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Team USA’s Meghan Duggan reflects on her legendary hockey career

Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight with gold medals / JWS
Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight with gold medals / JWS

Meghan Duggan recently retired from her decorated career as an American ice hockey player. During her 14-year tenure on Team USA, she captained the US women’s hockey team to their first gold in 20 years at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and won two silver Olympic medals as part of the 2010 and 2014 U.S. women’s hockey team. Duggan also won seven gold medals at the world championships. 

What have you been reflecting on these past few weeks after announcing your retirement? 

I’ve just been looking back on all the wonderful experiences and opportunities I’ve had and reflecting on all sorts of aspects of my career. Mainly, it’s been so fun to have some laughs with teammates. Obviously we’ve had wonderful opportunities with each other standing on podiums, and have been through a lot of adversity together. It’s been really fun to reflect on all the road trips, the hotels, dumb things that we did just to have fun or pass the time, and card games.

What are the conversations that you’ve been having with your now former teammates since making the announcement?

I’ve been just so blown away and overwhelmed with some of the kind words that my teammates shared with me. Throughout my career,  people have been the cornerstone. The people are the center of everything — my teammates, my family, coaches, organizations, fans, young girls — and it has been amazing to hear kind words from all these people, whether it was my impact on them or different experiences that we had together. I cried multiple times (happy tears). For some of the players who have been on the national team for 10 plus years together like Hilary Knight or Kacey Bellamy — we’ve been through a lot together through the ups and downs. Having conversations about that has been great.

We have a close relationship with Hilary — she’s actually one of our athlete partners. You’re both pioneers in the sport and obviously have a close relationship, which is cool to see!

It’s hard to put into words what the two of us have been through together while we were both on the national team for so long. We talked a bit about how we’ve grown up together through the sport. It’s been special, and we’ve leaned on each other a lot. I thank her for the role she’s played in my life and career. Hilary and some of the other women on the team — these are relationships that last a lifetime. I’m really thankful.

When you look back on winning Olympic Gold in 2018, what stands out? What are some of your favorite moments from that tournament? 

When I think back to that win, the games, the team, and the ride that we went on four years leading up to the games, I just think of unity. I think of how we had to transform together as a group. We did everything as a pretty tight knit group. It wasn’t always easy: We hit bumps along the way and we faced a lot of challenges. We had to deal with adversity off the ice with our plans for boycotting the World Championships in 2017. The unity along the way was such an unsung hero for us. To cap it off by being united on the ice and celebrate together as a team, and with our families… it was just really special.

In your piece for ESPN, you highlighted your negotiations with USA Hockey in 2017 as a highlight of your career. Can you explain to those who don’t know what happened there and why it was so instrumental for both you and the team? 

I think it was crucial for our team, our sport, and girls and women in all other industries to see what women can achieve through unity and collaboration. We were seeing inequities with regards to the support of the women’s team. After a while, enough was enough. We had to come together and come up with a plan and move forward. That’s one of the things for which I’m super proud of our team. It will definitely be a legacy of the group, and it really fills me with pride.

The contract you negotiated expires next year. What are your hopes for the next round of negotiations? 

My hopes are that both sides can agree that the terms that we came to previously were awesome, and that these terms were really good for our sport and for girls and women everywhere. We only need to continue to work together to drive it forward. Certainly, we’ve come a long way and made a lot of changes, but there’s a lot more ground to be made. My hope is that we can conquer some of those changes as well.

Do you have any advice for the players involved in those negotiations?

It’s all about unity. Unity doesn’t mean you have to think the exact same way or understand everything in the exact same way. But you have to be open and honest, have conversations, and mobilize together. That’s something that was really important for our group, and the reason why we were able to accomplish what we did.

I know that you and your wife welcomed your first child, George, in February. I am sure he keeps you all busy. In addition to your duties as a mother, what are your plans for the near future and the long term? 

I think being a new mom is at the center of my life right now, and it’s incredible. I’ve learned a lot about myself while going through pregnancy and becoming a mom. It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done. I look forward to continuing to tackle all the adventures and challenges that come with being a mother, and putting my son in a position to thrive.

I obviously want to continue to make an impact in hockey. I think the best part is taking the space and time right now to figure out what that might look like. I will always be a champion for equality across many different avenues, whether we’re speaking about race, gender, or sexual orientation.

It’s so cool that your son is going to have two former professional female athletes to look up to. On a separate note, I read that a NHL GM position may potentially be in your future. What are your thoughts on what that path would look like?

I’ve always set really big goals for myself. When I was 10 years old, I said “I’m going to go to the Olympics and captain Team USA to a gold medal.” I think setting big goals and dreams is something I like to do for myself.

Becoming a NHL GM is certainly a big goal. There has never been a female GM of an NHL team. There’s a lot of learning I have to do, but I thought, “don’t stop now at setting big goals for yourself.” It’s something that certainly I would love to do one day, but I obviously recognize getting there requires a lot of hard work.

Athletes often have a hard time retiring because of the lack of goals and structure. How are you planning to keep motivated day to day?

Transitioning from being an elite athlete into the “real world” is known to be difficult. I think the biggest thing for me is going to be taking the space right now to really think about what I want to do next. I don’t want to just jump into something because it’s there and I don’t have structure in my life.

I want to take space and time for my family as well. Being an elite athlete is the most incredible thing in the world, but you can tend to be selfish sometimes, too. There’s a lot of me I want to give to other people, especially my family.

I don’t sit idle very well, so I imagine I’ll have my hands in a handful of different things. I plan to follow my heart, my mind, have the conversations I need to have, reach out to mentors, and hopefully have a great transition.

But, I also know it’s not going to be easy — that’s the advice that I’ve been given and I try to give all the time. No one’s perfect. You have to love what you’re doing, regardless of what it is. You have to know it’s okay to face challenges. Learning in adversity is how we move forward. I’ll see what comes at me.

Will you stay involved with the PWHPA? 

The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association is very close to my heart. For a large group of women in this country and North America who have been working on women’s professional hockey over the years, our ultimate goal and dream is to one day see girls and women be able to make a living playing professional hockey. The PWHPA is working tirelessly for this goal. I will definitely be involved in advancing women’s professional hockey in any capacity I can.

What are your long term hopes for the organization?

Simply put: a sustainable place for women to play hockey professionally and be paid a living wage sufficient to make a living. I hope women won’t have to work a hundred other jobs at the same time or live with their parents or their significant other just to be able to play a professional sport. That’s the goal, it’s as simple as that right now.

In addition, the group takes a lot of pride in using the platform to advance social issues, empower young girls who want to play hockey or other sports, and encourage physical activity.

Alyssa Naeher’s goalkeeper jersey sells out in less than three hours

uwnt goalie alyssa naeher wears jersey on the field with club team chicago red stars
USWNT star keeper Alyssa Naeher's new replica NWSL jersey was an instant success. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in the NWSL's 12-year history, fans can now buy their own goalkeeper jerseys. And while replica goalkeeper jerseys representing all 14 NWSL teams hit the market on Wednesday, some didn't stick around for long. 

Fans across women's soccer have long vocalized their discontent over the position's lack of availability on social media, often comparing the shortcoming to the widespread availability of men’s goalkeeper jerseys. And as the NWSL has grown, so has demand — and not just from those in the stands. 

"To have goalkeeper kits available for fans in the women’s game as they have been for so long in the men’s game is not only a long-awaited move in the right direction, it’s just good business," said Washington Spirit goalie Aubrey Kingsbury in an team press release. "I can’t wait to see fans representing me, Barnie [Barnhart], and Lyza in the stands at Audi!"

Business does, in fact, appear to be booming. Alyssa Naeher’s Chicago Red Stars kit sold out less than three hours after the league's announcement. Jerseys for other keepers like DiDi Haračić, Abby Smith, Michelle Betos, Katelyn Rowland, and Bella Bixby aren’t currently available via the Official NWSL Shop, though blank goalkeeper jerseys can be customized through some individual team sites. Jerseys start at $110 each.

"This should be the benchmark," said Spirit Chief Operations Officer Theresa McDonnell. "The expectation is that all players’ jerseys are available to fans. Keepers are inspiring leaders and mentors with their own unique fan base who want to represent them... I can’t wait to see them all over the city."

Simone Biles talks Tokyo Olympics fallout in new interview

gymnast simone biles on a balance beam
Biles' candid interview shed light on the gymnast's internal struggle. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Decorated gymnast Simone Biles took to the popular Call Her Daddy podcast this week to open up about her experience at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, revealing she thought she was going to be "banned from America" for her performance.

After Biles botched her vault routine due to a bout of the "twisties," she withdrew from the team final as well as the all-around final in order to focus on her mental health. She later reentered the competition to win bronze in the individual balance beam final.

In her interview with podcast host Alex Cooper, Biles admitted to feeling like she let the entire country down by failing her vault attempt.

"As soon as I landed I was like 'Oh, America hates me. The world is going to hate me. I can only see what they’re saying on Twitter right now,'" she recalled thinking. "I was like, ‘Holy s---, what are they gonna say about me?'"

"I thought I was going to be banned from America," she continued. "That’s what they tell you: Don’t come back if not gold. Gold or bust. Don’t come back."

Widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles has hinted at a desire to join her third Olympic team in Paris, though her participation won't be confirmed until after the gymnastics trials in late June. She holds over 30 medals from the Olympic Games and World Artistic Gymnastics Championships combined, and if qualified, would be a sure favorite heading into this summer’s games.

Caitlin Clark reportedly nearing $20 million+ Nike deal

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever poses for a portrait at Gainbridge Fieldhouse during her introductory press conference
WNBA-bound Caitlin Clark is said to be closing in on a monumental NIke deal. (Photo by Matt Kryger/NBAE via Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark is reportedly close to cementing a hefty endorsement deal with Nike.

The Athletic was the first to break the news Wednesday evening, commenting that the deal would be worth "eight figures" and include her own signature shoe. On Thursday afternoon, the publication tweeted that the deal would top $20 million, according to lead NBA Insider Shams Charania. Both Under Armour and Adidas are said to have also made sizable offers to the college phenom and expected future WNBA star.

The new agreement comes after Clark's previous Nike partnership ended with the conclusion of the college basketball season. She was one of five NCAA athletes to sign an NIL deal with the brand back in October, 2022. 

Considering Clark's overwhelming popularity and Nike's deep pockets, the signing's purported value doesn't exactly come as a shock. New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu’s deal with the brand is reportedly worth $24 million, while NBA rookie and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama’s deal is rumored to weigh in at $100 million. And in 2003, LeBron James famously earned $90 million off his own Nike deal. 

Clark’s star power continues to skyrocket, with the NCAA championship averaging 18.9 million viewers and the 2024 WNBA Draft more than doubling its previous viewership record. Following the draft, Fanatics stated that Clark's Indiana Fever jersey — which sold out within an hour — was the top seller for any draft night pick in the company’s history, with droves of unlucky fans now being forced to wait until August to get their hands on some official No. 22 gear.

In Wednesday's Indiana Fever introductory press conference, the unfailingly cool, calm, and collected Clark said that turning pro hasn’t made a huge impact on how she’s conducting her deals.

"If I’m being completely honest, I feel like it doesn’t change a ton from how I lived my life over the course of the last year," she said. "Sponsorships stay the same. The people around me, agents and whatnot, have been able to help me and guide me through the course of the last year. I don’t know if I would be in this moment if it wasn’t for a lot of them."

Star slugger Jocelyn Alo joins Athletes Unlimited AUX league

softball star jocelyn alo rounds the bases at an oklahoma sooners game
Former Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo has signed with Athletes Unlimited. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Former Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo has signed on with Athletes Unlimited and will compete in the AU Pro Softball AUX this June.

The NCAA record holder in career home runs (122), total bases (761), and slugging percentage (.987), Alo was originally drafted by the league in 2022 but opted instead to join the newly debuted Women’s Professional Fastpitch

Alo currently plays for independent pro softball team Oklahoma City Spark, with team owner Tina Floyd reportedly on board with her recent AUX signing. AUX games are scheduled for June 10-25, while the Spark's season will kick off June 19th. Alo will play for both. 

Among those joining Alo on the AUX roster are former James Madison ace pitcher Odicci Alexander and former Wichita State standout middle infielder Sydney McKinney.

According to Alo, the decision to play in the Athletes Unlimited league was fueled by her desire to propel women's sports forward as well as provide more exposure to a sport that's given her "so many opportunities."

"Not only to challenge myself more, but just for the growth of the game," Alo said, explaining her reasoning to The Oklahoman. "I genuinely believe that professional softball can be a career for girls."

Joining AUX is also one more step in her plan toward representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I’m constantly thinking about how can I do these little things right in these four years to prepare me for the biggest stage of softball," she told The Oklahoman. "I definitely want to play in the Olympics, for sure."

Alo further expressed enthusiasm in the hope that the rise of other women’s sports, like women’s basketball and the NWSL, will push softball’s professional viability even higher.

"We’re seeing the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) get their stuff going, I see the WNBA starting to get hot," she continued. "I feel like the softball community is like, 'All right, it’s our turn and it’s our turn to just demand more.'"

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