Meghan Duggan has had as decorated a career as almost any other player in women’s hockey history — racking up three NCAA titles, in addition to two silver medals at the Olympics and six gold medals/one silver medal at the World Championships. Despite all of her accomplishments — both personal and as a member of incredibly successful teams — Duggan’s enthusiasm for the game and to be the best player she can be never wavers.
At the recent NWHL All-Star Weekend in Pittsburgh, she was one of 28 stars on display — and didn’t disappoint the packed house that was getting their first taste of professional women’s hockey. “It’s great. Pittsburgh is a hockey area, obviously, they’ve had success at the NHL level as of late, and in the past. It’s great that they are supporting the women’s game; this is a fantastic facility,” Duggan said during her pregame availability.
— Colby Armstrong (@armdog) February 12, 2017
“I’ve been to Pittsburgh a few times and they love sports (here). It’s awesome to play in a place like this. I think there are some great youth programs around this area, a lot of Pens Elites and those young teams that I think are filling rinks which is great. It’s exciting to be here, Pittsburgh is a great play to play and a great choice for a host area. A bunch of us were talking yesterday and I know Stretch (Ashley Johnston) mentioned it, it seems like it would be a great place for an additional team.”
Whether or not the NWHL ends up placing a team in Pittsburgh or not, the city, it’s supporters and the league’s supporters certainly left an impression on Duggan (and many other players).
“Yesterday (the All-Star Skills Showdown Saturday) was fantastic. It was fun – a great atmosphere and good crowd – and I think it coming down to the fan vote on Twitter for that extra point added some excitement to the event,” said the player many call Captain America.
A Great Role Model
— Skyler Nicole (@skynicalodean) February 12, 2017
“It was a great showing from the fans, I think they brought a lot of excitement in the building and made us want to have fun out there and obviously put a good product on the ice. Taking that into today I know that everyone’s excited; this being my second All-Star Game – last year was great so I’m looking forward to another great showing today. We heard it’s sold out which is awesome,” she said smiling.
“There are a lot of young kids in the building which I think is exciting for them. I heard you guys ask ‘what’s the product going to be on the ice today? Are we going to be bringing it or taking our foot off the gas a little bit?’ But I think across the board everyone wants to put a good game out there. Myself personally I don’t ever shy away from bringing 100%,” Duggan added with a sly grin, “so it should a fun. I hope it’s fast and exciting, hopefully, tight in score and we give everyone a (good) show.”
Check and check. Duggan had two assists, five shots on goal and her team — Team Kessel — prevailed in a wild 11-10 All-Star Game that had fans oohing and aahing all afternoon long. Perhaps one of the top-5 moments of the whole weekend was when during halftime Captain America jumped back on the ice to play a little pick-up game with some Mites on Ice.
— Penguins Rinks (@penguinsrinks) February 12, 2017
“It’s exciting (to be in a neutral market like Pittsburgh). Anytime you’re named an All-Star it’s an honor, there are a lot of players in the league and only a small portion of us are here this weekend,” Duggan proudly said. “We’re excited and we definitely want to showcase the league in the right way, give the fans a great show, people are paying money to sit in the seats and watch us play. So we’re going to do our best to put the best product on the ice. Whether that’s during the regular season games, during the playoffs or here at the All-Star Game.”
— NWHL (@NWHL) February 12, 2017
Many fans in the building that weekend may have already loved the game of hockey, and others may have found a new love or passion, with so many role models all around them. The 29-year-old Duggan was asked during her presser if she remembers the moment she fell in love with the game, and without hesitation, she rattled it off.
“The ’98 games. For me I was a huge Cammi Granato fan; I was 12-years-old when the US won the gold medal in Nagano in 1998. I remember exactly where I was in my living room at home in my parent’s house – and I said I want to play for Team USA one day. I had the opportunity after that game to meet Gretchen Ulion, she’s Gretchen Silverman now – she played on that team as well. She put her gold medal around my neck I think, a couple of weeks after they got back from Nagano when I was at an event,” Duggan recalled as her face lit up with a smile.
— Meghan Duggan (@mduggan10) February 17, 2017
“I put her jersey on and from then on all I told everyone in the world was that I wanted to play for Team USA, I want to represent my country, I want to go to the Olympics. So for me, that was probably the a-ha moment. Prior to that I had an older brother that I looked up to, I’m a Boston kid so I loved Ray Bourque, I still love Ray Bourque,” she added with a chuckle. “But I think recognizing powerful women in a role like that was huge for me when I was at that age. I only help that myself and all the girls here today can be that for younger girls that are watching.”
Last season Duggan and the Buffalo Beauts made it to the Isobel Cup Final before losing to the Boston Pride. This past offseason she joined the Pride, moving back to her home state where she trains year-round with her USWNT teammates as they prepare on their quest for that elusive gold medal in the Olympics; in one less game of the current NWHL season, Duggan has already matched last season’s point total (16 points).
— Women's Hockey Life (@WHLOfficial) January 12, 2017
Isobel Cup or Bust
“Anytime we’re on the ice competing in practice or games, I think we’re going to get better – that’s how you get better, by playing hockey, by training. So it’s definitely a plus to the training, there are a lot of other things from a National Team standpoint that goes into it,” she explained, “but the NWHL has helped a lot of players get more games in, and prepared for major international tournaments.”
“I’m hoping that some of that luck and talent that they had last year carries over into this year now that I’m on the Boston side of it,” Duggan said of the NWHL season which is drawing to a close. “There’s Women’s World Championships coming up in April where the US is hosting it in Michigan; I would be really proud and happy to be a part of that team — the roster hasn’t been named yet.”
“There’s a lot of work to be done between now and then, and this past week was one year out until the Winter Olympics and that’s on the horizon as well. That’s something that I’m training for alongside a lot of the girls that are here – again, a lot of work to be done between now and then but those are goals. Isobel Cup, World Championships, Olympics.”
Whatever happens over the next year you can be sure that Captain America will give it her all on and off the ice — for the Boston Pride and USWNT, and chances are she’ll probably enjoy the ride no matter where it takes her.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.