The legacy Meghan Duggan leaves for women in sport is worth more than gold

They were there when the youngest of the three children they raised in Danvers, one not yet double digits, declared for the world she would someday do exactly this, there to share in the euphoria of arguably the most thrilling American moment of the PyeongChang Games.

“In my mind, I was thinking, ‘This girl deserves this gold medal more than anybody I know,’ ” said Mary in a phone call. “I was relieved for that, and that I could watch the whole game without throwing up.”

“She worked so hard for so long to achieve that goal,” echoed Bob. “At that point, I didn’t care if she ever played again. She had really achieved the ultimate goal.”

And now, here they are, enjoying a beautiful autumn walk through Meghan’s Connecticut neighborhood, reflecting on a career that officially came to that close Tuesday, when Meghan announced her retirement.

They were there, and now they are here, pausing to honor a woman who didn’t just give USA Hockey everything she had on the ice, but everything she had off it too, her leadership in the fight for equality a testament to courage, fortitude, and fairness.

They are here, smiling at the daughter who, along with her wife Gillian, gave them their greatest gift, their first grandchild. The little Leap Day bundle of joy named George is destined to be the star of the next chapter of Meghan’s story, already fitted for a jersey, pads, and skates.

“My family means everything to me,” Duggan said on a Zoom call hosted by USA Hockey. “I wouldn’t have achieved or had the experiences I’ve had without them. The sacrifices they have made. The emotion they’ve poured in.

“They have given me every opportunity in the world to succeed, and I owe them so much. I’m very thankful to have them by my side to celebrate.”

She’s been flooded with memories, of early-morning practices and late-night drives, of never-ending workouts and ever-widening friendship groups, of being that 3-year-old who took to skates for the first time to the 33-year-old ready to hang them up.

“Why now? It was a gut feeling,” she said. “It was the right decision for myself and my family. I’m someone that has lived a lot of my life and played a lot of my career on heart and soul and how I feel and what’s going on in my mind.

“Hockey has given me everything. It’s been my life. I’ve grown up through the sport. I met my wife through hockey. We have our son through hockey. I’ve stood on podiums, and been challenged as a leader and as a person through hockey.”

And here’s the certainty as this part of the story comes to a close: She rose to the challenge. And in so doing, she leaves a mark on the game bigger than anything plated in gold. She leaves a legacy to future generations of athletes.

She stood up in a boardroom in March 2017 and spoke up for