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City honours Mikkelson

Meaghan Mikkelson Day recognizes first St. Albert female to win two Olympic gold medals

By: Jeff Hansen

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 01:45 pm

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  • EXCITED FAN - Alcina Harapiak, 7, covers her ears as brother, Maxfield, 4, screams in delight after Meaghan Mikkelson signed an autograph for him on Saturday at Servus Credit Union Place. The City of St. Albert proclaimed it Meaghan Mikkelson Day in St. Albert in honour of the two-time Olympic gold medallist and Team Canada defenceman.
    EXCITED FAN - Alcina Harapiak, 7, covers her ears as brother, Maxfield, 4, screams in delight after Meaghan Mikkelson signed an autograph for him on Saturday at Servus Credit Union Place. The City of St. Albert proclaimed it Meaghan Mikkelson Day in St. Albert in honour of the two-time Olympic gold medallist and Team Canada defenceman.
    APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette
  • GOLDEN MOMENT - Ella Diener, 5, and brother Cole, 4, pose for a picture with Meaghan Mikkelson and her Olympic gold medals from the Sochi and Vancouver Winter Games on Saturday at Servus Credit Union Place. The Dieners were among a long line-up of fans to meet the Team Canada defenceman on Meaghan Mikkelson Day in St. Albert.
    GOLDEN MOMENT - Ella Diener, 5, and brother Cole, 4, pose for a picture with Meaghan Mikkelson and her Olympic gold medals from the Sochi and Vancouver Winter Games on Saturday at Servus Credit Union Place. The Dieners were among a long line-up of fans to meet the Team Canada defenceman on Meaghan Mikkelson Day in St. Albert.
  • HOCKEY IDOL - Lauren Sutcliffe, 10, met her favourite hockey player Saturday on Meaghan Mikkelson Day in St. Albert. The first St. Albert female to be awarded two Olympic gold medals was honoured by the City of St. Albert at a public ceremony at Servus Credit Union Place. The Team Canada defenceman signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans like Sutcliffe, a hockey player with the St. Albert Ice Crushers.
    HOCKEY IDOL - Lauren Sutcliffe, 10, met her favourite hockey player Saturday on Meaghan Mikkelson Day in St. Albert. The first St. Albert female to be awarded two Olympic gold medals was honoured by the City of St. Albert at a public ceremony at Servus Credit Union Place. The Team Canada defenceman signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans like Sutcliffe, a hockey player with the St. Albert Ice Crushers.

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Saturday was Meaghan Mikkelson Day as the City of St. Albert rolled out the red carpet for the Team Canada defenceman.

The first St. Albert female of distinction to be awarded two Olympic gold medals was described by Mayor Nolan Crouse in the city’s proclamation statement as “a true ambassador and role model for hockey, specifically girls' hockey, in St. Albert and Canada” and “will always be remembered for her outstanding contributions to hockey in this country of Canada.”

Mikkelson, 29, was humbled by the accolades, including a $500 donation by the city to her charity of choice – Canadian Tire Jumpstart – while standing outside Northstar Hyundai Arena, where inside her plaque hangs on the St. Albert skating wall of fame.

“Wow! I sure wasn’t expecting that!” Mikkelson said to a loud round of applause from fans waiting patiently to meet her. “It’s an amazing day and a special day for my family and I.”

Mikkelson passed out heartfelt thank yous to Crouse, the city and St. Albert Minor Hockey Association before praising parents, Bill and Betsy, and husband, Scott Reid, who were all in attendance, for their support throughout her career.

“As for my parents I wouldn’t be where I am today without all those early mornings driving me to the rink and the many hours that you put in to ultimately become the person I am today. I love you guys and thank you for everything you’ve done for me,” Mikkelson said.

“As for my husband, Scott, a hockey player himself, in the Olympic years he always had to take a back seat to hockey and to be on the back burner while I pursued my goals and my dreams but he always understood being a hockey player himself so I have to thank him for putting up with me coming home grumpy from the rink so many days this year and he was still there to help cook dinner and do the laundry or do the little things. I couldn’t have done any of this without him.”

Mikkelson’s second Olympic medal symbolized the sacrifices associated with winning the biggest prize at the Winter Games.

“I’m so happy to be back here today and celebrating this gold medal with all of you. It’s so special to me,” said the first female to play on a rep boys’ hockey team in St. Albert.

The national team member since 2007 gave a detailed Cole’s Notes version of the season leading up to the Sochi Olympics.

“This year was an absolutely amazing year. It was a long journey for our team. We started in the middle of May with a month long boot camp in Penticton, B.C. There were very long days of training. We did everything you could possibly imagine. Hill sprints. Bike sprints. We were on the ice. We were in the gym. You name, it we did it pretty much,” Mikkelson recalled.

“We went home for about six weeks and trained on our own and then everyone moved to Calgary at the beginning of August and we thought those long days of training were over but we were very, very wrong.

“We played a 52 game schedule before we even went to the Olympics. We went through a lot. We lost our coach (Dan Church resigned Dec. 12 for personal reasons and was replaced by Kevin Dineen) just less than two months before the Olympics. We went through the difficult day of the final cuts being made, just three days before Christmas, and then we went through what turned out to be our longest month of training in January.

“When we got on that plane to go to Austria for our pre-competition camp we were absolutely exhausted and drained. We then went into the Olympics having gone 0-4 against the U.S., our biggest rivals, who we ended up playing against in the final (Canada also beat the Americans 3-2 in the last preliminary-round game at the Olympics).

“It was all those long, hard days that prepared us as a team to come back from a 2-0 deficit in the gold medal game at the Olympics. All of our hard work had paid off.”

Mikkelson jokingly apologized for putting everyone “through that stress and waiting 56 minutes and 34 seconds to score that first goal” by Canada against the United States.

Mikkelson assisted on Brianne Jenner’s goal, setting the stage for a classic 3-2 comeback victory in overtime in what is hailed as the greatest women’s hockey game ever played.

“What makes this medal so special and so amazing wasn’t the fact that we won, it was the way that we won that game and the way we never gave up. We never stopped believing that we can win that game and I think that’s what made it so special for us.”

Mikkelson was humble to a fault in not mentioning she played in the final with her right hand frozen and taped after breaking a bone in practice the day before the semifinal and didn’t play in the 3-1 win against Switzerland.

The former bantam AAA St. Albert Sabre was on the ice for 21:44 minutes against the Americans and the assist on Jenner’s goal was her first point in two Olympics.

Fans thrilled

The Sochi medallion, along with the gold medal from the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, were on display for fans to hold and pose with during the autograph and picture taking session of Saturday’s event at Servus Credit Union Place.

The first person in line to meet Mikkelson was Jared Vokurka, 12, of Morinville.

“It’s cool to have a person from Team Canada that lives in St. Albert do this,” said Vokurka, before adding: “The medals are heavy.”

Kade Marano, 11, was rocking a vintage Quebec Nordiques cap while waiting for an autograph for himself and a buddy.

“It’s nice that she is here because she played on Team Canada, which is pretty cool. There is not a lot of St. Albert players who get the chance to play for Team Canada,” Marano said.

Mary Babichuk, 12, a right winger with the St. Albert Extreme, was thrilled to meet her hometown hero.

“It was really awesome because I play hockey too and I really want to be like her,” Babichuk said. “One day (at school) I was writing this project about your favourite idol and I wrote about her. It turned out my teacher knew her and he told her about it and she sent me a picture and that was really cool.”

Lauren Sutcliffe, 10, brought a special puck from Edmonton Minor Hockey Week for Mikkelson to sign.

“(In the playoffs) we were tied 2-2 in the third period and then we went five on five, four on four, three on three, two on two and then my coach put me out for one on one and I scored the winning goal and this is the puck,” said the St. Albert Ice Crushers defenceman.

Sutcliffe also aced a school assignment on her favourite player.

“We had to do a report on a Canadian athlete and I picked Meaghan Mikkelson because she was from St. Albert and I learned a lot about her,” she said. “I want to do what she did when I grow up so it was really exciting for me to meet her today.”


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