U.S. presidential contender Donald Trump is host of Saturday Night Live this weekend, and Angela Ruggiero – in the midst of a busy Hockey Hall Of Fame weekend – may try to catch the performance, if not live, then after the fact.
For three months in the winter of 2007, in the midst of a playing career that ultimately led her to be elected as just the fourth female player in Hockey Hall of Fame history, Ruggiero appeared on The Donald's reality television series, The Apprentice.
Ruggiero was the 11th person voted off the show – "fired" by Trump – although he actually offered her a full-time job in the real world, once TV playtime was over.
"But my heart was still in the game at the time, so I went back to play one more Olympics in Vancouver," Ruggiero said Friday. "But it was a good experience. It was crazy – and the funny thing is, years after The Apprentice, Mr. Trump would write me. He'd see an article I was in, in the newspaper, and sign it and say, 'keep up the good work' and put it in the mail. So I knew he was tracking my career as a hockey player as well."
Ruggiero is a four-time U.S. Olympian and, at 18, was the youngest player on the American team that won the inaugural Olympic gold medal in women's hockey in 1998 in Nagano.
As much as Ruggiero treasures her induction into the Hall, there is little in her life that can top that ground-breaking gold medal when she was just setting out on her hockey-playing career. The Americans found a way of channelling the pressure of the Olympics better than Canada that time around.
In all, Ruggiero played 16 years with the U.S. women's national team, appeared in 10 world championships, won four gold medals and has the distinction of representing the United States internationally more than any other player, male or female, in history.
She has both a bachelor's degree and an MBA from Harvard, where she won the Patty Kazmaier trophy as the top female NCAA player in 2004. Additionally, she has a Masters degree in sports management from the University of Minnesota and has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 2010. Currently, she serves on six IOC commissions as well as the IIHF athlete's commission, which also includes fellow inductee Sergei Fedorov.
"Professionally, I'm going to be working with a venture capital firm in Boston on the sports business side. I love making new entities grow."
As a young player, she played mostly with boys coming through the ranks and has been a strong advocate for female participation in hockey. In January of 2005, she and her brother Bill played together on the Central Hockey League's Tulsa Oilers, making them the first brother-sister combination ever to play professional hockey together. Ruggiero was also the first female position player (non-goalie) to play in a professional men's league.
"I think everyone on that '98 team grew up playing boys' hockey," Ruggiero said. "We had no options. I think young female players now have optionality. … It's good because parents were a little intimidated early on to sign up their girls because they only had the option of playing boys. Now they can do both.
"I like that they have options and that it isn't seen as a boys' only sport anymore, at least not in North America."
As for her time working with Trump, Ruggiero called it "a fantastic experience – high-pressure, kind of like playing in the Olympics. Everyone's watching. Everyone's looking for you to drop the ball in the board room, or say the wrong thing. It was very intense, but it prepared me for life after sport in a way."