CHICAGO - Buffalo Grove native Megan Bozek is a four-time World Champion, Olympic silver medalist and a defender on the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team. She was all set to check another career milestone off her list until a devastating cancelation came along.
"You're so excited and to just have it ripped away from you like that with no answers, it's hard to celebrate in a time like that. Everyone is still trying to grasp and understand what happened, why it happened and what the future is for us," Bozek said.
With a month's worth of belongings packed, and travel underway, Bozek and the US Women’s Hockey Team were preparing to compete in the Women's World Championship in Nova Scotia. But instead of boarding a bus to Halifax to begin training and competition, they were told to go home.
"It’s heartbreaking. It's devastating. It's so disappointing for our sport," she said.
The International Ice Hockey Federation made a last minute decision to cancel the tournament because of COVID-19 concerns in Halifax. No dates were rescheduled and no new information or a plan was made available.
"We understand that state of the country and the world, we get that health and safety is the priority over everything but we had planned for this. So what changed from a week before camp to a day before we were supposed to leave?" Bozek said.
The lack of preparedness, especially after extensive safety measures for the teams were already in place, left the women wondering why us? Especially when men’s hockey tournaments are going on in both the United States and Canada.
"We didn't even have a backup plan, clearly because we're not playing right now. You look at the U18s that are going on right now in Texas, they were originally supposed to be played in Michigan and a few months ago, they moved it to Texas because they were more open. So why didn't we even have a plan B, a plan C, when the men's championships that are going on next month already moved countries," Bozek said.
The original tournament was set to begin May 6th, but now Megan and her teammates are back to their respective homes wondering what’s next?
"When you try to plan and you think you can see the next few months playing out whether you're on a team, not on a team, transitioning to a new phase of your life, it becomes really, really hard and you have to dig deep because a lot of girls have been training on their own this whole year," Bozek said.
The team will continue to fight to get their voice heard and hope situations like this one won’t deter younger generations of female hockey players from following their dreams and fighting for equality.
"What we're doing right now, we might not see the benefits of. These little girls that watch us and want to be one of us, which is incredible. I hope they stick with it and see the battles we go through, so they won't have to," Bozek said.
USA Hockey said they are confident the IIHF and Hockey Canada will be able to hold the tournament sometime this summer.