Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Gold medalist Kacey Bellamy returns to Berkshire School
Bellamy, who won a gold medal with the U.S. women's hockey team at the Winter Olympics, gave her alma mater's commencement address on Friday. Now if the two women's hockey leagues can find a way to come together, that would make Bellamy's year.
"I think the leagues need to merge," Bellamy said. "I don't think we can have these two leagues — one in the U.S. and one in Canada. We need to be playing against each other."
The two leagues in question are the National Women's Hockey League and the Canadian Women's Hockey League. The NWHL has teams in Boston, New Jersey, Connecticut and Buffalo. The CWHL has four Canadian-based teams, two that played in China and one team in Boston.
Former Williams College women's hockey players Michaela Levine and Hanna Beattie play in the NWHL, while North Adams' Amanda Cariddi is listed as a goalie for the CWHL's Boston Blades.
"That's what everyone wants to see. That's what's going to grow the game," Bellamy said, when we spoke by phone on Thursday. "That's going make Canada vs. U.S. more competitive, and not just during the Olympic Games."
Bellamy, who has played for the Boston Pride of the NWHL, has been a trailblazer. She, and her U.S. National Team teammates fought and won higher compensation for the players on the national team.
The Olympian, who said that the sport has changed for the better with stronger and faster skaters, explained how one league would give the next generation of women's hockey players something to shoot for.
"Definitely. I'm 31 years old now and I'm not going to be able to play hockey forever. But I can grow the game forever," she told me. "To me, that's one of the most important things. It's what I take to heart. When I came back after the Olympics and I visited six schools so far, sharing my medals, passing them all around to hundreds of kids, that's what it's all about for me.
"Seeing their smiles because it's going to last a lifetime in their hearts."
Bellamy laughed when I asked where the gold medal, and her other medals are. She said they're on the dining room table of her parents' home in nearby Westfield. That happens to be where she's staying right now.
I remember seeing Bellamy skate with her first U.S. Olympic team back in 2010. She and her teammates played a series of exhibition games against teams of college all-stars. The Americans played a group from ECAC Hockey at Quinnipiac. That team was coached by Mark Johnson, whose father was the famous college coach "Badger Bob" Johnson.
"In 2014, that was the [loss] that was the most heartbreaking," Bellamy said. "In 2010, I was so new to the team. I was eyes wide open. I didn't know what to expect going into Vancouver."
It took Bellamy three tries, but she got her medal in Korea.
"It felt like such a relief" to kick the door in and get the gold, she said. "I remember 10 seconds of euphoria going through my body when we figured out we won, when Maddie [Rooney] made that last save. It's so emotional. It's really hard to explain.
"It was 20 years since we won a gold medal, so it was something we were wanting to do for that long."
You might remember the Americans beat their arch-rivals 3-2 in a shootout for the Gold Medal. Jocelyne Lamoureaux-Davidson beat Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados on a move that still has to be seen to be believed. Then U.S. goalie Rooney stopped Canada's Brianne Jenner and Meghan Acosta to win the gold.
It wasn't the only dream Bellamy had. Even when she was a student at the Sheffield prep school, Bellamy said she hoped to give a commencement address.
"Honestly, it's been a dream of mine since I was at Berkshire," she said. "It's kind of ironic that I'll have two dreams come true in the last three months."
So Kacey Bellamy admits she's 31, and that leads me to ask how much longer she'll strap the skates on.
"I'm going to one of the professional leagues. I'm not sure which one I'll be in yet," she said. "I haven't decided. It's been a great journey. Until someone tells me I'm not good enough any more, maybe then I'll still try and play."
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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