Hockey mom: Meaghan Mikkelson juggles parenthood with national team
Veteran defenceman's 2-year-old son has made her 'a happier person'
When it comes to the upcoming Olympic women's hockey tournament, mom's the word for veteran Canadian defenceman Meaghan Mikkelson.
That's because, as Mikkelson prepares to compete in her third Olympic tournament, her focus is not entirely on hockey. How could it be? The 32-year-old native of Regina is not only an experienced player with impressive credentials, she is also the mother of a two-year-old son named Calder.
So while many of her teammates may be focused solely on the Olympic Games, Mikkelson must walk a tightrope, delicately balancing hockey and motherhood.
"It's so special and extremely fulfilling," Mikkelson says. "With everything that I've gone through in my hockey career, I've learned a lot and have grown a lot. But I haven't grown in my hockey career like I've grown since becoming a mother.
"You learn a lot about yourself, how strong and resilient you are."
Mikkelson has been a Team Canada mainstay since first playing for the under-22 team in 2003, though she did take a year off to have Calder.
When it came to naming their son, Mikkelson and her husband, Scott Reid, turned to Twitter. With the help of their followers they narrowed their choices down to eight and, in a bracket-style showdown, Calder beat out Emerson. It didn't hurt that Mikkelson's uncle, Jimmy McFadden, was the Calder Trophy winner as the NHL's top rookie with the Detroit Red Wings in 1948.
Mikkelson says motherhood has changed her.
"You become more comfortable in your own skin and with the person you are, and that leads to more confidence," she says. "I just think I'm a happier person. My son is incredible, and being able to go home to him, whether it's been a good day or a bad day, is amazing.
"To have him come running at me with a big smile on his face when I come through the door screaming, 'Mommy! Mommy!' there's no better feeling in the world. It gives me a sense of perspective and keeps me grounded."
Mikkelson's teammates are impressed by her ability to juggle multiple roles.
"It's very inspiring," says Lauriane Rougeau. "Meaghan is unbelievable for having taken time off to have a family and raise a child. Calder is always around and it's fun to have him at the rink. He's growing up with us."
Mikkelson comes from a hockey family. Her father, Bill, played four seasons in the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders and Washington Capitals and her brother, Brendan was a member of the Memorial Cup champion Vancouver Giants in 2007. Brendan played 141 NHL games with the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning and currently plays with Lulea HF in the Swedish Hockey League.
Mikkelson expects her son to one strap on the blades, too.
"His name is Calder so he'll probably try playing hockey," she says with a chuckle. "But my parents exposed me to every sport when I was growing up and I suspect we'll be the same with Calder. Whether he ends up being a hockey player or not, I just want him to find something that he loves to do."
Mikkelson says she would not be able to play for the Olympic team without the support of her family. Scott is a big help, and her older sister, Jillian, is lending a hand as a full-time nanny.
"My husband I have a great relationship. Knowing and understanding when it's time for the other one to pick up the reins and pick up the slack really helps," Mikkelson says. "He knows what an Olympic year is like. He's been through it with me before."
MEAGHAN MIKKELSON: Raised in a hockey family, now raising her first child, family means more to <a href="https://twitter.com/Mikkelson12?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Mikkelson12</a> than ever. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RoadtoPyeongChang?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RoadtoPyeongChang</a> <a href="https://t.co/114pzYPBZS">pic.twitter.com/114pzYPBZS</a>—@HC_Women
Team Canada will be going for its fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal this winter, and Mikkelson says if she makes the Olympic team — more cuts are on the way before the start of the Games — Calder will be joining her in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"He's watched me play since he was three months old, and even though he doesn't grasp what I'm doing and what I'm going through, he loves being at the rink and traveling," Mikkelson says. "When hockey is on TV he'll point to the players and say, 'Hockey! Mommy! Hockey!' I think he ties me and hockey together."
As a veteran, Mikkelson believes her best attribute as a player is her ability to remain calm and perform under pressure.
"For me, the higher the stakes in the game, the more that I bring," she says. "Every year I think I play my best game against the USA in the gold medal game. I think that's because of the experience I have.
"I'm the oldest player on the team now and some of the girls call me mom."