While some may have said her hockey career was over when she tore her ACL, MCL, PCL, and meniscus at the age of 15, Shattuck-St. Mary’s Hockey alum Noëlle Needham ’04 has surely proved naysayers wrong. After a successful prep and collegiate playing career, and an entrepreneurial spirit creating opportunities for young female hockey players, she now has her sights set on becoming the first female General Manager in NHL history.
During her time at SSM, Noëlle was a leader on and off the ice as Proctor, a Bastien Leader, a member of the Gold Key Club, and Student Council, among other activities. While she was on the Girls Prep Hockey team, they won the 2002 Midwest Prep Invitational, the 2002 Minnesota State Tournament, and the 2004 Midwest Elite Hockey League tournament. She was also a friend to faculty children on campus! Attending SSM from 1998 to 2004, alongside current NHL players like Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks), she went on to play hockey on a scholarship at Minnesota State University, Mankato, before the limited professional opportunities for female hockey players forced her to hang up her skates.
However, returning to “regular” life at home in South Dakota didn’t suit her either; she determined she couldn’t be happy without hockey in her life. Eventually, Noëlle volunteered to coach a local girls’ hockey program to get back into the game. There, she met Ashley Munsterman, who became her best friend. Together, they founded a summer hockey camp for girls, and then Legend Hockey in 2009, a more comprehensive hockey training program and company. Five years later, Noëlle founded the Sioux Falls Power, a Tier 1 team that includes U-14, U-15, U-16, and U-18 teams. Every position she took, every team she coached, and every organization she founded, contributed to a well-rounded hockey education that continues to help her ascend the hierarchies of the sport.
In 2018, Noëlle met Ryan Hardy, who is now the General Manager of the Chicago Steel, a United States Hockey League (USHL) team, as he scouted players at a tournament. He asked her to take part in his hockey camp in Pittsburgh, which then led to him mentioning her to the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kyle Dubas, who was looking for a new amateur scout. After a blind audition process, Dubas hired Noëlle.
And now, she is the Assistant GM for the Chicago Steel with her eye on the prize of a GM position in the future. While it can be challenging to think of oneself as “the first” or “breaking new ground,” Noëlle is, as always, focused on hockey. She, “does not want to deny her importance to the girls who once did not see a place in hockey for themselves,” but she doesn’t want to be the focus.
“I feel like I’m doing exactly what I was meant to do,” she recently told Amalie Benjamin for a profile piece on NHL.com. “I’m so happy every single day. Not that that there aren’t hard times or anything like that, but I think I have the coolest jobs, plural, in the world.”
To read more about Noëlle’s journey, you can view Benjamin’s article here. To read more about where some of our current student athletes are headed in their careers, visit our recap of this fall’s NLI signing day.