U.S. women’s hockey pioneer Ruggiero, 31, retires

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USOC.com

Angela Ruggiero, the Simi Valley native who played on four U.S. women’s Olympic medal-winning teams and is considered one of the greatest in the sport’s history, officially announced her retirement today after 16 seasons.

Ruggiero, who turns 32 on Jan. 3, played more games — 256 — in a Team USA uniform than any other ice hockey player in the country’s history and compiled 208 points, including 67 goals.

She currently works as a U.S. representative on the International Olympic Committee.

“I feel honored and privileged to have represented the USA program over the past 16 years,” said Ruggiero in a statement on the USA Hockey website.

“USA Hockey will always be a part of me and I will cherish the experiences and memories with this team. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way. I am now looking forward to my next career, as well as continuing my work representing the athletes of the world through my roles on the International Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee.”

Ruggiero won a gold medal in 1998 as an 18-year-old, the youngest member of the squad. Four years later, it was a silver medal as she was named the tournament’s top defenseman.

In 2006, the U.S. team won a bronze and she tied for the lead among tournament defensemen with six points and was named the tournament’s top defenseman for a second time.

The 2010 Olympic team won silver.

Ruggiero was the top-ranked female hockey player in the world by The Hockey News in 2003 and represented Team USA in 10 IIHF Women’s World Championships, winning nine medals.

The Harvard grad and four-time All-American also played one game with her brother, Bill, in a men’s Central Hockey League game in 2005 — the first female non-goalie to play in a professional hockey game in North America.

“For some players it’s safe to say that once the player retires, he or she will be inducted to a Hall of Fame — Angela Ruggiero is one of those players,” Ren Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, was quoted on the USA Hockey site. “She has not only been the best defenseman in the last 15 years, Angela Ruggiero has defined this era of women’s hockey.”

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said that “someone as dedicated and hard working as Angela” representing athletes in the Olympic movement now means “the ‘athletes’ voice’ is in safe hands. We congratulate her on an exceptional career on the playing field.”

“I remember being on the ice with her for her first shift in a Team USA uniform,” said former teammate and Hockey Hall of Famer Cammi Granato. “I was taking the draw and I looked back and there was Angela with a huge smile, so excited to play. And that never changed throughout her career. She lit up the lockerroom with her infectious laugh and spirit, and on the ice always played with the strength and edge that made her so dominant.”

More on Ruggiero: http://angelaruggiero.com/ and on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/AngelaRuggiero

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