Olympic Gold Medalist, Meaghan Mikkelson, gives us a peek into the world of women's hockey
As a player for the CWHL's Calgary Inferno, Meaghan Mikkelson is immersed in the busy world of competitive hockey. We sat down with her to gain some insight into women's hockey, and how she manages her work/life balance as a new mom.
How long have you been playing hockey?
I’ve been skating since I was 4 years old and playing hockey since I was 6 years old.
Why did you want to play hockey?
I actually started off playing ringette when I was 5 years old. I went to the outdoor rink with my younger brother, Brendan, and his hockey team, and I decided that I wanted to play hockey too.
Hockey is in my family as well. My great uncle Jim McFadden played for the Detroit Red Wings, winning a Stanley Cup and the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year and my dad Bill Mikkelson played for the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders.
Can you give a quick “day-in-the-life” on a game day?
I wake up with my son Calder, who is a very good sleeper, knock on wood, and sleeps until around 8 am, have coffee and we both have breakfast. We relax around the house, play, do laundry and get pre-game meal organized—with a few diaper changes mixed in there of course!
After lunch, my husband Scott normally takes Calder out for an hour or two so I can have some time to rest and mentally prepare for the game that night. Once they come home, we put Calder down for a nap, have pre-game meal, and then we head to the game. With my husband Scott being the head coach of the Inferno, we rely on family or our babysitter to watch Calder while we are at the rink.
Was it a hard decision to continue to play competitively after you had your son?
It was a hard decision because I wanted to be the best mother to my son that I could be, and I didn’t want to do anything that would compromise that, but I also knew that I wasn’t ready to retire competitively.
The hardest part about it was knowing how hard and challenging the process of coming back after pregnancy and delivering my son would be, not only physically, but also in balancing the demands of being an elite athlete and a mother.
Luckily, I have had the greatest support network in my husband, my family, friends, and teammates. They knew that I was up for the challenge, and they have been there for me every step of the way!
What have been the challenges you’ve faced being a woman playing hockey?
The greatest challenge I have faced has been taking the time off during my pregnancy, having my son, making a comeback, and the day-to-day challenges and stress in balancing being a mother and a female hockey player.
I came back to playing 3 months after my son, and faced a series of strains, pulls, and minor injuries as my body worked to recover from my pregnancy and giving birth.
You hear about NHL players having new babies, and while I sympathize with the sleepless days/nights and challenges that come along with being a new parent, being a breastfeeding mother playing hockey at an elite level along with the sleepless days/nights and challenges that come along with being a new parent is a whole new ballgame!
What do you think needs to be done to put women’s hockey on a level playing field with men’s?
I think that people need to see women’s hockey for what it is, and that is a different product than the men’s game. I am not sure what the future for women’s hockey holds, but I am very optimistic as I continue to see the growth and popularity of the game.
There are so many people that are working tirelessly to increase the visibility and credibility of our game, and I don’t think it is a matter of “if” the game will take off, but rather a matter of “when”. Our game has a very promising future.
What advice do you have for girls who want to play hockey?
I would tell them to find what you are passionate about and set goals for yourself. There are so many opportunities out there for young female hockey players, whether it is traveling to play, getting a scholarship to a University, or simply learning skills that transfer into the real world, hockey has so much to offer. I would also tell them that they are strong and can do anything they set their minds to!