photo courtesy of Meghan Duggan
Ever wonder what happens when a superhuman shows her superpowers? Meghan Duggan is Captain of the US Women’s Hockey team and new mom to her son, George. Our conversation took place when she was 7 months pregnant! We’re in awe of her incredible athletic pedigree: 7x world champion, 3x national championships (Go Badgers!), Patty Kazmaier Award Winner (Best player in NCAA Division I women's ice hockey), and 3 time Olympic champion (1 gold and 2 silver medals). As if all of that weren’t impressive and inspirational enough, Meghan is an inspirational leader, a passionate home chef and a loving wife and friend. In sum, she’s exactly the kind of role model we want for our kids (and, ahem - for ourselves)!
Read on for some major inspiration - we’re pretty sure it’ll motivate you to go out and kick a$%- whether it’s on a run or in the office.
Superkin: How early did you start playing hockey? Was it a dream from day one to become an Olympian?
MD: I started skating when I was 3 years old. I am from the north shore of Massachusetts where hockey was deeply embedded in the culture. My older brother was in the youth program, and I joined, too. It was awesome learn-to-skate program. I loved it from day one. I played in my hometown, and then youth hockey, but I never saw girls playing at an elite level. I only idolized the NHL players and dreamed of playing for the Boston Bruins. It wasn’t until I was 11 years old...things changed when the US Women’s Hockey team won the gold at Nagano in 1998. That’s what sparked my Olympic dream.
It was the first time women’s hockey was in the olympics. Shortly after they won, they went on tour, and one of the women from the team spoke in my hometown. I put her medal around my neck, and I became Olympic obsessed - and I built my life around that dream, and captaining the team. I kept that vision of that little kid in my head through high school, playing as an adult, and beyond.
Superkin: As a professional athlete and one of the best in the world, your maternity leave isn’t conventional based on the fact that you're in a contact sport. Tell us about how you manage to stay connected to the game during your pregnancy.
MD: My maternity leave started as soon as I found out I was pregnant, for safety reasons. No matter where I’m at, I’ll always be connected to the game. I’m doing everything I can off the ice - I’m in contact with the players and the staff. The committees and organizations within hockey that I’ve been a part of are still part of my daily life. The girls were just in Connecticut for a training camp and a game last weekend, and I was able to go to the training camp, be part of the meetings and observe the fitness testing, as well as support them at the game. It’s in my blood to stay involved. While it’s interesting not to play or compete this winter, I’ve continued training to maintain the best level of fitness that I can. I’m grateful for the research and work that’s been done to support pregnant athletes, and doing as much as I can. I am following a pregnancy week-by-week training regime created by the husband of a teammate of mine.
Superkin: You’ve been a champion of women’s rights in sports. The hockey team is only 1 of 2 teams with Paid Family Leave. How do you see this changing over the next few years?
MD: Under the US Olympic umbrella, there are somewhere between 40 and 50 national governing bodies - we are governed by USA Hockey. We’re one of very few olympic teams to have a maternity policy in place, and we were able to implement it in 2017. When we went through the boycott in 2017, we started to realize that there were many elements of our program that just weren’t right. There were women who just came back from maternity leave, women of childbearing age, and we realized that in order to have a child and still be on the team...there was no way to make it happen. You would lose your funding, your health insurance if you weren’t competing! We were able to come up with a maternity leave policy that’s great for the athletes and allows women on our team to have children and return to competition if they want.
There are other women who have different governing bodies who don’t have these policies in place. I hope in the next few years that it’s streamlined across the board. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) as the overarching organization just announced their own policies around supporting female athletes.
The Allyson Felix story is inspiring and frustrating at the same time - there’s badass women doing incredible things in their sports.
(Editor’s note: Allyson Felix is a six time Olympic gold medalist and eleven time world champion in track and field. She was a Nike sponsored athlete and upon announcing her pregnancy, Nike significantly decreased her pay (70%). Without accepting these terms, she left her sponsorship and signed with Athleta. Nike lost a handful of female athletes to their unsupportive maternity leave policies, including Superkin friend and #dreammaternity advocate Alysia Montaño. They have since created a new contract guaranteeing an athlete’s pay and bonuses for 18 months around pregnancy. Our takeaway: TEAM ALLYSON. But really Nike?!)
Superkin: In 2017, just two weeks before the World Championships (where the US team was a top contender for the title), your team threatened to boycott the game for better support for better pay, programming and marketing from USA Hockey. This is such a baller move. The verdict came down just a few days before the start of the series, (let it be known you won, including the final game in OT vs Canada!). What was it like to lead a team right up until the start of the tournament? How did you prep, both mentally and physically?
MD: They underestimated us and the change we wanted to see - from compensation to marketing to benefits. We got to a point where we had the Championships in our back pocket - it’s our Stanley cup - we put everything into playing in that game in a non Olympic year. It was something we had to do.
We missed the training camp because we boycotted. So many phone calls and meetings, flew to PHL to sit down with their lawyers. It was a bit of a mess, but we signed on the dotted line on Wednesday night, flew to Michigan on Thursday, and then played on Friday. We won the gold medal in overtime (against Canada!) in front of a sold out crowd. After what we’d accomplished, there was no way we weren’t going to win that game. That extra boost was like having an extra player on the ice.
That’s one of the things I’ll be the most proud of...what we accomplished together.
Meghan, rocking her favorite Superkin item, the Perfect Maternity Pant
Superkin: There’s a movement showcasing more and more pregnant leaders - how do you see your role continuing to influence women as you (and many of your teammates) move into motherhood?
MD: One thing I’ve noticed in being pregnant right now, or the stereotype I’d like to see changed, is that women need to be put in a safety box or bubble while they’re pregnant. I’m living my daily life, training, and growing a human at the same time. I look at women that have had kids, or that are trying to get pregnant, and realize that women’s bodies are so incredible and I have so much respect for women and what they do and are capable of. If I’m in a hotel training with a bump, I can get some funny looks. It’s important to continue to influence that stereotype that women are strong and can do so much, not even just in sports - women can run companies while pregnant! The narrative has been that women are weak or less powerful when they’re pregnant - I don’t agree. They’re even more powerful because they’re growing a human.
Superkin: Of all of your incredible victories and accomplishments, what’s been one of the top 1 or 2 moments professionally?
MD: Winning gold at the Olympics (2018 PyeongChang, Korea) was my dream since I was 11 years old. The journey we were on to get to that point as a team, losing in overtime in 2014, losing in 2010, there was a solid group of women that had been through each of those games. Getting to see people transform that team and win gold together with all our families there was really special.
Superkin: We heard that you’re a good chef. What’s your favorite go-to recipe?
MD: We love Ottolenghi. We have all 8 of his cookbooks, and they’re amazing.
Angela Liddon - Oh she Glows - vegan recipes, even though I’m not vegan - hits all the food groups. Last night we made a coconut chickpea spinach curry dish. My philosophy is to eat real food and fewer things that come out of a box. We choose grass fed and organic whenever we can, we eat a ton of variety, and I have been learning about the Blue Zone diet - someone surveyed the world and where people live to 100, and researched what they ate. We look at those things as well.
Superkin: What do you and your wife (Gillian Apps, former hockey player and 3-time gold medalist for Canada - NBD) love to do when you’re not at work?
MD: We love to cook and love to go to new cities and try new restaurants. Anything when the weather is nice, being outside, hiking, biking, golf...anything outside. We love to travel when we have time - not sure where we’ll get to now that we’re building our family! We love to visit with family and friends. Our summers are always nuts; we’re visiting with family and friends nonstop!
Superkin: Where do you keep all your medals? Do you keep them in a vault?
MD: We don’t have a vault yet! We have six Olympic medals between the two of us; she has three golds, I have one gold and two silvers. We’ve only pulled them all out once - just for us - nothing we would share or send around. When I came back from the Olympics, and we each had three Olympic medals, Angela Ruggiero said - share it with people - don’t just put it in a place and hide it away! They’re well loved. I bring them to schools and even to the occasional bar.
April Update: We recently caught up with Meghan after the birth of their beautiful son, George, and also to get her thoughts on the postponement of the Tokyo Summer games due to Covid.
Superkin: Life as a mom! Just a few weeks in, how are you? What has surprised you? How is it to see your wife as a mom?
MD: Mom life is unlike anything I could have imagined — in such a great way! I never knew my heart could feel this much love. We are choosing to think on the positive side during this challenging time in the world and just appreciate the high quality family time we are getting in these early days of George’s life as we stay home and do our part to social distance. What has probably surprised me most is the ENDLESS amounts of laundry we seem to have piling up in our laundry room, I promise I’ll get to it soon!
Seeing my wife as a mom is WONDERFUL! She’s absolutely incredible and it’s been so special to figure out this wild roller coaster of parenting together these first 6 weeks.
Superkin: It was recently announced the Summer Olympic games have been postponed to July 2021 due to Covid-19. As an athlete, how do you imagine handling a shift like this both emotionally and physically, given it's just months before opening ceremonies?
MD: Certainly a difficult decision that the Olympic Organizing committee had to make but definitely the right one for the safety of everyone involved. While my heart breaks for the athletes, I know that the strength inside all of them will power them through to 2021 and they will emerge even greater than they are right now. I’m excited to watch Team USA dominate next summer!
Hot Seat Questions:
Favorite Superkin piece? I love the perfect pant. They’ve been great to feel stylish, comfortable, flattering, and I wear them to events and feel great. Those are my favorite right now. They look like normal dress pants! And they have POCKETS!!!!
Hotlist: I want to go to India at some point. We love Indian food, and I think it would be a really cool place to visit. Favorite place I’ve gone: Ireland. We were there for a week back in 2014. My family is Irish. We got to explore the whole country and stayed in some amazing cottages.
Go to movie: My all time favorite movie is The American President - love both Michael Douglas and Annette Benning.
First Jersey: Canada or US: VERY controversial question in our house! This will be wherever we settle and the kid is raised. You build an identity where you grow up - so if we move to Toronto near Gillian’s family, we might be more of a Canadian jersey family. I’m pulling to stay in the US, though, so of course I’d be happy with that too! Jill played ringette growing up. It’s a fun game. That’s how she learned to play hockey. It's a wicked Canadian thing,for sure.