Visitors to the office of the New Jersey Devils’ assistant general manager realize quickly that she is the daughter of Jim Madigan, the Northeastern athletic director. There is a Jim Madigan bobblehead. There is a Jim Madigan jersey. There is a photo of Jim Madigan celebrating with the Beanpot trophy.
When Northeastern has won the Beanpot, which has happened more often than not in recent years, Kate Madigan has arrived at her office the next morning in a Northeastern jersey for the sake of her work colleagues from Boston University and Boston College.
“I come in, I get my coffee, I don’t say anything, but I make sure everyone sees the Husky pride,” Kate Madigan says. “I give a lot to Northeastern. I know my whole family does—not just my dad, but my sister went there, and my mom, my aunt, all my best friends.”
Now she’s blazing her own trail and making history.
Madigan, 29, recently became the sixth woman to serve as an assistant general manager in the NHL, and the first to do so with the Devils. Her whirlwind five-year rise within the New Jersey front office is especially surprising because she didn’t grow up playing hockey.
She was a figure skater who ran track at Northeastern as a 5-foot-2-inch hurdler while earning dual bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting. After two years as an audit assistant at Deloitte & Touche, she informed her father—in the midst of his own 10-year run as the coach who elevated Northeastern ice hockey—that she wanted to launch an entirely new career in the NHL.
It would be a severe lifestyle change to go from the steadiness of accounting to a zero-sum world of longer hours and unpredictable outcomes and all kinds of work she’d never done before.
“I actually tried to discourage her from it,” says Jim Madigan, who scouted in the NHL for 18 years for the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins while contributing to the Penguins’ 2009 Stanley Cup title. “I loved my experiences in hockey, but I knew it was a tough industry—particularly a tough industry for a woman—to crack into.”
Since being hired in 2017 by Devils GM Ray Shero, Madigan’s former boss in Pittsburgh, Kate has worked her way through every department of the front office—coordinating the scouting of amateur and professional players, consulting on instant replay challenges during games, dealing with contracts, developing her eye for talent. When Tom Fitzgerald was elevated to GM in 2020, he promoted Madigan to his inner circle as executive director of hockey management/operations.
“Her diligence, work ethic, attention to detail, ability to communicate with all staff, strategy and vision are qualities that I look for in our leadership,” Fitzgerald said while announcing Madigan’s promotion. “We have a fantastic management team in place that is working together, solely focused on the development and success of this young, evolving core group on and off the ice, and Kate will play a role in leading the way. She has an immensely promising future in the industry, and we are glad to be a part of it.”
Both Kate and her older sister, Kelly (Madigan) Burke, a senior manager at Reebok, had been influenced by their father’s career—attending games with him, hearing his stories, experiencing his passion. At 16 Kate declared that she would be a GM in the NHL someday.
“I didn’t realize it was an outlandish dream,” she acknowledges with an understanding that she is now a role model for future generations of dreamers.
Last week at the NHL Draft in Montreal, as the Devils were preparing to reveal their selection with the No. 2 pick overall, their newly promoted assistant GM was greeted on stage with extended applause in recognition of her shattered glass ceiling. In the audience was her father, who could not have been more proud of the convergence of success he was experiencing in his hometown where, over the next 24 hours, a record seven Northeastern players would be drafted. He watched grinning as his daughter announced, in French and English, that the Devils were selecting Simon Nemec, an 18-year-old defenseman from Slovakia.
The Devils have benefited from Madigan’s perspective as a woman, as an accountant, as the daughter of a college legend who has always wanted to know more. “Why are we doing it this way?” she has asked routinely at team meetings, which has often inspired NHL lifers to take a new look at the way they’ve always done things, and thereby progress has been made.
And so, when she takes that next step up to become a GM someday, Madigan will surround herself with complementary points of view. The education is never going to end. So long as she is pursuing her NHL dreams, her team is going to continue to grow.