, it brought her to tears.
“It was an emotional milestone for women’s hockey,” Campbell-Pascall says. “They did it all on their own, I just kind of helped pushed the process behind the scenes.”
That’s something she’ll continue to do in this new role, too. With just six women in the HHOF now, Campbell-Pascall says there is “a long list of people involved with the women’s game that are in waiting,” including coaches and builders. She won’t just be reviewing and considering female candidates, of course; she’s also excited to learn more about international men’s candidates and do research to that end.
“It’s probably going to be one of the most difficult processes,” she says. “I’m excited about it and I also know how serious you have to take a position like this.”
Campbell-Pascall herself is a shoo-in to be enshrined along with the players she’ll help nominate, though she says if her name comes up while she’s on the selection committee, she’ll leave the room immediately.
“And no,” she adds, with a laugh, “I’m not going to nominate myself, that’s for sure.”