Kacey Bellamy may have caught the hockey world off guard with a seemingly surprising retirement announcement on Tuesday morning.
It’s something she’s been thinking about for some time, though, and the timing — for her — became right to step aside, and in her own words, allow room for someone else to make their mark with Team USA.
“I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” Bellamy told NBC Sports. “I planned to play in Worlds at May, and knew that would be my last time. Everything got postponed and delayed, so I kind of took a step back and looked at the big picture. Centralization would be pushed back again, Worlds, and decided this was a great chance for someone else to get the opportunity to reach their dreams.”
Bellamy, who medaled at the Olympics three times including USA’s gold in 2018, had a 15-year career with the national team. She also won an NWHL Isobel Cup and three CWHL Clarkson Cups.
The 34-year-old lives in Calgary now, where she finished her CWHL career with the Inferno before they ceased operations. She said the extra years she got from that move changed her career for the better.
“The game has grown so much since I started,” said Bellamy. “Not just the competition and speed and size and all that, but the media attention and how that has grown. I got a few extra years here in Calgary, and that was the best decision I made and I’m so grateful.”
Bellamy had a stint coaching with Merrimack College in Massachusetts between 2016 and 2018, but said the balance between coaching and training was too much of a strain. She might consider getting back into coaching with more of a defined focus.
The New Hampshire alum doesn’t know exactly when that would be, though, or what’s next; today was about reflecting on her career, which changed the national team forever.
“There’s been incredible support from everyone,” she said. “It’s something I knew would happen, but I’m still kind of speechless over it. I don’t really cry, but today was a day I shed some tears. I made a video for my parents and that set my emotions off, they did everything for me to reach my dream.”
In 130 games with the U.S. national team, the defender posted 11 goals and 38 assists. Across two leagues as a professional, she tallied 22 goals and 83 assists in 166 games. She was a part of the Boston Pride’s first ever Isobel Cup in the NWHL’s inaugural season.
Her legacy includes the gold medal, but she said what she’s most proud of and will remember most fondly is how she and her teammates bonded together during the 2017 boycott against USA Hockey for equal conditions.
“That changed the landscape,” she said. “The leadership, that all changed around us. That’s the reason we could be so successful while being united.”
Without Bellamy, the national team will have to make adjustments ahead of Worlds in August and the Olympics. Her departure came as a surprise to many within the sport, but there’s a lot of talent ready to step in, and for Bellamy, that made it an easier choice.
“It was worth it to give someone else that chance,” she said. “I looked at the whole scope, and the team, they’re in such a good place. There’s younger girls, they have a solid core on defense. Nothing but confidence from me others will step up as well.”
Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.