Undeniably, the jubilation of an ESPY Award bestowed upon the women of US Hockey definitely enhanced an exciting and enchanting time. One that has shaped up to be the most influential for the game’s modern standing in America, generating a highly relevant cultural currency.
Gaining a remarkable amount of accolades, honors, and new fans in their courageous struggle for fairness, it was one that gained significant traction with the public support of many notable figures in the sporting domain, including tennis icon and equal rights hero Billie Jean King.
The tremendous hockey triumvirate of Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight earned the opportunity to meet this remarkable figure in female sports. On-hand at the 38th Annual Salute to Women in Sports Gala in New York City, which took place on October 18, 2017, the event not only emphasized the feeling of celebration and achievement for women in both sport and society. Simultaneously, it raised the level of importance for the women of hockey in the sporting conversation.
Honored with the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award, which Decker, Duggan and Knight accepted on behalf of their entire team, it represented a well-deserved affirmation of their courageous stand, bringing new meaning to the term fair play, while gaining tremendous admiration by both hockey fans and non-fans alike. Although the prestige of this award foreshadowed the later honors to come, it also set the tone for the US team in terms of unity, strengthening their drive and the belief in each other that a golden victory was possible.
Upon the arrival of the ESPY Awards, which took place at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, that sense of unity took an even stronger personification. With the entire roster invited to attend the ceremony, it was the type of gesture that not only emphasized how the achievements at the Winter Games was truly a team effort, but it symbolized that every member of the team is important.
Reflecting on the opportunity to join all her teammates for the Award ceremony, Bellamy was ecstatic to see everyone on the team recognized for this tremendous achievement with an invitation. Proud of her strong leadership role, Bellamy has never taken her status as an elite player for granted, absorbing every moment with a keenness and gratitude that has established her as the kind of competitor that anyone would be proud to call their teammate,
“It was an absolute honor to be invited to the ESPYS this year as a team and to be nominated for a couple of awards as well. We took in the experience whole heartedly and will remember it forever.
Receiving the award for best game was an incredible feeling knowing it was voted on by so many people who watched the game and supported our team throughout the Olympics. The best part was being up on the stage beside my teammates.”
Worth noting, the chance to attend the ESPYS as an entire team mirrored another proud event that also took place for the team in Los Angeles. Considering that Gigi Marvin is a noted fan of the Ellen Show, the entire roster was invited to appear on the highly popular daytime program, greeted by the highly likeable host Ellen DeGeneres, who like King, is highly proud of the positive example set by these wondrous women.
Certainly, the golden victory made many new fans of the sport, capturing the hearts and minds of American sports fans. Placing them into the same stratosphere as snowboarder Chloe Kim and skiing superstar Lindsey Vonn, the heroic efforts made household names out of these triumphant women.
Perhaps none took on that mantle more so than team captain Meghan Duggan, whose place in hockey history is assured. In addition to being the first captain to win an IIHF Women’s World Championship on American soil, achieving the feat last year in Plymouth, Michigan, Duggan also gained a unique celebrity endorsement. Appearing on boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Special K, leading into the Winter Games, they are likely to become prized collector’s items.
When the US women were announced as the recipients of the Best Game Award, it was an excited Duggan who encouraged her pleasantly surprised teammates to get up and join her on stage. Speaking on behalf of her team with a heartwarming acceptance speech, another stirring reflection of her commendable captaincy, she approached it with an element of preparation, displaying a combination of confidence and appreciation,
“I definitely like to prep in my own head anytime before I’m speaking in front of a crowd. I also want to make sure I am emphasizing what is most important to our team as a whole as I am only speaking as a representation of the entire team. I usually ask a few teammates some questions to make sure I am capturing our general vibe we want to get across. Other than that, sometimes I have notes, sometimes I do not, it depends how I am feeling!”
Just a few weeks earlier, Duggan had the opportunity to appear on-stage alongside teammate Amanda Kessel (plus Canadian stars Brianne Jenner and Marie-Philip Poulin) at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, presenting the Bill Masterton Trophy. Having also joined a handful of teammates as guests on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Duggan has definitely gained a degree of well-deserved celebrity status.
The feeling of celebrity treatment was one that Duggan proudly shared with all her teammates at the EPSY Awards. Akin to other awards ceremonies in the field of entertainment, the gathering of athletes and celebrities on this sensational day involved the chance to enjoy parading on the obligatory red carpet outside of the Microsoft Theater.
As a side note, Duggan and Knight were highly familiar with the ESPSY experience, as both previously attended the ESPY Awards. While 2018 marked Duggan’s second straight appearance at the event, Knight was invited back in 2014. Worth noting, both attended prior events in connection to appearances in ESPN Magazine. For Duggan, the 2018 edition of the ESPYS were the most rewarding, as it represented an opportunity to share it with her esteemed teammates,
“The ESPYS are such an incredible event to watch, let alone be a part of. It’s been an honor for me to be able to be there the last two years and more specifically, this past year alongside the whole team. It is a very special night.
Being in the presence of so much greatness in the industry that we know and love, (coaches, athletes, staff, etc) is very powerful. This year my favorite athletes to see out there were my own teammates because I had not seen some of them in months!!”
While several of the veteran players had been accustomed to the Awards process, there was also a newness to the dynamic, bringing with it a blend of curious eagerness and tremendous thrill. Posing for photos alongside jubilant teammates on the red carpet, experiencing the sensation of glamour and awe, it certainly represented a novel experience the team’s younger players, such as Barnes, Dani Cameranesi, Kali Flanagan, Nicole Hensley, Megan Keller and Maddie Rooney, the winning goaltender.
Adding lustre to this highly captivating event for Barnes was the fact that she was joined by some familiar faces. Raised in Eastvale, California, the transplanted New Englander has committed to play at Boston College, coached by Katie King-Crowley, a member of the Nagano roster.
Barnes would be one of five BC Eagles, current, former and future, that competed with Team USA at the Winter Games. Alumnae Emily Pfalzer and Haley Skarupa, along with Class of 2019 members Kali Flanagan and Megan Keller were the others. To share in the Winter Games experience, along with the enjoyment of the red carpet with fellow Eagles, it represents the type of association that Barnes is highly proud of,
“Yes, of course. Boston College is a great place and they are even greater teammates. I am so blessed to have them by my side and to share that experience with them.”
As the first-ever three-time gold medalist at the IIHF Women’s Under-18 World Championships (2015, 2016, 2017), Barnes has already left an amazing legacy in American women’s ice hockey, one that is only poised to grow with greater impact. Appearing in all five games in Pyeongchang, she garnered a respectable plus/minus rating of +3, seeing plenty of action on special teams, while logging a lot of time with vaunted veteran Bellamy, an ideal mentor.
Prior to the beginning of Barnes’ unforgettable legacy with the Under-18 national team, Bellamy had graced the pages of People Magazine. Taking place back in 2014, she was joined by teammates Coyne, Decker, Knight, Kelli Stack and Jessie Vetter, all draped in compelling red garb, adorned in luxurious jewelry enhanced by glittering diamonds. The chance to grace the red carpet, draped in glamorous evening wear once again rekindled fond memories of that memorable shoot, style and glitz serving as the theme.
“It was so fun to get dressed up! Many of us used Glamsquad for hair and makeup, which is an app that specialists come and do what you want for any look. We picked out our own dresses—I am not sure specifically if anyone had a designer dress but everyone looked gorgeous. Its always nice to be able to show what we look like outside our equipment.”
Prior to the red carpet experience, there was a gala to attend the day earlier. Airing as a one-hour program exclusively on ESPN, the network’s Humanitarian Awards certainly strengthened the feeling of unity and achievement among the women of Team USA.
Sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, the gala features five awards; the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award, Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year, the Corporate Community Impact Award, the League Humanitarian Leadership Award, plus the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award, named in honor of the former television personality.
Not only does ESPN make charitable donations on behalf of the award nominees, net proceeds are allocated to the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund. Among the nominees for the Sports Humanitarian Award, which included the US women’s team, also comprised the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer plus baseball’s iconic Boston Red Sox. Recognized as the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year, it helped set the tone for a memorable time in Los Angeles for Coyne and her teammates.
“We were awarded Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year at the ESPN Humanitarian Awards the night before the ESPYs. This was an incredible honor for our team. Leaving the game better than it was is something our team strives for on a daily basis.”
While the season to come sees Coyne signing a contract with the Minnesota Whitecaps, who shall be the fifth team in the NWHL, the ESPY Awards was not Coyne’s only brush with popular culture. Adding to rising popularity was the chance to showcase her world-class athletic ability on the ratings-grabbing television program, American Ninja Warrior (ANW).
Currently in its tenth season, ANW features a series of obstacle courses of various difficulties, with competitors unable to complete an obstacle plunging into a pool of water below. Among the most unique elements of ANW is the fact that episodes, which feature aspiring competitors hoping to qualify for a chance to compete in the Finals in Las Vegas, are filmed in numerous cities throughout the US.
Part of the “qualifier” at Indianapolis, near her home state of Illinois, Coyne was not the first member of the US national team to appear on ANW. Of note, goaltender Brianne McLaughlin, who led the Buffalo Beauts to an Isobel Cup title, appeared on the “qualifier” in Pittsburgh back in 2015. Although Coyne was unable to get past the Cannonball Drop, her experience was part of another fun moment that has seen women’s hockey continue to gain well-deserved recognition in popular culture.
“It was a great experience being on America Ninja Warrior. The Ninja community is pretty cool. Everyone is very positive and supportive. I enjoyed getting to know some of the Ninjas in Indianapolis. I hope my experience on American Ninja Warrior brought more exposure to women’s hockey!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Images obtained from: Facebook
Women in Sports Gala photo: Nicholas Hunt
NHL Awards photo: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
Cayla Barnes Photo: Mike Ehrmann Getty Images
Other credits: Michael Kovac