Wonderful wedding captures hearts and minds of hockey fans

One of the most compelling moments of the year in hockey, the weeding of legendary competitors Gillian Apps and Meghan Duggan tugged at the heartstrings of fans. Making national news in Canada, becoming more than just a sporting story, the impact was akin to a celebrity wedding.

Saying their “I do’s” at a farm in Maine, two of the bridesmaids were among notable figures in modern women’s ice hockey. Brianna Decker, a teammate of Duggan with the Wisconsin Badgers, Boston Blades, Boston Pride and US national team (including the gold medal victory at the 2018 Winter Games) was joined by Hayley Moore, who is currently serving as the Deputy Commissioner of the NWHL.

Gillian Apps (left) and Meghan Duggan celebrate their wedding in Maine (Image obtained from Twitter)

Adding to the magnitude of the wedding was the fact that Apps and Duggan spent over a decade on opposite ends of the biggest rivalry in women’s ice hockey. Hailing from the Greater Toronto Area, Apps captured three gold medals at the Winter Games for Canada. Celebrated as the granddaughter of Syl Apps, the former captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, she quickly became one of the most notable Canadians in female hockey.

Raised near Boston, Meghan Duggan has established herself as one of the most influential American-born players of the decade. With a long list of accomplishments, from the Patty Kazmaier Award and the NCAA Frozen Four, to a Clarkson Cup title and numerous IIHF world championships, the last 18 months have solidified her iconic standing, culminating with Winter Games gold at PyeongChang 2018, the first triumph for the US in 20 years.

Although the gold medal attained at said Games, represented the holy grail of Duggan’s career, the emotion of the day and the achievement establishing a lifetime of memories, it came with surprise to casual fans when a September tweet from Duggan included the statement “Greatest Day of my Life.”

Understandably, the wedding ceremony to Apps represented the crowning achievement, superseding the golden milestone. In addition, there was a significant cultural meaning, as the love between these two icons of the ice made rivalries evaporate. Worth noting, USA Hockey showed their gracious support, also going to twitter with a heartwarming message, it added to the social media phenomenon that saw their wedding picture become a twitter moment. As both American and Canadian hockey fans displayed their incredible support throughout social media, it has redefined the essence of teamwork, as Apps and Duggan now became teammates for life.

ESPN Body Issue commemorates meaningful year for superstars of American women’s hockey

Although Julie Chu (2011) and Hilary Knight (2014) were the first women’s ice hockey players to grace the pages of ESPN’s Body Issue, the 2017 edition brought with it an unprecedented number of players, and an even wider scope of interest via social media. With six players taking to the ice wearing only their skates, the only element that may have outshone their beauty was their confidence.

Considering that six players grace the ice for a hockey team, there is an element of irony yet coincidence. Ironic as six players compose a hockey team, and each of the six players represented a position. Goaltender Alex Rigsby was joined by blueliners Kacey Bellamy and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, while the forwards were composed of Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson. Yet, there is coincidence based on the notion that the team’s culture is built on unity.

While Brent Burns and Joe Thornton of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks also appeared in the Body Issue, compared to their competitors from the fairer sex, they were certainly not the main draw. While that may represent an anomaly in the world of hockey, the men of the game forced to be complicit, the reality is that the appearance of these wondrous women also represented a cultural crossover.

Heading into the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championships, the innocence of the game was tarnished by the complexities of real life. With players facing severe economic strain, compounded by salary reductions in America’s only professional league for women, the members of the national team made the courageous statement that they wanted a living wage, needing sufficient stability to see the game grow.

As Duggan reveals in an interview with ESPN, she received a text from tennis legend Billie Jean King showing her support for the cause. The impact of such an incredible figure in female sport only validated the brave and justified fight for pay equity.

In spite of USA Hockey threatening to bring replacement players, the support in the media from substantial groups, such as the NFL Players Association, helped right the path, bringing the women a long overdue compensatory plan. Symbolically, the presence of six women from the national team is definitely an extension of such a strong unified front, embodying what makes this team so special.

Undoubtedly, the most confident photo among the portfolio visible online is one where all six players display their posteriors. While there is no question that such a photo reveals an empowering beauty, it is open to interpretation if there is a dual meaning. Perhaps unintentional, but the photo may be perceived as a symbolic protest of the fight endured for pay equity, a type of “Kiss my ***” message projected in a truly captivating photo.

Captured behind the lens of photographer Joe Pugliese, his portfolio certainly affirms that these wondrous women are breathtaking. While their strength equally reveals an amazing inner beauty, a raw confidence emanates from these timeless photos. Considering that the ages of the players featured are between ages 24 and 30, these photos have immortalized their physiques, preserving their peak, while presenting them as pillars of strength for their sport.

Photo credit: Joe Pugliese (No copyright infringement intended)

Calling the Minnesota Whitecaps her club team, Alex Rigsby was the youngest player among the six who were photographed, only 24 years old. She makes history as the first goaltender to grace the pages of the Body Issue. Whitecaps teammates Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux share in Rigsby’s sense of history, becoming the first twins to pose in the Body Issue.

Of note, the Body Issue holds a connection to the game beyond players appearing in its pages. Harrison Browne, who was Duggan’s teammate during the Buffalo Beauts inaugural season, found the courage to reveal a transgender status after seeing Chris Mosier appear in its pages.

Meghan Duggan, the captain of the US national team experienced a pair of unique milestones in 2017. With the IIHF Women’s Worlds contested in Plymouth, Michigan, the coordinates were a source of seemingly endless motivation, culminating with the first gold medal won by the US on home soil. Coincidentally, fellow Body Issue model Hilary Knight scored the gold medal clinching goal in overtime.

From a professional standpoint, 2017 also saw another significant milestone in Duggan’s playing career. Along with Corinne Buie, they became the first (and only) women to appear in the first two Isobel Cup finals with different teams.

Photo credit: Joe Pugliese (No copyright infringement intended)

While Duggan was also featured on Cosompolitan’s website, her courageous battle in overcoming concussion was one of the most heartwarming stories of Sochi. She would also make national news in 2014 with a polite display of levity, mimicking Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda in her second trip to the dugout at hallowed Fenway Park.

Such humor also defined part of the interview that the six players took part in with ESPN. With Duggan known for her strong commitment to a healthy diet, reference was made to the fact that a teammate had jokingly seen her eat one Cheeto in five years. The interview also revealed that Duggan had once made the friendly wager that if her team could capture both the Frozen Four and the World Championships in 2011, she would eat a burger from McDonald’s.

Rigsby joked that they videotaped Duggan not only consuming said burger, but removing it from the McDonald’s bag and unwrapping it. Of note, Rigsby and Decker were Duggan’s teammates on the Wisconsin Frozen Four champion of 2011, the same year that saw Duggan bestowed the honor of the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award.

A teammate of Duggan’s at four different levels (NCAA, IIHF, CWHL, NWHL), Brianna Decker is also part of the sorority of players that have won the Patty Kazmaier Award. Recognized as the Most Outstanding Player of the 2017 IIHF Worlds, such a distinction was part of a much bigger reward.

Heading into the fight for pay equity, there were several rookies on Team USA who were afraid that there chance at competing for the national team would be dissolved. Decker stood guard over them, a sentinel with a reassuring presence, offering the promise of better days. Not only did those better days come, but the gold medal celebration saw Duggan admirably talk to the concerned rookies, testament to her amazing leadership.

The sixth player from this group is another of Team USA’s most admired leaders. An All-Star at both the CWHL and NWHL levels, Kacey Bellamy is one of the alternate captains for the national team. Gracious and amicable, Bellamy is truly the women’s hockey superstar reimagined. Although she may be the oldest player in this group, having turned 30 earlier this year, Bellamy brings a wisdom that symbolizes her remarkable strength, signifying an amazing perfection as an athlete and as a woman, providing an ideal yet captivating appeal.

Although the fascinating reality of the Body Issue would indicate that these photos fantasize an amazing magic which takes place outside of the game’s lines, mythologizing these amazing warriors of the rink, while cultivating a female epiphany, Bellamy experienced another magical element, one that truly signifies the feeling of collaboration for the national team.

With 10 members of the gold medal winning national team raised in New England, the Boston Red Sox showed a touch of class by inviting them to participate in a pregame ceremony at Fenway Park. Although Duggan was given the honor of taking the first pitch (something she had already done in 2014), she affably gave the ball to Bellamy. Launching the magical orb across home plate, it signified more than just a unique birthday gift for Bellamy, it was the embodiment of the amazing gift of friendship between her and Duggan.

Whether the attention that emanates from the Body Issue shall actually increase the interest in women’s ice hockey at numerous levels, especially as the professional game continues to try and find its footing, is difficult to anticipate. As anticipated, these players have been serenaded online with effusive praise for their appearance in the Body Issue, many fans falling head-over-heels over a group of women whose brave efforts for equality is destined to make them icons with the next generation, bringing about a brighter future.

As a side note, some athletes have reached new popularity following their Body Issue appearance. Among them is archer Khatuna Lorig, who appeared in the 2015 edition. The following year, she would be featured on a trading card in Upper Deck’s annual “Goodwin Champions” release. In addition, she would gain a commercial endorsement.

Undoubtedly, one could imagine that Duggan should expect some kind of increase in
popularity. Based on her brave battle with concussions, and her discipline regarding diet, she would be an ideal athlete to have a book deal, and she certainly stands as one of the most notable ambassadors for the national team.

Of note, the Body Issue pictorial holds the potential for another unique coincidence, resulting in a strong link between the women of soccer and hockey. Just weeks prior to the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Brandi Chastain appeared in a complete state of undress in Gear Magazine. With a photo that made international news, gaining equal parts acclaim and criticism, it was a cascading event that helped launch women’s soccer into popular culture.

It was a very unique coincidence that Chastain would score the Cup-clinching goal in the shootout against China, generating cultural currency. Although her goal is remembered more than her photo in Gear, seemingly faded with the passage of time, there is no question that her goal placed her in the pantheon of sporting immortals.

Undoubtedly, this year’s edition of the ESPN Body Issue has established more common ground between the stars of women’s soccer and women’s hockey. Not only have players such as Rigsby and the Lamoureux twins excelled in soccer during their high school years, they stand shoulder to shoulder with the giants of the US national soccer team.

Of note, there are two other aspects. Both US national teams have shown great courage in the fight for pay equity. Four years before the glory of the 2015 FIFA World Cup, the US experienced a heartbreaking loss in the 2011 Finals. Considering the tragic outcome of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, the women of hockey are hoping to duplicate the efforts of their soccer sisters, gaining an elusive gold medal four years later, working towards redemption in Pyeongchang.

Such ambition mirrors the heartbreak of the US soccer team. While the program boasted of dominance in the Summer Games, frequently holding a vice-like grip on the gold medal, it experienced numerous frustrations in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is considered the crown jewel of the sport.

After suffering an emotional loss in the 2011 FIFA World Cup final to Japan, a sentimental favorite after its nation was decimated by flooding, the road back to glory was a long one. Rewarded for their patience with the chance to emerge victorious in 2015, the victory also brought with it a paradigm shift, raising the case for pay equity in sport, foreshadowing the admirable fight of the women of hockey.

Even though these photos will likely be the subject of attention leading into Pyeongchang, imagine if a similar winning scenario took place with the women featured in the Body Issue. What if an offensive superstar such as Decker, or perhaps one of the Lamoureux sisters scored the gold-medal clinching goal? Maybe Rigsby shall be the starting goaltender in such a game, triumphant in the biggest game of her career. While these six astounding women simply hope to emulate their soccer sisters with a Winter Games gold medal after a four year heartbreak, if one of them played the key role in this dramatic finish, it would only make the Body Issue photo shoot more culturally relevant.

While such a victorious achievement would place Bellamy, Duggan, Decker and Monique Lamoureux (along with former Body Issue model Knight) into the Triple Gold Club for Women, immortalizing their legacies, it would place them in a heroic place worthy of their presence as both world-class athletes and world-class people.

Buffalo Beauts play in NWHL’s first shootout as they host Military Appreciation Day

In a game that held special meaning for fans and players alike, the Buffalo Beauts hosted Military Appreciation Day at Harbor Center. Of note, it signified the second consecutive weekend that a Military Appreciation Event was hosted by an NWHL club, with the New York Riveters hosting the first.

The Beauts event was held in conjunction with Defending the Blue Line (DTBL), an organization dedicated to ensuring that hockey resources are made available for children of military members. Not only did the Beauts host 50 members of the United States Armed Forces, along with respective family, a 50/50 draw took place, with half the proceeds going to DTBL. In addition, Tickets for military personnel were sold at half price, while all Purple Heart recipients were granted free admission.

No one could anticipate the outcome to follow as the Beauts and the visiting Connecticut Whale participated in the first shootout in NWHL history, while Emily Pfalzer became the first player in Beauts franchise history to record five points in one game.

From the outset, the Niagara Falls Airbase color guard graced the ice during the rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, followed by SGM Jason Jaskula participating in the ceremonial puck drop. Adding to the show of support of the brave men and women of the Armed Forces, the Beauts donned special edition camouflage jerseys. Said jerseys were available for auction after the game, with DTBL as the beneficiaries of the proceeds.

Searching for their first win in franchise history, the first period did not turn out in the Beauts favor. Sam Faber, an inaugural member of the CWHL’s Boston Blades, scored her first NWHL goal with 13:02 remaining. Her milestone goal would be scored against Brianne McLaughlin, a two-time Winter Games silver medalist.

In a span of less than four minutes, the Whale would capitalize on power play opportunities, establishing a four goal lead. This was partly attributed to Buffalo’s Megan Bozek called for slashing, a five-minute major, which saw her ejected from the game. With 11:10 remaining in the first, Kaleigh Fratkin, the first Canadian-born player signed to an NWHL contract took advantage, with Jordan Brickner and Jessica Koizumi earning the assists.

Fratkin would follow it up just 61 seconds later with her second straight power play goal. Kelly Babstock scored with 7:37 remaining as Fratkin earned her third consecutive point with an assist.

Undeterred, Buffalo would fight back, despite being shorthanded. 44 seconds after Babstock’s goal, Kelley Steadman breathed new life back into a dejected Buffalo squad, trimming the Whale lead. Pfalzer and Kelly Mcdonald would log the assists as Buffalo had already served three penalties by that time.

Before the period would expire, Paige Harrington was called for hitting from behind, giving Buffalo another penalty.
Once again, the Whale capitalized, as Koizumi scored on McLaughlin with just two minutes remaining in a frustrating period for the Beauts. Taking into account that the Whale were not called for one penalty in said period, the 5-1 advantage did not come across as surprising. Of surprise though, was the fact that the Beauts outshot the Whale by a 13-10 margin.

Heading into the second period, another six goals were scored, already resulting in the highest scoring game of the NWHL’s young season. Instead of the Whale scoring five goals, like they did in the first, it was the Beauts that would reciprocate.

Before the Beauts’ five goal outburst, the Whale would score again, as Shannon Doyle assisted on a goal by Jordan Brickner, making a comeback appear impossible. Adding to the Beauts woes was the fact that Brianne McLaughlin was pulled in favor of Amanda Makela, making her NWHL debut under such strenuous circumstances.

Kourtney Kunichika, familiar to Western New York hockey fans for her heroics with the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers started things for the Beauts, with the Beauts second goal of the game with 14:48 remaining in the second stanza. As a side note, Meghan Duggan and Emily Pfalzer logged the assists.

Despite over seven minutes of scoreless play, the Beauts were able to mount a comeback via the power play. With Danielle Ward serving a pair of penalties (roughing, interference), the result were goals by Kelley Steadman and Kunichika in a span of 90 seconds. Just 17 seconds following Kunichika’s second goal, the first multi-goal game of her NWHL career, Meghan Duggan (also the captain for Team USA) scored, as the fans at Harbor Center roared in approval.

With the Whale’s lead reduced to just one goal, goaltender Nicole Stock was replaced by Jaimie Leonoff, who won the first game in NWHL history. Hayley Williams would make some of her own history as she logged her first career NWHL goal with 3:23 remaining, as Emily Pfalzer registered her fifth assist of the game, a franchise record. As the second period came to a close, a stunned Whale squad were faced with a 6-6 tie, while a jubilant Beauts roster was injected with remarkable confidence, seeing its first win possibly within reach.

Fatigue set in as the third period progressed, with both sides only managing five shots each. As the third period and subsequent overtime could not resolve the 6-6 tie, a shootout was necessary, the first in NWHL history. Going first was the Whale’s Kelly Babstock and she would not miss, providing the Whale with an early 1-0 advantage.

Considering that Babstock was also the first Canadian to score a goal in regular season play, it is fitting that she makes history twice by scoring the NWHL’s first-ever shootout goal.
Kunichika would become the first Beauts player to participate in a shootout, unable to slip the puck past Jaimie Leonoff. Having both skated for the US national team; Shiann Darkangelo and Kelley Steadman were unable to score for their respective teams, as the score was still 1-0 in favor of the Whale.

Among the NWHL’s scoring leaders, franchise player Kelli Stack attempted to put the game away for the Whale. Instead, she was denied by Makela, who allowed the Beauts one more try to tie and force a fourth shooter. Tatiana Rafter, one of the all-time leading scorers with the University of British Columbia, soared down the ice with a fierce focus, but her aspirations of extending the shootout were denied by Leonoff, whose poise between the pipes enabled the Whale to remain the only undefeated team in NWHL play.

While the Whale managed to escape with a very tense 7-6 shootout win, the first game determined via shootout in NWHL history, the Beauts have seen their confidence strengthen, firm in the belief that their first win shall soon follow. Pflalzer, whose five-assist performance also set a record for most points in an NWHL regular season game by a blueliner was recognized as the game’s First Star. Kelley Steadman, who sits atop the league leader in goals gained the Second Star with her solid two-goal performance. Also scoring twice was Kunichika, earning third star recognition on a milestone-filled day.

Pair of women’s hockey heroes join Clarkson’s coaching staff

As the Clarkson Golden Knights open the 2014-15 NCAA women’s ice hockey season in defense of their national title, two highly accomplished individuals shall be part of the new-look coaching staff. Meghan Duggan, a three-time Frozen Four winner and two-time Winter Games silver-medalist shall be joined by Britni Smith, who scored the game winning tally in the 2014 Clarkson Cup finals.

The two will have big shoes to fill, replacing long-time coaching staff members Shannon Desrosiers and Matt Kelly, who left the program in the aftermath of the 2013-14 campaign. Since the program became part of NCAA Division I hockey in 2003, Shannon Desrosiers was part of the coaching staff and certainly part of the team’s heartbeat.

Smith (left) and Duggan bring NCAA, IIHF and CWHL experience to Clarkson

Smith (left) and Duggan bring NCAA, IIHF and CWHL experience to Clarkson

Her option to leave the team was to spend more time with her family. Of note, Kelly joined the program in 2008 and is becoming the head scout for the US National Women’s Team.

Duggan’s experience and dedication makes her a remarkable mentor for the players at Clarkson. Having served as the US captain at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, she made national news when she opened up about her problems with concussions, making her inactive for one year.

Of note, Duggan’s hockey resume is sterling, with four gold medals at the IIHF Women’s World Championships and a Patty Kazmaier Award at the NCAA level, where she graduated with 238 career points. Serving on head coach Matt Desrosier’s coaching staff will allow her to continue to compete for the US National Team, along with her role as one of the superstars on the Boston Blades.

Taking into account her reputation as an ambassador for the game, Duggan is poised to be a positive influence on the players on the roster. Her experience playing for some highly talented and successful coaches should translate well at Clarkson. At the University of Wisconsin, Duggan played for Mark Johnson, a member of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. With the Boston Blades, where she helped the club win its first championship, she played for Digit Murphy, one of the most winning coaches in the history of NCAA women’s hockey, reaching over 300 victories with the Brown Bears.

Blueliner Erin Ambrose is certainly on Hockey Canada’s radar as a player that may contend for a spot on the Canadian roster at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. With two seasons of eligibility remaining, there is no question that Duggan has the potential to be a mentor for her.

An added bonus for Clarkson is the fact that someone of Duggan’s reputation on the coaching staff shall certainly help in the recruiting of future stars. With the nearby region of Eastern Ontario having produced many stars for Clarkson, the chance for such players in that area to play for a coach with Winter Games experience will be a strong selling point.

Having played for archrival St. Lawrence University, the site of Smith behind Clarkson’s bench will bring with it high emotion when the two play each other for the first time this season. Of note, she does bring some coaching experience to the position. During the 2013-14 season, she juggled time playing for the Toronto Furies while serving on Vicky Sunohara’s coaching staff with the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, who enjoyed a 21-9 campaign. Fellow Clarkson alum Brooke Beazer played alongside Smith for the Furies, as the club won their first-ever Clarkson Cup title.

Once again, Ambrose may be a beneficiary of Smith’s arrival. Not only has Smith also served in various coaching capacities with Hockey Canada’s female programs, she has also played with Team Canada’s U22 program (like Ambrose). Her experiences playing defense, along with her tenure in the CWHL may prove vital as Ambrose looks to take the next step in her career. Eligible for the 2016 CWHL Draft, Ambrose may be destined to go as a first-overall pick.

Raised in Port Perry, Ontario, east of Toronto, Smith would compete in 146 contests for the St. Lawrence Skating Saints. Having graduated in 2010, she recoreded the third highest points by a blueliner in NCAA play during her senior season. In addition, she was a top-10 finalist for the 2010 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award.

This was complemented by Second Team All-ECAC Hockey honors as a junior and senior. A former winner of the CWHL’s Rookie of the Year award, Smith also scored the first CWHL goal in an NHL arena (Toronto’s Air Canada Centre).

With Clarkson starting a new chapter in its storied history, it is encouraging to see former female hockey stars expand their careers with coaching roles. Gina Kingsbury, who opposed Duggan at the 2010 Winter Games, was hired as a coach with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, another proud NCAA program. While the transitions of Duggan and Smith to coaching at the NCAA level should be relatively smooth, they could not have asked to be involved with a better program.

Meghan Duggan earns opportunity to throw ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park

A feeling of hometown pride was evident at Boston’s Fenway Park as Meghan Duggan took to the mound to participate in the ceremonial first pitch on April 25. The hallowed grounds of Fenway are nothing new for the world-class hockey player. Duggan graced its grounds in 2010 proudly donning her USA hockey jersey as the sun shined gloriously over the Fenway faithful. She was not alone on that memorable day as all her US teammates that had grown up in New England joined her for the first pitch ceremony.

Fast forward to 2013 and Duggan finds herself back at the historic park. This time, she is adorned in the white jersey of the Boston Blades, the first-ever American based in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League to capture the coveted Clarkson Cup. Despite the rain-soaked conditions, Duggan and her Blades teammates proudly gather behind home plate for a pride-filled team photo.

One year later, Duggan returns for a third glorious time at Fenway, gracing the mound. Once again, the Red Sox show great sportsmanship and support by inviting all the athletes from New England that competed in the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Duggan, who served as the captain for the US women’s hockey team at Sochi is a highly deserving candidate to earn first pitch honors. After suffering from a concussion in 2012, that kept her sidelined for close to one year, Duggan’s comeback is more than just another great chapter in New England hockey history. Contemplating retirement and being bed-ridden for a significant period of time, Duggan’s tenacity to overcome her concussion woes is a great source of inspiration, making her a true champion.

The key quality of Duggan at the first pitch ceremonies is that she likes to incorporate a sense of playfulness and humor to the surroundings. In 2010, she mimicked famed pro wrestler Hulk Hogan who would always place his humongous hand by his hear to get the crowd pop. With hand by ear, Duggan had the Fenway crowd roaring.

Just like her first pitch in 2010, Duggan could not help but make another memorable impression on the mound. Unlike 2010, Duggan is adorned in a Red Sox jersey, rather than her hockey jersey, for the 2014 edition of her first pitch at Fenway.

Considering that the opponents occupying the visiting team dugout were the New York Yankees, Duggan paid tribute to the newest chapter in this storied rivalry. Michael Pineda, the Yankees pitcher had been caught a few days earlier using pine tar. Hoping to get a better grip on his pitches, Pineda had the pine tar smeared on his neck for easy use.

When the umpire discovered the pine tar, Pineda pointed to his neck. Serving a 10-game suspension at the time of Duggan’s first pitch, even Pineda would have had a chuckle at what followed. Pointing to her own neck, Duggan mimicked Pineda being caught with the pine tar. Getting a rise out of the patrons watching in the stands, her first pitch would end up making national news as video footage was shown on ESPN. For the Fenway faithful, they were treated to a first pitch ceremony that not only tapped into the visceral rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees, but showed what makes Duggan such a fun and endearing sports personality.

National pride for Meghan Duggan as she is named captain of US women’s hockey team

As the United States looks to claim their first gold medal in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Games since 1998, the player who shall occupy the captaincy is Meghan Duggan. Following in the proud tradition of Cammi Granato, Krissy Wendell and Natalie Darwitz, Duggan becomes the fourth player to serve as the US captain in Winter Games history. A member of the US National Team since 2007, the native of Danvers, Mass. boasts a remarkable hockey resume.

Having been part of the Clarkson Cup championship team with the Boston Blades in 2013, along with a gold medal at the IIHF Women’s Worlds in Ottawa, the captaincy is another remarkable accomplishment in a storied career. From winning the Bob Allen Award for the Best Women’s Player in USA Hockey to the Patty Kazmaier Award as a senior at Wisconsin, she has assembled a list of awards and honors that are Hall of Fame worthy.

In late October, she would get the opportunity to take part in the US Olympic Committee’s 100 Days to Sochi celebrations at Times Square in New York City. Along with Julie Chu and Hilary Knight (who could have both been captain), the titanic trio provided an ice hockey demonstration for jubilant fans.

Since gaining the captaincy, Duggan has encountered a slight bump in the road to Sochi. Debuting at the Four Nations Cup as team captain, the defending gold medal champions did not meet expectation. While the bronze medal at the 2013 Four Nations Cup was far from the desired outcome, the game that truly counts shall be the gold medal game at Sochi.

Hilary Knight (left) and Duggan at Times Square in New York City (Image obtained from Twitter)

Hilary Knight (left) and Duggan at Times Square in New York City (Image obtained from Twitter)

Should Duggan lead the US to gold, it shall provide her with membership into a very rare hockey club; the Triple Gold Club for Women. Consisting of the Clarkson Cup, IIHF World Gold and Winter Games Gold, she would become the second American woman to gain entry (the first was Jenny Potter). In addition, Duggan has also won an NCAA Frozen Four title (like Potter), which would give her the American Grand Slam in women’s hockey. If Knight qualifies for the final US roster, a gold medal would also provide her with the Grand Slam.

Although competition from an always difficult Canadian squad and highly ambitious squads from Finland and Russia shall make the gold medal a hard-earned one, it is difficult to doubt Duggan. From championships in the CWHL, IIHF and NCAA, she is a proven winner and a remarkable leader. With aspirations to one day become a doctor after her playing days, the Winter Games gold medal is the final piece of the puzzle in defining more than just a hockey hero but a positive influence for young women in sport.