TAMPA, Fla. -- In front of an audience of avid hockey fans and National Hockey League superstars, Meghan Duggan took a lap around the Amalie Arena ice, providing a demonstration of the brand-new passing challenge at the 2018 NHL All-Star Skills Competition.
It won’t be the biggest stage she performs on this winter. Not by a long shot.
On Wednesday, Duggan and the rest of the U.S. Women’s National Team will depart for PyeongChang, South Korea, to represent the country in the upcoming Olympic Winter Games.
“It’s going to be a great experience,” Duggan said. “It’s an honor just to represent the country and we’re ready to go.”
This will be Duggan’s third Olympic Winter Games and her second as the U.S. captain. She’s been a part of U.S. teams that took home silver in Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014.
She’ll be one of the veterans on the team heading to South Korea, hoping to impart some of her international experience on the national team’s younger players.
“When you have experience, you try to share what you can with younger players,” Duggan said. “That being said, everyone on this team is an experienced player.”
A lot of that mentoring has taken place in Tampa Bay, as the area became home for the team’s residency while they made final preparations for the games. The U.S. women were based out of Tampa during their pre-Olympic schedule, which included playing exhibitions against local competition, and even a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning alumni.
Additionally, Tampa served as the home of the Four Nations Cup. The U.S. dominated in each of the four games they played, outscoring competition from Finland, Sweden and Canada, 22-5, on their way to a gold medal. The final was a 5-1 rout over Canada, which also took place at Amalie Arena.
“The community has been fantastic to us,” Duggan said. “It’s been a great place to call home for us.”
The success the team had in Tampa has them excited for international hockey’s biggest stage. While the U.S. women have earned medals in each of the last four Olympic tournaments, they haven’t won gold since the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. They haven’t been able to match the dominance they’ve shown at the world championships, in which the Americans have won the past four and seven out of eight.
As a goodbye to the team’s training home, the U.S. women got the chance to play a big role in the NHL’s All-Star Weekend.
Kacey Bellamy, the Olympic team’s alternate captain participated in the NHL’s Declaration of Principles Summit on Friday, speaking on a panel about how hockey helps young athletes build character and develop life skills. In addition, nearly every member of the team signed autographs for fans outside of the arena before the Skills Competition and All-Star Game.
“[We’re] super excited to be involved,” Duggan said. “The demo of the Skills Competition, the panel on Friday, it’s great to interact with the fans.”
The U.S. begins its quest to take home gold in PyeongChang on Feb. 11, when they play Finland in the first Group A preliminary round. It doesn’t get any easier for the Americans, with two other preliminary round games against Olympic Athletes from Russia and another meeting with archrival Canada.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
|Sun., Feb 11||Finland||Preliminary||W, 3-1||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Tues., Feb 13||Olympic Athletes From Russia||Preliminary||W, 5-0||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Thurs., Feb. 15||Canada||Preliminary||L, 1-2||Kwandong Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Mon., Feb. 19||Finland||Semifinals||1:10 p.m./11:10 p.m. (Feb. 18)||Gangneung Hockey Centre||NBCSN
|Wed., Feb. 21||TBD||Bronze-Medal Game||4:40 p.m./2:40 a.m.||Kwandong Hockey Centre||USA
|Thurs., Feb. 22||TBD||Gold-Medal Game||1:10 p.m./11:10 p.m. (Feb. 21)||Gangneung Hockey Centre||NBCSN