She wore the “C” on her sweater for all five events during the period 2014-18, including two Olympics and three Women’s Worlds, four of them gold medal-winning teams.
“Whenever I think of her or hear her name, I immediately think of the word leader,” said Pat Kelleher, executive director of USA Hockey, during the conference call. “That’s who she is. And I’m glad as she moves into the next chapter of her life she’ll stay with USA Hockey and be a leader. She‘s on our board of directors; she’s an athlete director for USA Hockey, so although we won’t see her on the ice anymore, I know we’ll see her in our boardroom and at meetings, being a leader.”
“I feel at peace with my decision, but it was still very difficult,” Duggan said during a farewell press conference organized by USA Hockey. “Hockey has been my life. It feels like the end of something I’ve poured a lot of heart and soul into. Why now? It’s a gut feeling. It was the right decision for myself and my family.”
Perhaps less well-known, Duggan played on three NCAA championship teams with the University of Wisconsin Badgers (2006-07, 2008-09, 2010-11) and was named Patty Kazmaier Award winner in 10-11 as well.
In club play, she played in both the CWHL and NWHL from 2011-17, winning the Clarkson Cup with the Boston Blades in 2014-15.
“Today is an incredibly exciting day for my family,” Duggan continued, “but it’s also an emotional one…I’ve had a wonderful career, and it’s been an incredible honour and privilege to have the opportunities that I’ve had…I’m excited to figure out what’s next.”
Off ice, Duggan was one of the loudest voices during the weeks leading up to the 2017 Women’s Worlds in Michigan, when the team threatened to boycott the tournament if it weren’t given greater financial support. The team reached an agreement in time, and then played its way to a gold medal.
“That’s a big part of our team’s legacy,” she explained. “I know every single woman on our team is very proud of that. I think with USA Hockey we can all be proud to be on the right side of history. That experience brought us together as a team, and empowered us. It’s a huge part of our legacy.”
A year after that momentous win, the Americans won their first Olympic gold medal in 20 years, the defining moment of Duggan’s playing career.
Duggan shared a story about a conversation she had with Cammi Granato in March 2017. The team was going through a tough time, but Granato preached unity. That one word stuck with Duggan.
“I’ve always played hockey because it’s a team sport. I love my teammates. I love working towards things as a group. The message to stay united is important. People are always stronger when they are backed by other people. I’ve thought about that advice a lot and I want to have unity in my life with whatever is next.”
It was a little more than two years ago that Duggan married Gillian Apps, long-time member of Canada’s national team, and the two recently had a baby boy. In addition, she was recently named to the NHL’s new Player Inclusion Committee.
“I’m honoured and excited to be a part of this. Hockey has given me everything – the relationships, the places, the experience – and that is wonderful to me. I met my wife through hockey. We have our son through hockey…Being a part of the Player Inclusion Committee and working towards allowing those types of opportunities for everyone, regardless of race, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, that’s important to me. I’m excited to get working on it with them.”
Duggan leaves a team that is as strong as it has ever been, lead by veterans Kendall Coyne and Hilary Knight but supported by a group of young players. The 33-year-old has no specific job waiting for her tomorrow, but her dedication to the game, and specifically to USA Hockey, leaves no doubt her name will continue to be part of the hockey conversation in the years ahead.