At the age of 12, before she had won silver and gold medals as a member of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Hockey team, Meghan Duggan met and snapped a photo with Gretchen Ulion’s gold medal from the 1998 Olympics draped around her neck.
“That’s when I started to tell every single person I knew I was gonna win a gold medal,” Duggan said, sharing the story with the people who came to see her at a meet and greet at the Big Y.
The story came full circle as Duggan, a Danvers native, took photos and signed autographs for visiting fans, many of whom were young children, like 8-year-old Clara Cary of Danvers.
Donned in her team U.S.A. gear, Cary and Duggan embraced before Cary getting her hockey stick autographed again. Duggan had previously signed it before the Winter Games.
“She hangs it up in her room,” said her father. “We might have to get it insured.”
Another fan, Teddi Ledoux, 9, had Duggan sign her own gold medal, that she had received for gymnastics.
“It’s a huge part our mission,” Duggan said. “We use this as a platform to inspire young kids, girls and boys.
“It is the greatest honor of my life to be able to bring this home and share the experience.”
Duggan is no stranger to getting involved locally, according to World Series Park Superintendent Bob Davis.
“She’s a wonderful person,” he said. “Really inspiring for the kids.”
Soon after, Duggan and some of the kids hit the synthetic ice set up in the parking lot nearby for some drills.
The sheets of the plastic ice fit together like puzzle pieces, creating a surface that could be walked and skated on.
“It’s a little weird,” said Thomas Sarette, 8, who plays in Danvers youth hockey. “It’s a lot more slippery than real ice.”
Duggan organized the children in a few drills, including a relay race and 3-on-3 hockey games.
“I’ve never skated before, but I’ve always wanted to,” Harold Banks III, 7, said to Duggan while navigating the surface.
Before long, hockey sticks clashed and pucks slid into a nearby net as the kids capped off their day with the Olympian as a light flurry of snow began to fall.