More than Medals

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Monique Lamoureux

Remember when we used to put all of our gear on in the piano room?

Jocelyne Lamoureux

We had those red long john pants … the striped turtlenecks — mine were purple, yours were blue. Anything to keep us warm and functioning for those early morning hockey practices at Purpur Arena in Grand Forks. We were only four or five back then, I think. Right?

Monique

Right. Mom and Dad would herd us into the Chevy Astro van and then shuffle us into the rink. Dad would have already tied our skates back at home so we sort of just waddled through the parking lot toward the arena trying not to yard sale (trip, fall, and have our gear go flying) as we crossed the street.

Jocelyne

Dad would always tie our skates so tight!

Monique

Waaaaaaay too tight.

Jocelyne

We’d ask him to loosen them up a bit and then he’d barely tie them at all, so our ankles would bend in our skates. I’m pretty sure he was teaching us a lesson. He wanted us to learn to figure out how to tie our own skates pretty quick.

Monique

That’s my first hockey memory.

Jocelyne

Followed by a class assignment in the third grade. I was doing an infographic on the computer. The upper left corner had a box labeled DREAMS, and I wrote: “When I am 17 years old, I want to be on the American or Canadian Olympic hockey team with my sister Monique." That’s the very beginning of our journey.

And now we’re at the end.

Monique

At the end, but I think of it as more of a … new beginning. That’s what we should call it.

Jocelyne

A new beginning. And I think that, since we fell in love with this game together — since we experienced so much of what hockey had to give us, side by side — it’s right that we go out together.

So, today, we’re officially announcing our retirement.

I think that, since we fell in love with this game together — since we experienced so much of what hockey had to give us, side by side — it’s right that we go out together. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson

Monique

This decision has been something we’ve thought long and hard on. It did not come easy.

We know that, a year from now, an incredible group of American women will be getting ready to defend our country’s Olympic gold medal in China. Their journey to the Games started years ago — just like ours once did. This year will be full of evaluations and camps. We know that our time experiencing all of that is over, and we are completely at peace with the decision.

When next winter rolls around and we’re watching the opening ceremonies on TV, I’m sure it’ll feel like a part of us is missing out — that’s human nature. We will miss the lead-up, the preparation, the competition, the grind to achieve something that is never guaranteed. But mostly we will miss our teammates.

Now there is so much more for us to look forward to. Our lives have expanded outside the rink into motherhood and other areas where our passions have grown. Now is the right time to say goodbye.

Jocelyne

Dad always had a great line he told us when we were younger and playing on all-boys teams.

“Let your hockey speak for itself. Head down. Mouth shut. You don’t need to say anything to anyone. Let your play speak for itself.”

I’d like to think that we've both lived that way — that we've both played that way — our whole lives.

Our parents sprinkled these life lessons throughout our childhood.

They set a great example for us. We had four older brothers who all played hockey, which is why we got into the game in the first place. And so at times there were five different teams our parents had to schedule around. Right around the beginning of the year, it was so funny, Dad would get out a big calendar and write down EVERYONE’S schedule for the season. Then he and Mom would divvy up responsibilities and figure out carpool options.

Monique

It must have been a logistics nightmare for our parents. How they pulled it off ... I have no idea. We each have a son of our own now, and just raising one seems like a lot. I can’t imagine six.

Jocelyne

Of course, they did forget to pick us up a few times.

Really.

Monique

Hey, nobody’s perfect. But they were pretty close. Dad was a former UND hockey player and coached a lot of our teams growing up, and Mom was an incredible athlete in her own right. She had been a swimmer growing up, and after having Joc and me, she ran 25 (25!!!!!) marathons. They gave all of us that fuel to be competitive and to do our best in whatever we did. For example, mom’s top marathon time was 3:16, and I know that off the top of my head still today. When she broke her best time, she was proud of herself and so were we because we knew how hard she’d trained, and we got to see firsthand how her hard work paid off. Most people assume our competitive edge and athleticism comes from our dad, but it came equally from our mom.

Sports were always on at our house. Every couple of years when the Olympics rolled around, we’d be hunkered down for two weeks, watching as much as we could.

Jocelyne

We spent a lot of time watching different Olympic events with Mom. She loved the Olympics and always put it on for us. Gosh, I even remember the ’96 Summer Games. We were only seven, but I have this vivid memory of Kerri Strug landing on one foot during that iconic gymnastics performance. It was such a powerful moment. To see those girls, the Magnificent Seven, at the top of the podium … it really just felt like the greatest thing you could accomplish in sports.

And while we had been too young to remember Jackie Joyner-Kersee when she was competing, Mom introduced us to her through her book. Jackie could be the best Olympic athlete ever — and in a moment of karma, we actually got to meet her when we appeared with her promoting Comcast’s Internet Essentials program.

Monique

Nagano in ’98 really just put that feeling over the top for us. Of course, that was the first year that women’s hockey was an Olympic sport and the U.S. won gold. I really can’t overstate the impact that that team had on our generation of girls.

That’s the representation and visibility that so many in women’s sports speak about and advocate for.

Without that decision to include women’s hockey that year — we probably aren’t Olympic champions. That gold medal team changed the lives of so many young girls in our country, including us. We saw women playing hockey on the Olympic stage, and that changed the trajectory of our dreams and what we thought was possible in our sport.

Jocelyne

We knew, watching that team in ’98, that we wanted to be in the Olympics more than anything. We had no idea really what it meant to be a women’s hockey player. There were no professional leagues or real career paths for us. All we wanted was to put on that USA sweater and try to win gold. It was the real beginning of our dream — and it lit a fire in us to Dare to Make History, which is the title of the book that Monique and I have spent the last two years writing, and which will be released on February 23. And there was nothing that was going to stop us from realizing that dream — and making history.

Courtesy of the Lamoureux Family
Courtesy of the Lamoureux Family

Jocelyne

Our path to the Olympics started on boys’ teams. There were no girls’ teams for us to play on. We grew up with four older brothers and spent most of our time trying to keep up with them and their friends, so being around boys was our normal. Eventually, we knew we would have to transition to girls’ hockey, but for us to play on a competitive girls’ team, we had to move away from home in ninth grade to go to boarding school, Shattuck–St. Mary’s. To this day, we believe that our opportunity to go to Shattuck changed the trajectory of our hockey careers and our personal growth as young women.

Depending on where you grow up, the same lack of opportunity exists today. BUT it is changing. In 2010, every player on the Olympic team (except for one) grew up playing on boys’ teams. In 2018, it was about half, which means more competitive opportunities are out there for girls to take advantage of. The sport is changing and growing in so many ways, but we still have so much work to do.

Monique

One of the saddest moments of our careers was when the University of North Dakota cut its women’s hockey program — on the same day we flew off to play in the 2017 World Championship. One of the most legendary hockey schools in the country, in one of the most hockey-passionate states in the country, no longer provides the opportunity for girls to play. There are now young girls in North Dakota, the region, and worldwide that won’t get to play on the ice at Ralph Engelstad Arena. When the program was cut, UND had produced nine Olympians in just 15 years.

Jocelyne

Women’s hockey still has a long way to go in terms of opportunity, support, and just being given a fair chance to grow. There are difficult conversations to be had because we, like so many of our teammates, want to leave this game better than we found it. We want to make sure that the young girls who follow us in this sport don’t have to clear the same barriers that we did — that they have a more equitable opportunity to succeed. When we made our first Olympic team in 2010, we were able to share the locker room with veteran players who had really helped create the foundation for the national team. Players like Angela Ruggiero and Julie Chu were heroes, and they carried the expectation throughout their careers that they would always work to help the next generation.

Monique

In 2010, we were both so young. I wish I could go back in time and ask those players about what we would experience in the future as we became leaders in the program. I remember the conversations about the lack of support for our team and what had transpired between the players and USA Hockey in the early 2000s. We didn’t have the experience then to grasp the importance and significance of those conversations.

On the flip side, those players made the most of their time together, and they were always having so much fun. Jocelyne and I were so hypercompetitive from a young age, and I think — if it hadn’t been for those vets — we might not have taken the time to really pick our heads up and appreciate the big moments we had an opportunity to experience.

Jocelyne

If it weren’t for players like Ang and Chuey, I don’t know if Monique and I would have started to learn that being competitive and focused does not mean you can’t also enjoy the moment and take it all in. We were young women playing hockey in front the world, in a USA sweater — it’s the most FUN you could ever have, but that was sometimes lost on us when we wanted to win so badly. So our leadership group showing us that there was more to this experience than a medal went a long way for us. And their leadership laid the groundwork for our understanding that our endgame should not only be a gold medal — that there was so much more that we could accomplish with the benefit of the platform that a gold medal would give us.

There were subtle lessons those players taught us through their actions that, I think, prepared us for what was ahead.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Monique

When we graduated from North Dakota in 2013 (when there was still a women’s hockey program) and continued our hockey careers after college, we saw what life was like for postgrad players. All of a sudden, we no longer had our college resources and we were out in the real world, trying to be the best on the planet at our sport while also trying to pay the bills. That was when, I think, we began to realize that the system is deeply flawed. For the women’s game to become something that people are interested in more than just every four years ... the best players in the world needed support every year, not just minimal support for a few months once every four years.

Jocelyne

In 2015, our team had engaged in numerous conversations with USA Hockey and we decided it was time to do something. It was time to fight not just for more money — that really was not the main issue — but also for what our program and future generations of girl hockey players deserved. After a brief telephone conversation, John Langel, of Ballard Spahr LLP, the firm agreed to represent our team pro bono. And in 2016, negotiations with USA Hockey started with the goal of creating more equitable support for the women’s national team and for future generations of girl hockey players.

Negotiations proceeded slowly for over a year with virtually no progress being made, so the players took the drastic step of threatening to boycott the 2017 world championships. We felt as a group that if we didn’t take that step, things would never change. It would just be a replay of the USA Hockey negotiations from the early 2000s. So we ALL took that risk. We risked not playing in a world championship — and we risked jeopardizing our Olympic chances. But the risk paid off and we signed a historic four-year deal that will hopefully continue to propel the women’s hockey program forward. One team, one voice — unbreakable,

On the night we reached an agreement and signed our new contracts, Monique, Brent, Anthony and myself went out to dinner with some friends. At the end of the meal, instead of giving us a check, a waiter dropped off a piece of paper on which someone had written, “On behalf of little girls everywhere (including my daughters), THANK YOU! #BeBoldForChange.” Then when we arrived at the rink for worlds, there were little girls and their parents in the stands holding up signs that said, THANK YOU, and, BE BOLD. And as more time has passed since that historic moment, I have come to realize how important the impact of our stand for the next generation of girl hockey players is to me and that group of players as it relates to our legacy.

The world championship wins, the Olympic golds, those are awesome — 100%. But what the women who make up the USA Hockey program accomplished in the spring of 2017 is something that we should all be proud of forever. We dared to try to make history — and succeeded.

Monique

The thing is — it was a total group effort. Every player — from the U18 and U22 teams, the entire national team player pool, and our teammates — was behind this mission. Basically, every American women’s hockey player had our backs and knew the risks that we were all taking by stating our intent to boycott worlds that year.

Jocelyne

In the end, we created a new foundation for the next generation of girl hockey players. The details of what we were able to fight for and win were, of course, what it was all about. More equitable support in comparison to the men and the boys. Travel accommodations, per diem — all these logistical and financial issues that had been a burden on so many of our great players.

What made us most proud was our vision for a better future for the next generation. By starting to eliminate some of the challenges we had faced and continuing to create more opportunities for the young girls and players that will put on that crest one day, we are allowing them to dream bigger than we ever could.

But what really gave me the most hope was our togetherness.

Our will, as a team, never wavered.

Standing up for what you believe in the face of those who seem to undervalue you at every step — it’s hard. At a certain level, it’s disheartening to go through something like that, regardless of the outcome. That experience brought us all together and we showed the world what a strong group of women can accomplish.

And then that strong group of women, standing together, won a gold medal in 2018.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Monique

Joc, Hilary Knight, Meghan Duggan and I were the last players on the ice after the gold medal game in Pyeongchang. None of us wanted to get off. That’s the feeling that sticks with me after that incredible, perfect night. The game was intense. The overtime and shootout out were just as nerve-racking as they were awesome. Those images and feelings will last a lifetime — and to share it with Jocelyne was how we always pictured it. After you accomplish a lifelong dream — and yes, it sounds cliché — you reflect. For me, I was thinking about the rides to and from Purpur Arena, the carpools to tournaments, the amazing coaches we had, the endless support from our husbands to pursue our dreams, the community of Grand Forks that always rallied behind us — all these people, these places that played a role in getting us to that point.

Jocelyne

We accomplished what we set out to do as seven-year-olds, and you just can’t help but realize all the things that had to go right. You also reflect on all the work we had to put in to even have the chance to be in that position.

We’re so thankful to all of our teammates who left it all on the ice with us that night, the teammates who have made this journey worth pursuing, and the ones who came before and laid the groundwork for us.

Every time I look at my gold medal or even think about it, I’ll know it stands for so much more than just a single game at the Olympics.

To us, it represents our parents, our husbands, our brothers, our coaches, our teachers, our teammates over the years, and all the incredible fans who stood by our team through thick and thin.

We’re indebted to you forever and thankful beyond words.

We accomplished what we set out to do as seven-year-olds, and you just can’t help but realize all the things that had to go right.Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson

Monique

We have always said that Olympic medals — even gold medals — are not our only goals. A medal is also important because of the platform it gives us to do more: to advocate for disadvantaged populations that are being left behind, as we have been able to do with Comcast; to work with young girls trying to get into the sport of hockey, as we have been able to do in our camps; to support children and organizations in need in our home state of North Dakota, as we have been able to do with our newly formed Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux Foundation; and to continue our work to create even more opportunities for the next generation of girl hockey players. We are proud to be a part of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA). The mission of the PWHPA is to create one viable women’s professional hockey league in North America. We believe that there are certain criteria, including salaries, travel and facilities, that are nonnegotiable when it comes to creating a professional environment for women’s hockey. Everything we do works toward that goal — and if we’re able to achieve that, the path for the next generation of female hockey players will be straighter than ours. There will be a new world of goals to set and dreams to fulfill for young girls who love to play hockey, who dream to be like their brothers striving to play in the NHL one day.

Jocelyne

When we both started to think about retirement, I’d think about all the goals we had set out to accomplish throughout our careers. We have crossed off most of those. And the ones we came up short on? We learned from those experiences and did our best along the way.

I know that I did everything in my control to be the best player and teammate I could be. That doesn’t mean I didn’t fail sometimes, I certainly did, but I always tried to learn and grow and find a way to be better for it. As our Dad used to say, “As long as you can look yourself in the mirror and be honest with yourself about your effort, then there is nothing to be disappointed in.” I can look at myself in the mirror and be proud. Proud of myself, my sister, and the teams I was a part of.

Even though our playing days have come to a close, I know our roles as leaders in the game of hockey aren’t coming to an end any time soon.

Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images

Monique

We both became mothers in the last few years and there are more babies on the way, so there’s the logistical challenges of being a female athlete that make it hard to have a career and a family. We already put off starting our families to pursue our Olympic dreams, and we just weren’t sure it would be worth waiting to delay it even longer. I know that, for both of us, motherhood has shown us another side of life, one we value deeply, and we want to cherish this time with our kids. But like Joc said, we hope to continue to have an impact on the game.

We’ve also seen the power our gold medal platform gives us to change the world, helping to improve the lives of kids who don’t have all the advantages that we had growing up. We’re not sure we fully understood the impact we could have on big issues like closing the digital divide, dealing with food insecurity, and advocating for gender equity. Our foundation, which works with groups that support disadvantaged children through education and extracurricular activities, has become a priority for us as well.

When we were growing up and competing against each other in individual sports, our mom’s dilemma of who to cheer for was answered easily by, “I’m going to cheer for the one behind.” That has taken on a whole new meaning for us. We want kids who might not have a level playing field to have the basic necessities to succeed in school and in life. It’s not all about sports. Things like hot meals and other essentials are things we want to ensure each kid in Grand Forks and our home state has.

Jocelyne

Another piece of advice our father gave us is the need to focus. We have stepped back and assessed the rich platter of options that we have available to us. And we choose our families, our foundation and hockey. And I'm thankful for all of it.

My husband asked me last week how I was feeling about our decision. If I was nervous, if I was going to miss it? A part of me will always miss playing competitively, a bigger part of me will miss our teammates. But I know deep down that time is the most important thing we have in life, and I’m ready to prioritize my time in a different way now. In a different way than I ever have.

And I think that’s how you know when you’re ready. That’s definitely how I knew we were ready to say goodbye to the game we have grown up loving so much.

Monique

All the goals and the medals are great, and I’m honored to have worn the USA sweater. But when our kids are old enough to understand what their moms did and the role they played in the women’s game, I hope they know a few things that they might not read about online.

I want them to know that we failed more times than we succeeded, and it was only because of those failures that we actually succeeded in the end.

I want them to know that winning games is just a small, small part of what makes sports great. The relationships, the camaraderie, the experiences — those all will far outweigh any goal you score, even if it’s an amazing sudden-death shootout goal to win you an Olympic gold medal.

And I want them to know that the true measure of who you are will not be in a list at the bottom of a Wikipedia page. It will be in how you treat others, how you lift up those around you, and how you leave the world a better place than how you found it.

Oh, and I also want them to know that their moms were a hell of a pair of hockey players.

Jocelyne

You’re damn right we were.