One could say that Meghan Duggan, as captain of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Women’s Hockey Team, was a bit preoccupied last year.
After a whirlwind several months leading up to the Olympic Winter Games, and then leading Team USA to a silver medal in Sochi, Duggan embarked on a 12-day trip by herself to London and Ireland, a time when she could finally clear her head.
“I come from strong Irish family and everyone [but me] had been to Ireland a few times,” Duggan said. “The timing was right for me to experience a little heritage.”
So when Duggan accepted a job as an assistant coach for the Clarkson University women’s hockey team earlier this month, she had some catching up to do.
Clarkson had a dream season last year that resulted in the Potsdam, N.Y., school’s first Division I national championship. Duggan made it back from Europe in time to see Clarkson beat the University of Minnesota 5-4 in the NCAA championship game. That, however, was about all she saw of Clarkson’s amazing run.
“To be honest last year was so busy for us I didn’t follow college hockey as closely as I normally do,” said Duggan, a two-time Olympic silver-medalist for Team USA.
Duggan acknowledged that Clarkson lacks name recognition, but she wasn’t surprised it won. She also said having a team that isn’t a traditional powerhouse win the championship is healthy for the sport.
“I don’t think it’s ever a surprise whenever anyone wins the national championship,” she said. “They were a contender all year and had a Patty Kazmaier Award winner [Jamie Lee Rattray] on their team. They were a strong team that worked hard.”
Duggan said the job offer from Clarkson coach Matt Desrosiers was “an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.” Yet she will continue to play for the U.S. National Women’s Team and the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
“I’ll be quite busy, but I’m someone who likes to stay busy,” she said. “I’m just looking forward to the experience and structure. It’s kind of a new challenge for myself.”
In a statement, Desrosiers said, “She is a great ambassador of women’s hockey and will prove to be an excellent role model for young females in our community.”
Duggan has never coached before, but she has served as an instructor at the Canadian Hockey Enterprises Just for Girls Hockey Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. since 2010 and the Scott Fusco Summer Hockey Camp from 2010 to 2012.
She’ll bring extensive college playing experience to the table as well. The Danvers, Mass., native led the University of Wisconsin to three national championships (2007, 2009 and 2011). As a senior, she won the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Award, and Duggan graduated as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 238 points.
“[Coaching college is] obviously a little different from being student athlete in training, but I managed that well, and that’s quite demanding as well,” Duggan said. “It’s going to be demanding but I’m up for the challenge.”
Duggan said the goal for this year is to continue competing with the top teams in the nation and to win another national title. She already has meetings with her alma mater, Wisconsin, and Harvard University, which is coached by 2014 U.S. Olympic coach Katey Stone, circled on her calendar.
“I think it will be great, I look forward to those games on the schedule,” she said. “I’m excited to A to go back to Madison [Wis.], it’s obviously a city I love, and B, play against coaches and players I know.
“When you think about [Wisconsin coach] Mark Johnson and Coach Stone, those are two coaches I learned a lot from as a player. They have great teams, and I think it will be exciting to be on the other bench coaching.”
Duggan said she will probably “mimic” a lot of what she learned from Johnson and Stone but she said eventually she hopes to develop her own coaching style.
“Also I will adapt to the way Clarkson players hockey and Matt Desrosiers runs the team,” she said. “I’m excited to learn from him because he’s an outstanding coach, also.”
Duggan, who might lace up her skates to practice with Clarkston’s team from time to time this fall, said she should be able to relate to her players easily since she’s not that far removed from college herself.
“I’ve been in that locker room, I’ve been in their shoes, I’ve been through four years of college hockey and to four national championships,” said Duggan, whose 2008 Wisconsin team was national runner-up. “I know what it takes. That will be something I can offer to relate to them and how things are feeling at certain point of their season.”
But one thing she probably won’t be able to relate to her players is how hard it is to carry the weight of coming so close to an Olympic gold medal, only to fall short. Team USA lost to Canada in overtime in the 2014 Olympic gold-medal game.
“It’s always park of your life,” she said. “You take the good out of it, but there’s also a lot of heartache as well. You just learn to get through that … at some point you have to focus on the present and stay in the moment. But obviously it’s something that will burn in my heart for a long time. A gold medal is a driving force no matter if you have one or you don’t have one.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.