U.S. Women’s Hockey Team Uses Its Spotlight to Inspire the Next Generation of Female Athletes
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — At the upteenth stop of this endless celebration, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson was standing amid a cluster of reporters, bleary and battling the sniffles. “I’m just trying to get through without coughing all over,” she said. “I think a few of us are coming down with colds. But it’s pretty easy to get up for this stuff, seeing the excitement for our team.”
Five out of five doctors will agree: Gold makes for the best medicine. Draped around their necks a week and a half ago at the PyeongChang Games, the members of the United States women’s hockey team have hardly removed their medals since. First they jetted to Los Angeles, where they appeared on Ellen and gifted its host with a signed stick and No. 1 Team USA jersey. Then they headed to the Tampa area, site of their pre-Olympics training facility, and were honored before the Lightning-Sabres game last week. Two days later, it was off to D.C.
“We haven’t had a ton of sleep,” captain Meghan Duggan said before Saturday’s NHL Stadium Series outdoor game at Navy, after her team had already visited the State Department, hosted a practice session with more than 200 local girls and attended Wizards-Raptors. “But how many times in your life do you get to do a victory tour after a gold medal?”
Like many of her teammates, Duggan remembers the last time such a victory tour happened in this country. Scrolling through her cell phone, she quickly pulls up a picture for proof—a picture of a picture, really, since it was snapped two decades ago. In the grainy image, a 10-year-old Duggan is wearing an oversized Team USA jersey. Standing over her left shoulder is forward Gretchen Ulion, displaying a gold medal from the Nagano Games—the United States’ last before PyeongChang—and smiling. On her right is sister Katelyn, holding an autographed box of Wheaties. The cereal still resides at Duggan’s childhood home, cherished for the inspiration it provided.
“From that day forward, I wanted to be on this team,” she said. “I told everyone I knew. I built my life around it. That team, those girls lit the fire in my heart. It’s why I am who I am, and why I’m here today, because of those girls. We definitely want to have that impact on the next generations.”
The breakfast category has already been covered; Duggan will soon be featured on a special edition of Special K. Next comes something much more satisfying. In 1998, defenseman Kacey Bellamy was early into her hockey career when she caught sight of Hall-of-Famer Cammi Granato wearing gold. “Mom,” Bellamy declared, then and there, “I want to be an Olympian.”
Twenty years later, Bellamy and her teammates were lacing skates and practicing alongside dozens of aspiring players at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va., awestruck by the wide-eyed young girls who just wanted to wear their medals for a second. “The biggest thing for us is sharing the gold, being able to do something bigger than just having it for ourselves,” Bellamy says. “It’s, how can we grow that next generation of female athletes?”