Vancouver has always been where Émilie Castonguay wanted to be.
She didn’t know how she was going to get there or what it would be like as a player’s agent or an NHL role, but she had put the city on her vision board to live there by a certain age.
As it turns out, Castonguay arrived ahead of schedule — by a month and a half — as the former players’ agent was named assistant general manager of the Vancouver Canucks on Monday.
This is a historic hire for Vancouver as Castonguay is the first female assistant general manager in franchise history.
“Obviously it’s a great day, whether I like it or not,” Castonguay said during a Zoom press conference. I think it’s a historic day and it shows that women have a place in sport and in hockey. Obviously, I start with the deputy general manager and we will see where that takes me. I’ve always had big aspirations in my career and in life in general, so we’ll see where that takes me, but I’ll start with that for now.
Castonguay is already a pioneer in the sport as the first NHLPA-certified agent in 2016 when she joined Momentum Hockey. She has represented clients including first overall pick Alexis Lafrenière, Cédric Paquette and Antoine Roussel as well as female hockey superstar Marie-Philip Poulin.
She said she’s always had a “non-binary approach” to everything, citing former Montreal Canadiens captain Kirk Muller as her favorite player growing up and wearing number 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 these are just people who helped me, believed in me and just gave me a chance to be who I am and have a contribution and an impact on this game. “I think a lot of people underestimate the place of women in this sport when you have knowledge and experience. Everyone has been so good to me from the start, so I think it will continue.”
Canucks team president and interim general manager Jim Rutherford approached her for the role and leadership he showed during their early trades.
“The fact that he reached out to me and felt that 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 tough decision to leave a company, field and career and make that change, but at the end of the day, it’s something I really believed in and wanted to be a part of.
“I know that all the players I represent are in good hands at Momentum Hockey and we are a very good team there. I don’t worry about them in that sense, so it made the transition easier for me, obviously.”
These conversations with her clients have been tough and moving, and Castonguay paused before explaining why she can’t thank them enough.
“The whole group believed in me and gave me a chance to be that person for them. It was extremely difficult conversations but they were so happy for me and they were so supportive and they know the kind of impact that I want to have on the game,” Castonguay said. “They know the changes I want to make. They’ve been amazing and so supportive and they wanted me to take this position to continue the impact and to continue the change, but it’s hard.
“I mean, it’s tough because I’ve worked with these athletes for so many, many years and I’m so proud of all of them. They have such a bright future and some of them are already at their peak and doing their thing.. I wish them nothing but the best, be it the families, the players, they mean so much to me and they always will. That said, it has been an extremely difficult week for me and conversations really difficult.
With Castonguay now moving from Montreal to Vancouver, she said it’s pretty impressive how the vision board she set up five or 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.”