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Wisconsin women's hockey: Badger legend Meghan Duggan talks returning to Madison

The U.S. captain, two-time silver medalist and Patty Kazmaier Award winner will be on the opposing bench for this weekend's series.

Former Badger and US National Team Captain Meghan Duggan during the gold-medal game in Sochi
Former Badger and US National Team Captain Meghan Duggan during the gold-medal game in Sochi
Harry How/Getty Images

On Saturday and Sunday the Badger women’s hockey teams will face defending national champions Clarkson University at LaBahn Arena. The games will be a homecoming of sorts for former Badger captain Meghan Duggan, who’s in her first season as an assistant coach for the Golden Knights.

Duggan was at Wisconsin from 2006-2011, with a year off in 2010 to be a part of the US National Team that competed in the Vancouver Winter Olympics, where she won a silver medal.

(That Olympic team was coached by Mark Johnson and also featured Badgers Hilary Knight, Jessie Vetter, Molly Engstrom, Kerry Weiland, Ericka Lawler and Jinelle Zaugg-Siergiej.)

She went on to win a silver medal in Sochi as captain of that squad (along with Knight, Vetter and Brianna Decker).

In an impressive career at Wisconsin, she amassed 108 goals, good for third all-time, 130 assists, third all-time, and 238 total points, third all-time. She was the winner of the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the top player in women’s hockey annually. She was also a 2011 All-American. Duggan was a three-time national champion in her time as Wisconsin (2008, 2009, 2011).

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Despite being four years removed from her last time on the ice with Wisconsin, Duggan’s legacy remains. Redshirt senior Brittany Ammerman was Duggan’s freshman mentee. Beyond that, Johnson said the effects of Duggan’s presence have been passed down from team to team since she departed Madison.

"Leadership was probably the most important thing she gave us. Not only when she was leading us, but some of the things that she taught some of the younger players .When she left us, those leadership skills that she passed on are still here," he said.

"I think there’s a lot of things that are good about Meghan. She was a great student athlete. Really competitive, extremely hard-working. She became an Olympic player because of those traits. Her time here was well spent. She had a lot of success...She was probably our best captain. If you’re looking at captains - I was a captain in the NHL - her traits and her qualities and holding people accountable her work habits - all those things into a pot and you get something that’s really special and she was certainly was special."

She’s such a natural leader - so confident and no-nonsense - that she was a natural choice to succeed longtime captain Julie Chu as the US headed into Sochi. It was, as I wrote at the time, a very deliberate changing of the guard. There was talk about Duggan’s age and experience when the change was announced, but when you look back to her years at Wisconsin, it seems an inevitability that she would continue this trajectory. And now a dabble in coaching seems a natural progression.

"Playing for Mark at Wisconsin was such an honor. He’s an incredible man, I have nothing but incredible things to say about him. He taught me a ton. I think he developed me a lot as a player. I had no idea what kind of player I was going to be coming into college and he pretty much turned me into a national team player, so I learned a lot from him. Just how to handle adversity, how to have a winning attitude, how to bear down and take care of business when you have to and kind of what it takes to make that next level," said Duggan about learning some coaching style and technique from Johnson.

"I certainly wouldn’t be the person or the captain or the player or the teammate that I am right now or have been in the past without his leadership and guidance when I was at Wisconsin. Certainly looking forward to seeing him this weekend."

It says so much about the culture and the program at Wisconsin that players such as Duggan go on to find such success on an international level and can look back and pinpoint a part of their development that is crucial to them becoming who they are.

In addition to her duties with Clarkson, Duggan is still in training with Team USA and she is a member of the Boston Blades of the CWHL. When we spoke, she was making her weekly trek from Clarkson’s campus in upstate New York back to Boston - a roughly six hour drive that she makes multiple times a week.

For her part, Duggan is excited to get back to Madison, a place that her career trajectory hasn’t allowed her a lot of opportunities to revisit - even if this visit puts her in what used to be enemy territory.

"It’ll certainly be interesting. I think it’ll be interesting to be on the other bench, but it will be exciting at the same time. I’ve learned so much from Coach Jackson and from (assistant coaches) Dan (Koch) and Jackie (Friesen) and Tracey (DeKeyser) when she was there. But also just from that school and from playing there, it really changed me as a person. I grew a lot while I was there. I certainly owe a lot to the city of Madison, so I’m excited to come back and see a lot of familiar faces and be in a familiar place, even if I am on the other side of the bench."

The fact that so many Wisconsin alum have featured prominently on the US national team in the past few Olympic cycles is important not just to recruiting, but to the overall reputation of the program. The most recent round of US Olympic Badgers were in school at the same time and were particularly close. They also represented and repped Wisconsin more than once. It’s a responsibility and honor Duggan doesn’t take lightly.

"Obviously I’m so proud to be a Badger. It’s a school that’s had a ton of success in it’s years with a women's hockey team. It's molded a ton of players into great people and great leaders and I'm certainly proud to be a part of the legacy that they have there."