Hayley Moore has been a champion of the women’s game for three decades — as a player, coach and executive — her love for the sport, which she took up at four as the only girl in Wakefield, Mass., youth hockey — never fading.
That’s why it wasn’t an easy decision to even apply, let alone accept, the role of vice-president of hockey operations with the AHL, a position she begins Monday and makes her one of the highest-ranking female hockey executives in North America.
“I definitely needed to do a little bit of soul searching, honestly, through the process,” said the 34-year-old Moore late last month.
“In looking at the job description and talking to some colleagues in the industry, I just learned that the position was really a great fit for me, personally, and my interests, but also understanding that I am continuing to work on behalf of the women’s game by being a woman in this role, and I think it just validates the tremendous amount of work that everyone has put into the women’s game to know the experience that I’ve received — that it does translate to the men’s side of the game, because it’s still the same game.”
It’s validation that Moore shouldn’t need, but still carries significant weight as the sport continues to grapple with its hegemonic masculinity.
Because Moore’s resume includes: guiding the NWHL’s Boston Pride to victory in the first-ever Isobel Cup as the team’s general manager in 2016, serving as the league’s deputy commissioner and director of player development from 2017-2019 and, after returning to Boston as the team’s president, leading the franchise to within a win of another title last year before the final was postponed.
Now, with the AHL, she’s in a unique position of power within what remains a male-dominated sport. But she has hope for the future, especially since she’s not alone in the league’s front office.
“My whole life I’ve been a woman in this sport, and we, as a whole, are just people following our passion, and I didn’t necessarily stop to think that I’m surrounded by men and in these roles for that long. Of course, you get in a room sometimes for a meeting and you recognize that maybe there are only one or two other women in there, or you’re the only woman,” said Moore.
“But, for me, I think it says a lot about the AHL that I’m going to be joining another woman in an executive role there, in Melissa Caruso (VP of hockey operations/governance), and I’m excited to work with her and I’m just looking forward to continuing to work in the capacity that I love, in the sport that I love.”
Still, Moore was stunned to learn she was the only woman to even apply for the job, which became available in October when Mike Murray was hired as assistant to Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin.
“That was an eye-opening moment for me — wow. Because I know that there are other women out there who are qualified for these roles, so I just hope that when people see me in this role, they recognize that they should be going after them too because it’s there for the taking and there’s plenty of women out there with the experience,” she said.
AHL president and CEO Scott Howson, who sent out an email about the position to all of its stakeholders and leagues and associations across the hockey world asking for candidates, said the fact that Moore was the lone female candidate is evidence of the progress that needs to be made.
“I think we’re making great strides — all professional sports are making great strides — and it’s really been recent, in the last six to 10 months, we’ve had lots of people hired in hockey, whether it’s development coaches, or video coaches, and we had a Major League Baseball team hire a woman for a GM (Kim Ng with the Miami Marlins),” he said in late January.
“But it just shows you how much farther you have to come when this is a pretty attractive job — it gets you in front of a lot of NHL teams, a lot of NHL management people — and there’s only one woman that applied.”
For Moore, that progress starts with greater representation and hiring of women in management positions — role models for the next generation. In her experience, she knew what she wanted to do in hockey, but not how to get there or where “there” actually was.
It wasn’t until the emergence of the NWHL — after she spent time as an assistant coach at Harvard University and as director of women’s hockey at the East Coast Wizards, a junior team in Massachusetts — that she could see her path forward.
“As a kid, I never even envisioned my career developing the way that it has, because I just never saw it as a possibility. It wasn’t something that I ever thought about until it was kind of happening. So I think in that sense, we just really need to see it, to be it, to a certain extent,” said Moore.
While her path may have not have been well-charted, it’s one that’s helped her develop a unique perspective and skill set.
Moore has an enviable track record on both the team- and league-side, capturing a Cup with the Pride and catapulting the NWHL to new heights.
“I mean, she juggled. She (had) multiple jobs and tasks over the last 10 or 12 years working,” said Howson.
“She didn’t give up her position with these East Coast Wizards for a long time, so that took a lot of time commitment, and the people you talked to about her just reinforced that fact. Tremendous work ethic. Tremendous passion.”
It’s this passion that made it all the more “heartbreaking” for Moore when the NWHL was forced to suspend its bubble tournament last week amid a spate of COVID-19 tests on several teams, including six on the Pride.
And though it’s not the way she hoped to turn the page on this part of her career, she knows she isn’t putting women’s hockey behind her — far from it.
“I, personally, don’t even necessarily see it as the women’s game and the men’s game, anyway — I’m taking on a new role in hockey … but just like when I moved on from the East Coast Wizards to the Boston Pride, or from Harvard to NWHL, whatever it may be, any step along the way in my career, I never felt like I was closing the door on anything that I was leaving, I was just looking to open a new door and carry the relationships and the experiences that I felt before,” Moore said last Friday.
And could the next door after that lead to the NHL?
“The past six, seven years, I’ve been in my dream job, and I just continue to be able to grow and develop, so I feel like I hit the jackpot where I’ve been, and I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot where I’m going,” said Moore.
“I’m just not looking too far ahead of that right now — I’m excited to begin in this new role and see what happens from there.”