Kacey Bellamy controls the puck at the Winter Olympic Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 22, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.
When the U.S. women’s ice hockey team held a five-day training camp last month in Long Island, New York, the scrimmages and skill drills drew hundreds of fans, many of them young girls who lined up for autographs and selfies with players after the practices.
It was a scene Kacey Bellamy couldn’t have imagined during her childhood in Westfield, Massachusetts, but one she’s thrilled to be a part of now on the other side.
“It’s just great to see kids anywhere from 6 years old, all the way up to 15 or 16,” said Bellamy, a three-time Olympian for Team USA. “I’m hoping the girls play hockey because they love it, and they see the growth and change we’re making. I hope we can be role models.”
“When I was little, I didn’t really have role models to look up to, I didn’t really have (women) Olympians playing,” she added. “And now, these little girls are able to come watch us play.”
Bellamy’s record is astounding. A national team member since 2008, the standout defenseman won Olympic silver medals in 2010 and 2014 before claiming the elusive gold medal last year in PyeongChang, when she and her teammates defeated archrival Canada 3-2 in a classic shootout.
This past week, Bellamy and her U.S. teammates began play at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in Espoo, Finland. This is Bellamy’s ninth time competing at the world championships, and she’ll be going for her eighth gold medal.
On top of her international experience, Bellamy also won two Canadian women’s league championships with her pro team, the Calgary Inferno, the most recent happening last month.
Despite all that hardware, Bellamy — who will turn 32 later this month — remains just as hungry for gold in Espoo as she was at her first world championship a decade ago.
“We’re always vying for a gold medal and in tournament play or in camp, you always want to try to put your best foot forward,” Bellamy said during a break at the camp. “I think that’s our motivation, to make sure we bring the best team on the ice, any given day. And I think this world championship is another stepping stone going towards the (2022) Olympics.”
With an attitude like that, it’s no wonder U.S. coach Bob Corkum calls Bellamy “one of our leaders.”
“She is just tough as nails, always fully prepared to put it all on the line, always in incredible shape,” he said. “She’s a real role model for the younger players.”
Bellamy’s Olympic dreams began in earnest in 2002, when she watched Team USA win silver behind Canada in Salt Lake City. She remembers being a young teenager and seeing U.S. star Cammi Granato, who would go on to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame.
In high school, Bellamy played four years at the Berkshire School, where she also lettered in field hockey and softball. She went on to star at University of New Hampshire, where she graduated in 2009 with a major in women’s studies. She ranks as the third highest-scoring UNH defenseman of all time.
It wasn’t always an easy ride. Bellamy was cut from the national development team back in 2006, and vowed she’d never be cut again. It’s a promise she has kept.
“I just try to take it tournament by tournament,” she said. “It’s such an honor. I do not take putting on the Team USA jersey for granted, ever. It’s just something I take so much pride in, to be able to do with new teammates, old teammates, teammates I’ve never played with before. It’s an amazing feeling and I just think it’s so special.”
Bellamy, a Team USA co-captain, thinks the team in Espoo is a good mix of newcomers and veterans. The 23-player roster includes 17 Olympians as well as 14 members of the PyeongChang team; six other players are making their world championship debuts. They spent five days at the Long Island camp, getting to know each other on and off the ice.
“The biggest thing for us, as leaders, is making sure that everyone feels part of the team and that they’re not nervous,” Bellamy said. “You have to treat (the world championships) just like any other tournament, any other game.”
There’s another side to the “tough as nails” player. After the PyeongChang Games, Bellamy published a book of poetry, “Unbroken Heart of Gold,” with titles including “Fairytale,” “In Flight” and “One Game.” As she wrote in the volume’s dedication, “I believe in putting yourself out there, being vulnerable, and going outside your comfort zone.”
“I think I’m a pretty physical player on the ice, but I think if you talk to any of my teammates or close friends, they think I’m a big softy,” Bellamy said. “And I love love, and I’m all heart and I wear my heart on my sleeve, so I told myself, ‘I want to write a book one day.’ I did it, and it’s something I’m proud of.”
Bellamy’s writing will always be part of her life, and it’s likely hockey will, too. While the CWHL announced it will cease operating on May 1, there is still the U.S.-based NWHL, which may absorb some of the Canadian teams.
“I’ve always said the leagues need to merge,” she said. “We can’t have two leagues, one in the U.S. and one in Canada. We need to be playing against each other, the best against the best.”
Currently, she is the assistant women's ice hockey coach at Merrimack College in North Andover, just outside Boston. More coaching and/or managing, marketing and promoting the sport is in her future.
“You can’t play forever, but you can grow the game forever,” she said.