Megan Bozek, a two-time Olympic medalist and four-time world champion announced her retirement from the U.S. Women’s National Team today.
After participating in the second IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship ever and winning gold in 2009, she joined the senior national team in 2012 and had a career spanning 111 games, six world championships and both the 2014 and 2022 Olympics. In her USA career, Bozek contributed 58 points on 17 goals and 41 assists.
She last skated in the 2022 Beijing Olympics, and Bozek knew then that it was likely her last time playing, but she took the time since to make sure it was the right decision.
Bozek spent time with Team USA at the recent 2023 IIHF World Championship in Brampton, Ontario, and while the announcement was already in the works, that experience solidified her decision to move to the next chapter of her career. She enjoyed watching the team but had no desire to be out on the ice with them. It was time to move on, Bozek said, and find her next love.
“I’m very content with my decision to announce my retirement,” she said. “It was a decision that I didn’t take lightly, but I knew in my heart after the 2022 Olympics I wanted to move on and start the next chapter. It’s hard stepping away from the game. I’m grateful and I'm honored to have put on that jersey for over 10 years. It has been a dream come true.”
A top defender at the University of Minnesota, she won national championships in 2012 and 2013 — which was the only undefeated team in NCAA DI women’s hockey history. She was a Patty Kazmaier top-3 finalist in 2013, putting up 57 points on 20 goals and 37 assists and still holds the program record for points, goals and assists by a defender. Gopher coach Brad Frost said Bozek helped redefine what it means to play defense in women’s hockey.
“I don’t think I’d ever seen a defender play quite like she has,” said college and U.S. Women’s National Team teammate Lee Stecklein. “To be as rock solid defensively as she was and to contribute offensively like she did, she just was ahead of the game and then just kept getting better and better.”
A freshman when Bozek was a senior at Minnesota, Stecklein said she was in awe of Bozek’s shot — the way she took it, when she took it — and how Bozek was able to read and understand when she could contribute offensively and when she was needed defensively. She’s still the player Stecklein would pick to go to battle with, noting that Bozek was as influential to her on the ice as she was off.
Frost said that beyond her individual play on the ice, Bozek’s ability to lead makes her one of the best players he’s ever coached.
“She was able to lead in a way that helped [the rest of the defense] become the best that they could be,” he said. “In order to lead you have to have that personality where people look up to you, and where you do the right thing at the right time so that you're not just talking the talk, but you're walking the walk and she was able to do that.”
Bozek had the uncanny ability to be jovial, loose, and magnetic off the ice, but ruthless on it. She was uber competitive and hated to lose, said Frost, but loved to have fun. She knew when to flip the switch and be serious, he said.
Good for the best one-liners and jokes, Bozek had a knack for knowing what the team needed and when they needed it, according to Stecklein. The empathy to understand her teammates on and off the ice, to break the tension, speak up for someone or fire up the locker room made Bozek an invaluable teammate, leader and role model, she said.
“She’s a fighter. She just battles. She always had your back and had no quit in herself either,” Stecklein said. “‘Boze’ is who she is, and she let you be who you were, and she did it in such a great way that you just felt accepted from early on.”
Alex Carpenter, who played with Bozek in the 2014 and 2022 Olympics, echoed the sentiment.
“Boze honestly was one of the best teammates I've ever played with,” Carpenter said. “She’s just such a kind person who wanted the best for everybody and she wasn't afraid to speak her mind.”
Bozek hopes that those are the traits that she’s passed on and the values that the next generation upholds. If her story inspires the next generation the way those who came before her did for her, then she’ll feel like her career was exactly what it wanted to be.
Bozek said the lessons she learned as a part of the national team have made her a better person and are the things that will have the most lasting impact on her life.
“My career has given me the best highs, the lowest lows, but it has just taught me so much about myself,” she said. “It’s incredible to think where my career with USA Hockey started and where it ended and everything in between. I think about the first time I put it on, to the last time I took it off in Beijing. A lot of growth went into that. A lot of learning. A lot of focus.”
Bozek doesn’t know yet exactly what the future looks like. She described the time since Beijing as her “year of yes,” where she has taken roles behind the scenes, in front of the camera and on the ice with children, adults and NHL teams.
Having staged a comeback and moved to several foreign countries in the pursuit of a hockey career, she feels like she’s accomplished more than she could have ever imagined.
“I look back and I didn’t think I’d be sitting here as a two-time Olympian,” she said. “I never thought I’d be an Olympian once, let alone twice. Hockey has given me some of the best years of my life and a lot of that is thanks to USA Hockey. I have friends for life and memories that I will never forget. Sharing it with the people on the ice and more importantly, sharing it with the people off the ice my family, who helped get me there — it’s an exciting time.”
While Bozek is still not set on what she’ll be doing for her post-playing career, she’s confident in one thing.
“Hockey has been such a big part of my life," she said. "I don’t see that going away any time soon."
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.