One of the most distinguished blueliners of this decade, Kacey Bellamy embodies values of strong leadership and sportsmanship. Gracious and articulate, this distinguished star of the Team USA defensive unit received the ideal accoutrement to an amazing career, emerging from the 2018 Winter Games with the proud acquisition of an elusive gold medal.
Following the final outcome at the Sochi Winter Games, one in which Canada’s comeback truly represented the nadir in Bellamy’s career, it was a devastating moment for a tearful and distraught competitor. In spite of the fact that the golden dream of Winter Games glory would have to wait four more years, Bellamy, the pride of Westfield, Massachusetts, found the courage to forge forward, refusing to fall into the trap of despair.
From helping to pioneer the arrival of the NWHL as a member of the Boston Pride, along with three successive gold medals at the IIHF Women’s Worlds, including an emotional 2017 which involved the first on home soil, Bellamy pondered 2018 with a combination of confidence and optimism.
While the USA’s roster at the 2018 Winter Games featured a blend of veteran talent and numerous new faces, a transition into the program’s future, Bellamy was part of a compelling leadership core on the blueline. Possessing a remarkable acumen, complemented by character and a relentless spirit, Bellamy’s presence certainly supplied ample inspiration.
Named alternate captain for Team USA, Bellamy was part of a terrific triumvirate that featured Brianna Decker as the other alternate, while Meghan Duggan, who served as team captain at the 2017 IIHF Women’s Worlds reprised that role in Pyeongchang. Although Bellamy scored only one goal in this year’s Winter Games, she certainly made it count. With a February 13 tilt against the Olympic Athletes from Russia which saw Jocelyne Lamoureux set a record with the two fastest goals in Winter Games history, it was Bellamy who logged the game-winning tally.
Reaching the gold medal game with ease, the US faced off against their Canadian counterparts for the third consecutive time. Unlike the results from Sochi, Pyeongchang painted a much different picture. With Maddie Rooney recording her last save in a highly exciting shootout, denying Canada their chance at becoming the first nation to win five consecutive gold medals in ice hockey at the Winter Games, the burden of Sochi quickly evaporated, replaced by the feeling of a fait accompli in Pyeongchang.
Avenging a visceral loss on the most spectacular of stages, the tremendous sense of redemption that accompanied this glorious chapter, one where the sweat and sacrifice exerted over the last four years gained validation, bouncing back from Sochi stood as the proudest moment in Bellamy’s career,
“It meant everything. The gold medal has been our goal from the start and to be able to let the loss in Sochi go and move forward, but also keep it as motivation, was key. Our program did a great job over the past four years in preparing for 2018; not looking too far ahead and not looking back.”
Adding prestige to the elation of this triumph involved the presence of a legendary figure at the medal ceremony. Distributing the gold medals to an ecstatic group of American skaters, Angela Ruggiero’s presence bridged generations. A member of the US roster that captured the gold medal at Nagano 1998, which was also the first Winter Games to feature women’s ice hockey on its schedule, Ruggiero was also a teammate of Bellamy at Vancouver 2010. Gaining the opportunity to adorn the necks of the victorious US squad, Ruggiero’s presence bookended an amazing hockey journey that spanned two decades.
“Angela has been a huge role model for me ever since I first put on that USA jersey. She has paved the way for so many of us and continues to do so. For her to be the one that put that gold medal around my neck words can’t describe the emotion. We are all family and it meant everything!”
Undoubtedly, the gold in 2018 helped propel Bellamy and five other teammates into the same legendary stratosphere as Ruggiero. Achieving a very rare feat that has allowed Bellamy a treasured spot in hockey immortality, such an achievement was enhanced by the knowledge that she would enter this unique club with five other women that enjoyed the privilege of gold in 2018.
Along with Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Gigi Marvin and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, this sensational six attained Triple Gold Club status. Based on the achievements of IIHF gold, Olympic gold and the Clarkson Cup, to achieve something so monumental symbolized the impact of the US attaining gold in South Korea.
Taking into account that Bellamy, Decker, Knight and Marvin have also captured the Isobel Cup, only adding to their iconic roles in the game, they are part of a spectacular sorority of women that have helped solidify their standing as pioneers for the growth of the professional game. Prior to the 2018 Winter Games, the only American-born player to have reached Triple Gold status was Jenny Schmidgall-Potter, with Olympic gold in 1998, her first IIHF gold in 2005, plus the Clarkson Cup triumph of 2010.
“I did not even realize we accomplished that, until it was announced, but, I have been fortunate enough to play for some amazing teams with very talented teammates over the past few years. It is an honor to achieve. The triple gold club has so many incredible players and people on that list and I am honored to join it.”
The sense of celebration extended off the ice. In the hours following the vindication against Canada, Bellamy and the entire US roster appeared on The Today Show, chatting with Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker. Upon their return stateside, the US team indulged in more media exposure, gracing the Warner Brothers lot in Hollywood to appear on The Ellen Show. In addition, Meghan Duggan, the Lamoureux twins and Maddie Rooney were guests on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Adding to the sense of elation was the fact that Bellamy, Decker, Duggan and Amanda Pelkey graced the hallowed grass at Boston’s iconic Fenway Park for a pregame ceremony on April 5, which was also opening day. With the Red Sox hosting the Tampa Bay Rays, a capacity crowd of over 36,000 fans were treated to an on-field display of elite talent.
Joined by a number of other athletes from New England that represented the US in South Korea, all participating in the First Pitch ceremony, the feeling of fun was enhanced by Red Sox legendary slugger David Ortiz (and three-time World Series champion) plus the charismatic yet courageous Summer Games gold medalist Aly Raisman, who were also on the field. With Bobby Poyner gaining his first major league win, there was a shared sense of feeling victory on this magical day.
Such classy recognition by the remarkable Red Sox organization is not a first for Bellamy. When the Boston Blades (her former club team) captured the Clarkson Cup in 2013, the entire roster was part of a pregame ceremony, albeit a rainy one, at Fenway.
Last year, Bellamy, Duggan and a handful of other Team USA members enjoyed the opportunity to be privileged guests of the Red Sox once again. Commemorating the first IIHF gold won on home soil, as Hilary Knight scored the overtime winner in the gold medal game versus Canada in Plymouth, Michigan, there was a strong sense of local and national pride as Bellamy, Decker and a handful of other New England hockey players donned their Team USA jerseys.
The pregame ceremony for that event was one filled with tremendous emotion for Bellamy. With Duggan designated to throw the opening pitch, she displayed an amazing gesture of friendship, graciously placing the ball in Bellamy’s hand, allowing her the privilege of gracing the mound.
“Being in Boston on opening day and taking part of the first pitch was incredible! Boston holds such a special place in my heart and to be there with other Olympic and Paralympic athletes was a dream come true.”
Considering that the gold medal attained in Nagano was the catalyst that stirred interest in the game throughout the United States, as numbers of registered players expanded by a quantum leap in a short time span. In the two decades that followed, over 30 universities compete in Division I women’s ice hockey at the NCAA level. Along with an IIHF world championship for girls Under-18, plus a very high quality of play at the high school level in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin, it is a symbolic legacy of Nagano.
Certainly, the promise of Pyeongchang is destined to hold impact too. With the gold medal representing the greatest achievement of the decade for women’s ice hockey in the United States, the next step is to build on this fantastic feat and increase the popularity and awareness of professional women’s ice hockey.
“I believe women’s hockey has come such a long way in the past five years, but we still can make bigger gains. There needs to be one professional league, simple as that.
We need the best American and Canadian athletes playing with and against each other to truly showcase this sport. We cannot wait another four years for this to happen. Though the NWHL and CWHL have done a great job with their leagues they need to start working together towards a common goal for women’s hockey as a whole.
I have been lucky enough to play in both leagues and I truly believe if they can come together it will change the landscape of women’s hockey forever.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Red Sox images obtained from: https://twitter.com/RedSox?lan
Boston Pride photo obtained from: https://www.stanleycupofchowde
Photo credits: Matt Zambonin IIHF and Jamie Squire Getty Images