By Phil Stacey
---- — DANVERS — A Duggan family party on St. Patrick’s Day weekend was bound to be epic.
Throw in an Olympic silver medal celebration for the second time in five years, and the weekend became perfect.
More than 200 of Meghan Duggan’s family members and close friends came out to celebrate with, and for, her Saturday at the Danversport Yacht Club, a outpouring of love and affection for the young woman who captained the United States women’s hockey team to an Olympic silver medal in Sochi, Russia last month.
Spirits were high and traditional Irish music played over the sound system as everyone, from octogenarians to infants, came out to laud Danvers’ favorite daughter. There was plenty of food and drink, even more laughs, and stories, both old and new, told in a gathering that felt much more intimate than the number of folks on hand suggested.
Maybe that was deliberate. The Duggan family is, after all, large and extremely close knit, and their friends extend as a virtual second set of kin. They’re all fiercely loyal to and proud of their favorite hockey player, and when it comes time to kick back and revel in all things Meghan, they’re more than happy to do so.
“I mentioned this (earlier Saturday). I said, ‘I promise there’s no one here that has a family like I do,’” Duggan said during a quiet moment, speaking not only of her actual relatives but her cohorts as well. “They’re lifetime friends. We’ve all been together through everything, everyone’s experienced thick and thin and they’ve been my No. 1 supporters since Day 1.
“One of my favorite things about any of the journeys I’ve been on when I’ve left here and come back,” she added, “is coming back and sharing it with these people.”
There were people to hug and thank, pictures to pose for, memories to relive. Then, of course, there was the silver medal itself, the second one earned by Duggan in two trips to the Winter Olympics. Shiny, bright and commanding almost as much attention as the honoree herself, the folks in attendance happily held the silver sphere, posed for photos with it and handled it with care, as if it were a delicate piece of art.
At one point as she made her way through the festivities, the 26-year-old Duggan had her medal in the back pocket of her jeans, with only the blue ribbon that held it sticking out. “That’s how Olympians do it; the rest of us just wouldn’t understand,” joked long-time friend Dan Marshall.
The fact that the Americans were thisclose to the long sought-after gold medal, up two goals with 3:05 to play before eventually falling to arch rival Canada in overtime, wasn’t on anyone’s minds on this day. Gold, silver ... it really didn’t matter to anyone in attendance here; they just wanted to congratulate Meghan.
“I felt incredible support last time after the 2010 Games (in Vancouver), and it’s overwhelming this time,” Duggan admitted. “There’s more people on board and more people were watching the games; women’s hockey has grown so much, so I think more people jumped on and supported me. The support I’ve seen from the town, it’s something I could have never imagined. I’m just so happy to come back and share it with everyone here.”
That support extended halfway across the globe during the two-plus weeks she and her American hockey teammates were in Sochi. Social media, emails, texts, phone calls — Duggan got, and appreciated, them all. “You don’t realize how lucky and blessed and how incredible a support system you have until something like this happens,” she marveled.
For the first time in a long time, Duggan has no plans for the immediate future. She’ll be home for the next few weeks, relaxing with many of the same family and friends who feted here over the weekend. She’ll do a few speaking engagements — at the Patty Kazmaier Awards banquet, the Touchdown Club of Danvers, etc. — but other than that, she’s earned some well-deserved time off.
She could very well be back in Team USA’s lineup four years from now in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Or perhaps she’s decided this is it and will hang up the blades.
Saturday, though, wasn’t a time to think about that.
Saturday was a time for celebration.
Saturday was a time for Meghan.
Phil Stacey is the sports editor of The Salem News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-338-2650, and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN.