International Ice Hockey Federation

Duggan happy to host

Duggan happy to host

Six-time American World Champion still hungry

Published 16.03.2017 04:49 GMT-5 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Duggan happy to host
Meghan Duggan has been a key competitor and leader for the Americans since making her Women's Worlds debut in 2007. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
If you’re trying to identify the hardest-working player in women’s hockey, Meghan Duggan has to be part of the conversation.

It’s no accident that the gritty 29-year-old American forward has worn a letter on her national team jersey at each top-level IIHF women’s tournament since 2013. She was named captain at the 2014 Olympics and the last two IIHF Ice Hockey World Women’s Championships. The native of Danvers, Massachussetts starred at the University of Wisconsin, winning the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Award as college hockey's top player. After playing with the NWHL's Buffalo Beauts last season, she currently suits up for the defending Isobel Cup champion Boston Pride.

Right now, the six-time World Champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist is setting her sights on renewed global supremacy when the defending champion U.S. hosts the Women’s Worlds in Plymouth, Michigan (31 March-7 April). We caught up with Duggan by phone on 13 March to discuss life on and off the ice.

This will be the first Women’s Worlds you’ve personally ever played on home ice. What does that mean to you?

Back when the U.S. hosted in Burlington, Vermont in 2012, I was recovering from a pretty bad injury. So I didn’t get to play in that one. I think as a country we can do a great job of hosting an incredible event. This will be my eighth World Championship. I’m definitely looking forward to hosting. Obviously, it takes those extra distractions off your plate, like travel or language barriers. We’re looking forward to getting to Michigan and getting it going.

What can players and fans who are visiting the USA Hockey Arena for the first time expect?

It’s a fantastic arena. I actually had my first experience there back in December. We held our winter training camp there. It’s a great building. The fans were electric when we were there. I’m really looking forward to what they’re going to bring for us at Worlds. They’ve done a great job of promoting it. I think USA Hockey does a great job of maintaining that facility. It’s state-of-the-art, in my opinion.

You’re coming off a career NWHL season with 12 goals and 19 points in 16 games. For you, what were the biggest benefits of going from the Buffalo Beauts to the Boston Pride this season?

It was great for a lot of reasons. My family is in the Boston area, so that was awesome to be back here and spend some time with family and friends when I’m not on the ice.

In addition, from a training and competing standpoint, there’s being surrounded by a handful of my national team teammates and getting better from those guys every single day in practice. You look at Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, Alex Carpenter, Kacey Bellamy. Those types of players are going to push you in practice and games to be better. We certainly had a successful season, and we’re looking forward to the Isobel Cup playoffs we have coming up in the next few days. But I definitely feel like I’ve learned a lot and become a better player just from being here in Boston this year.

Robb Stauber has a long track record in women’s hockey, but this is his first IIHF tournament as head coach. What are his biggest strengths?

We’re excited to have Robb as our coach for the World Championship. He’s brought a ton to our program over the last five or six years that he’s been around. He sees the game in an incredibly unique way. I think he’s really challenged a lot of us to become better in certain areas that we didn’t even know existed. He was a great eye in the sky for us for a long time. We’re excited to grow with him and have him challenge us in a bunch of different areas.

There are a lot of familiar faces on the U.S. roster for this World Championship, but you have some new talent too: forward Kelly Pannek, defender Kali Flanagan, and goalie Maddie Rooney. Can you talk about what they’re like?

I’ve attended quite a few training camps with Kelly Pannek in recent years. She’s matured into such a dominant player. She’s definitely had a successful college season. She led the nation in points this year with the Gophers. I think she’s going to bring some goal-scoring and offensive power to our team, which we’re really looking forward to.

I’ve seen Kali Flanagan play a ton this year with Boston College. Her speed and ability to escape and spark the rush is unbelievable. She’s got to be one of the top five fastest skaters in the country for sure, if not the world. I love watching her skate.

We had Maddie Rooney at our December camp in Michigan. That was my first time meeting her and getting to know her a little bit. She seems awesome, super-focused, and she had a great season with Duluth this year. They were top-five in the country all year and made a great playoff run. I’m pretty sure she had a few games with 50 or 60 saves.

What was your reaction when Hayley Wickenheiser announced her retirement in January?

Hayley’s done a lot for women’s hockey. She has an incredible platform that she’s earned. She played for a long time, more than 20 years with her national team, and won four Olympics. Certainly a pioneer in the women’s game. Woman to woman and hockey player to hockey player, I definitely wish her the best of luck.

How much has your national team grown and evolved since what happened in Sochi?

It’s night and day. Obviously, it was a devastating experience for us back in 2014. But that was three years ago. How far we’ve come is really impressive to me. We’ve had tons of shifts in our program with staff and players. It’s all been for the positive, along with some amazing team culture shifts. I’m really looking forward to seeing what this team can do, not just at the upcoming Worlds, but further down the line in South Korea.

After coming back from your concussion a few years ago, do you get inspired from seeing what Sidney Crosby, who went through a similar thing around the same time, is accomplishing?

Yeah, for sure. You never want to wish that type of injury on anyone. With having him to look up to and watching him go through his rehab and come out on the other side an even better, stronger player, it’s definitely encouraging. I remember when I was going through it, I heard about some of the doctors and treatments Sid went through, and I ended up with some of the same doctors. It was definitely encouraging that there was light at the end of the tunnel, knowing you’re going to get better.

On a lighter note, as a New England Patriots fan, can you describe what you were doing during their Super Bowl comeback last month?

[laughs] That was awesome. I had about 10 to 12 of us who train in Boston every day and a bunch of our other friends over to watch the game that day. We were all standing in my kitchen, screaming at the TV, just enjoying it together. As a Boston native and Pats fan my whole life, that was huge. We had a few bandwagon girls that day with their Pats jerseys and hats on.

The USA Hockey web site lists your favourite book as Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. What did you get out of it?

I read that book back in college. I love some of those self-help, deep thinking books. I’m big into meditation and mindfulness. Being able to read about the way other people approach their days and set their intentions for each day is inspiring to me. I like to always read books that lend some information in that area.

What does an event like Women’s Worlds do in terms of setting a general tone for women to be strong and confident in who they are?

It’s huge. Every day in our lives as elite female athletes, we’re trying to inspire young girls that it’s cool to be strong and play hockey. You can do whatever you want! I think we take a lot of pride in empowering young girls. At events like the Women’s Worlds, where you see strong, powerful, passionate women from all over the world competing, it’s just another reminder of how incredible women are and the amazing things they can do.

Looking ahead to Plymouth, what will it take for you to repeat as World Champions for the fourth straight time?

There’s obviously a handful of work that needs to be done between now and then. We’re definitely up for the task. For us, it’s just about continuing to focus on our game, our process, our development – small things here and there that we’re working on. We need to put energy into our team culture, our style and system and the way we want to play. It’ll be about bringing that every day, no matter who we’re playing. Hopefully we’re winning games and, more importantly, growing as a team and getting better and building great habits.


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