The offseason has officially begun for teams like the New Jersey Devils. Despite NHL playoff games still continuing, it didn’t stop New Jersey’s front office from making any surprising moves. Just recently, they created a new position within their hockey operations department, called “manager of player development.” That recent addition to their organization actually made headlines due to the person they chose to fill for that position.
General manager Tom Fitzgerald announced that they had hired Meghan Duggan, a former gold medalist National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) player, to become the first person to operate that position. The reason this hire made headlines is that Duggan is believed to be the first openly gay person to work in the hockey operations field at the NHL level. With her past playing career and high knowledge of hockey, she will be a great person to assist with the development of players.
Duggan’s Hockey Background
A native of Danvers, Massachusetts, Duggan has had an intriguing and extensive playing career. For starters, she has always had a love for athletics because she competed in four sports (hockey, softball, soccer, and lacrosse) while growing up, but obviously her main interest was hockey. She stated that her hockey aspirations originated from watching her idol Gretchen Ulion, who is also a former gold medalist (1998 Nagano Olympics) similar to Duggan.
During her high school tenure, Duggan attended Cushing Academy. All of her hard work and success at that level, led her to sign her letter of intent to play for the University of Wisconsin Badgers. She played all four years for the Badgers organization, and made an immediate impact. During her freshman year, she won five weekly Women’s College Hockey Association (WCHA) honors, and also received rookie of the week honors three times.
After her sophomore year, Duggan was able to tally up 95 points (46 goals and 49 assists) in just 77 games played. The combination of her statistical and accoladed success resulted in her being promoted as the team’s alternate captain come her junior season — she would later become the head captain a year later. Overall, Duggan was able to finish her four-year college career with 238 points (108 goals, 130 assists) in 159 game appearances.
She also broke the school’s record for longest point streak (22 games) during her senior year in 2011. As a result, she became the Badgers’ all-time leading scorer, and won the Patty Kazmaier Award in 2011 for being the top-performing senior in the WCHA. Obviously, with her success at the college level, she was able to continue her career at the professional level. She got her start playing for the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) for four seasons.
The Blades organization was able to win the Clarkson Cup Championship in 2013 and 2015. Duggan was also one of the first players to play for the NWHL during its inaugural season in 2015. She played for two seasons at that particular level, one with the Buffalo Beauts and the other with the Boston Pride. Even though she did experience a successful playing career in Boston, what solidified her legacy was her international play for Team USA. Whether it was for the IIHF World Championships or the Olympic Games, Duggan has represented the United States of America for 11 years (2007-2011, 2013-2018).
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In that span, she won eight gold medals and three silver. Seven of her eight gold medals came from the World Women’s Championship, while the lone Olympic one was awarded to her at the 2018 South Korea Winter Olympics. That was also her final year of playing at the professional level, in which she retired at the age of 33.
Role With New Jersey
Obviously, with a new position being integrated, a lot of people have been curious to know what Duggan will be doing specifically for the New Jersey Devils organization. Fitzgerald revealed in a press release, that she will be working exclusively with senior vice president and assistant general manager Dan MacKinnon in regards to the development department’s operations. Her main focus will involve researching information that occurs both on and off the ice rink. In addition to that, she will also work closely with the developmental coaches and management on all levels of progress for all potential players. Duggan will also manage the scheduling of staff, processing information in regards to scouting for minor league organizations (AHL and ECHL), and she will also join the Devils’ on-ice development team.
Despite the new addition of this particular role, Duggan will certainly have a lot responsibilities throughout the course of the year. However, with her hockey track history, Devils fans should be somewhat thrilled to have someone like her join the organization. Aside from a hockey standpoint, she is also a part of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) and has been very vocal about social issues. Some of those include the inclusion of persons of color, gender equality, and LGBTQ+ rights. The NHL has been vocal about trying to become more inclusive and provide a more welcoming environment, and this hiring is a step in the right direction. Duggan is currently breaking the glass ceiling in that regards.
Trey Matthews is currently the play-by-play announcer for the hockey programs at Adrian College. Interestingly, he is also one of the only full-time black hockey play-by-play announcers in the entire country. He has been featured in USA Today, USCHO, & others for his line of work. In addition to that, he’s also the host of a podcast show called Locked On Devils. He first began writing for his high school’s paper at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School & Academy. Aside from hockey, he also covers the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) for Belly Up Sports.