Vancouver was always where Émilie Castonguay wanted to be.
She wasn’t sure how she was going to get there or how it would happen as either a player agent or a role in the NHL, but she had the city tabbed on her vision board to live in by a certain age.
As it turned out, Castonguay arrived ahead of schedule — by a month and a half — as the now-former player agent was named the assistant general manager of the Vancouver Canucks on Monday.
It’s a historic hiring for Vancouver as Castonguay is the first female assistant general manager in the franchise’s history.
“Obviously it is a big day whether I would want it or not,” Castonguay said during a Zoom press conference. “I think it’s a historic day and it goes to show that women have a place in sports and in hockey. Obviously, I’m starting with the assistant general manager and we’ll see where that takes me. I’ve always had high aspirations in my career and in life in general, so we’ll see where that takes me but I’ll start with this for now.”
Castonguay is already a trailblazer in the sport as the first female NHLPA certified agent in 2016 when she joined Momentum Hockey. She’s represented clients including No. 1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere, Cédric Paquette and Antoine Roussel as well as women’s hockey superstar Marie-Philip Poulin.
She said she always had a “non-binary approach” to everything, citing former Montreal Canadiens captain Kirk Muller as her favourite player growing up and wore No. 11 because of him.
“In terms of mentors, I’ve had plenty along the way,” Castonguay said. “I can’t name them all, there are so many, but they are just people who have helped me, believed in me, and just gave me a chance to be who I am and have an input and an impact on this game. I think a lot of people underestimate the places that women do have in this sport when you have knowledge and you have the experience. Everyone’s been so good to me from the beginning, so I think that’s just going to continue.”
Canucks team president and interim GM Jim Rutherford approached her for the role and the leadership he showed through their early exchanges hit home.
“The fact that he reached out to me and he felt like I could have an impact and make a difference with what he wanted to build meant a lot to me,” Castonguay said. “Obviously, it’s always a hard decision to leave a business and a field and a career and make that change but at the end of the day, it’s something that I really believed in and I wanted to be a part of.
“I know that all the players that I represent are left in great hands at Momentum Hockey and we’re a really great team there. I’m not worried about them in that sense, so that made it for an easier transition for me, obviously.”
Those conversations with her clients were hard and emotional and Castonguay paused before explaining why she can’t thank them enough.
“The entire group just believing in me and giving me a chance to be that person for them. They were extremely hard conversations but they were so happy for me and they were so supportive and they know the type of impact that I want to have on the game,” Castonguay said. “They know the changes that I want to bring. They were amazing and so supportive and wanted me to take this position to continue the impact and to continue the change but it’s hard.
“I mean, it’s hard because I’ve been working with these athletes for many, many years and I’m so proud of all of them. They have such a bright future and some of them are already in their prime and doing their thing. I wish them nothing but the best whether it’s the families, the players, they mean so much to me and they always will. That said, it was an extremely hard week for me and really tough conversations.”
As Castonguay now makes the move from Montreal to Vancouver, she said it’s pretty awesome how the vision board she set up five to six years ago has now worked out.
“Vancouver was a no-brainer,” she said. “They have a great young team that is hungry to win and I’m really happy to be part of their journey right now.”