CALGARY — Meaghan Mikkelson wasn't done playing hockey.
After three Olympic Games and two gold medals, the 37-year-old defender could have moved on from the Canadian women's team with her head held high.
She'd put in a herculean effort trying to rehabilitate a catastrophic knee injury in time to play in a fourth Olympic Games.
Mikkelson ran out of runway and was released from the team that went on to win gold in Beijing in February.
At a crossroads in her hockey career and retirement an option, Mikkelson reported to this month's training and selection camp in Calgary with the goal of wearing the Maple Leaf again at the upcoming world championship in Denmark.
Canada's 23-player roster is expected to be announced Monday. The defending champions open the tournament Aug. 25 against Finland in Herning.
"I kind of felt like I left things unfinished," Mikkelson told The Canadian Press. "I didn't fully see my rehab through and so that was something personally for me that I wanted to make sure that I did.
"I just couldn't leave it where it was. I was having trouble sleeping at night thinking 'should I go to camp?' and I just felt like I could show up here, my whole heart would be here, and I thought I would be able to contribute.
"It's a team you want to be a part of. I still have the passion and the drive. I want to be here to help the team win."
Mikkelson won Olympic gold in 2010 and 2014 with Canada, as well as silver in 2018.
The daughter of former New York Islander Bill Mikkelson played in the 2014 final in Sochi, Russia, despite a broken hand.
Mikkelson assisted on Canada’s first goal of a comeback overtime win for gold over the United States.
She's played in seven world championships and won gold in 2012.
Mikkelson's compiled 15 goals and 34 assists in 108 career games.
She suffered widespread ligament damage in her left knee May 29, 2021, during a Dream Gap Tour game in Calgary, where she collided at the backboards with Canadian teammate Renata Fast in a foot race for the puck.
June surgery put a tight timeline on her Olympic aspirations.
Mikkelson watched her Canadian teammates win a world title in August. She didn't start skating until Oct. 1 and didn't play her first game with the Canadian team until Dec. 10.
The COVID-19 pandemic forcing the cancellation of Canada's last games ahead of Beijing eliminated further chances for Mikkelson to prove herself. She was left off the roster announced Jan. 11.
Mikkelson was quickly offered television commentary gigs by multiple networks for the Olympic women's tournament as well as NHL regular season games and playoffs.
Despite two children under the age of six at home — she returned to the national team after both pregnancies — and post-playing career opportunities, Mikkelson wasn't yet ready to hang up her skates.
"I very well could have left on my own terms," she said. "Coming back as quickly as I did, if that was the point I was going to leave on, that was pretty epic coming back from a nine- to 12-month injury in five and a half months.
"For me, it's not about leaving on your own terms. It's about leaving the game a better place than you found it, but also leaving knowing you gave it everything you have.
"Even at this camp, whether I make the team or don't make the team, I know that's what I've done to get here and what I'm doing every single day. I will have absolutely no regrets looking back."
Mikkelson, of St. Albert, Alta., lives in Calgary with husband Scott and children Calder and Berkley.
"It's something that I'm grateful for every single day that I have my kids, my husband, we have a home and we've built a beautiful life," she said.
"I have a potential career to fall back on, but playing hockey for a living is pretty special and I love it so much. That's why I'm still here, is the love of the game."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press