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Proudest moment of my career? Fighting for equality in hockey

[Editor’s note: Meghan Duggan, who captained the U.S. women’s hockey team to Olympic gold at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, announced Tuesday she is retiring. Over a 14-year stint with the national team, Duggan scored 40 goals and 35 assists in 137 games and won seven gold medals at IIHF world championships. She was part of three Olympic teams, winning silver in 2010 and 2014 before the gold in 2018. Duggan expands on her decision in this personal essay.]

One of the biggest moments in my hockey career came in a boardroom. It was March 2017, and for the previous 15 months, my teammates and I had been negotiating with USA Hockey for equitable support and treatment for girls and women in the program. We were getting nowhere.

It’s not easy to stand up to an establishment. Past players and mentors, such as the legendary Cammi Granato, advised us: If you are going to go after something this monumental, you all have to be on the same page. Any female hockey player in the United States needed to know why we were doing this. If they had concerns, we were happy to talk through it. I had thousands of conversations with players from all levels, from the national team to high school, and their parents. Some were scared. Some were hopeful. A lot of times we were frustrated. But we had to stick together, trust our guts and be confident that this was the right thing to do.

We reached a point that we never wanted to get to: threaten a boycott. We said we wouldn’t play in the upcoming world championships until meaningful progress was made. Which brings me to that boardroom three years ago.

After another long round of fruitless negotiations, it was time to have one final discussion for the day. John Langel, one of our lawyers, said, “Meghan, I think you should deliver it.” Up to that point, our lawyers had done all of the talking, but as a team, we agreed that the other side needed to hear a player’s voice.

I’ll never forget being in that room and the emotion we all felt when we sat down again with USA Hockey. My teammates and I were practically arm in arm on one side of the table.

“We did not come this far to only come this far,” I began on behalf of all of us. “This is really important to us, and we’re not giving up now.”

We knew that moment was so much bigger than all of us. It was bigger than hockey — and bigger than sports. We were determined to implement change and make history.

As I retire, reaching that landmark deal with USA hockey in 2017 remains one of the highlights of my 14-year career with the national team.


I was talking to my best friend, Erika Lawler, recently. We’ve known each other almost 20 years. In sharing my news with her, she said, “Megs, you have so much to