NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday through the 2017-18 regular season. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Kacey Bellamy, a defenseman and an alternate captain on the 2018 U.S. Olympic women's ice hockey team.
Like many female players her age, Kacey Bellamy, 30, got her start in hockey playing alongside boys.
The nearest girls team was a two-hour drive from her hometown of Westfield, Massachusetts, so playing with the boys was her only realistic option. That meant getting dressed in a separate locker room and not always feeling like she was part of the team.
"It was tough," Bellamy said. "I think that's where I first found the challenge and the adversity of not really feeling welcome. But it was good because I think that's where I got my work ethic from and trying to prove people wrong. It strengthened for me for the rest of my life."
Bellamy went on to play collegiately at the University of New Hampshire and professionally with the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) and the Boston Pride of the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL).
She's also had an extensive career with the United States women's national team, winning the gold medal at the IIHF World Championship seven times and silver at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and 2014 Sochi Olympics.
She'll begin her third Olympics when the U.S. opens the preliminary round against Finland at the 2018 PyeongChang Games on Sunday (2:40 a.m. ET; NBCSN, nbcolympics.com).
After the U.S. let a two-goal third-period lead slip away in a 3-2 overtime loss to Canada in the 2014 gold-medal game, Bellamy and her teammates will be seeking redemption in PyeongChang.
"I'm very excited," she said. "After the last game in Sochi, everyone knows what a heartbreak loss that was. So, we've been focusing as a team, not on the gold medal the last four years, but it was basically one camp, one tournament at a time. Day by day just getting better."
NHL.com caught up with Bellamy at the 2018 NHL All-Star Declaration of Principles Summit in Tampa, where she spoke about inclusion in sports and the importance of the NHL's and NHL Players' Association's Hockey Is for Everyone initiative.
Here are Five Questions With … Kacey Bellamy:
When did you first start dreaming about playing in the Olympics?
"I'd say 2002 when I saw the Olympics in Salt Lake City. I was at Berkshire School (in Sheffield, Massachusetts) and I was a freshman. I watched it on TV for the first time, watched women's hockey for the first time and said, 'I want to get there and I'm going to do whatever I can to get there.'"
What players did you look up to?
"I would definitely say when I was younger Cammi Granato. She was just such a huge role model in the women's hockey world. Once I got to the national team, Julie Chu was such a great role model for me. She really taught me how to be a leader, how to be a great teammate and just always was positive and always led by example and worked hard."
What was your experience like playing in the NWHL and CWHL?
"It's great because we started a league in the United States and it's really been wonderful just to push women's hockey in different areas, not just in Canada but across the U.S. Hopefully, those two leagues can merge someday because I think everybody wants to see the best of Canada against the best of the U.S."
There are many more opportunities for female players now. Is that gratifying because you were one of those who helped blaze the trail?
"Absolutely. In the last 15 years, women's hockey has skyrocketed. I think there's a lot of youth organizations around now. If you see a boys youth organization, there's also a girls youth organization now. When I was younger in Westfield, it was a two-hour drive to the closest girls team. Now, it's 10 minutes down the road, so it's really wonderful to see. Being a role model is a huge, huge part of being a professional athlete, so I really take pride in that."
Why did you want to be part of the Declaration of Principles Summit?
"Just to share my story, share my experience to anyone that's listening how hockey has played such a huge role in building my skills and my character. It's who I am today. It's funny because hockey relates so much to life and what you can do in the workforce and all those little things, they just all come together full force."
(Bonus question) Do you intend to return to the NWHL after the Olympics?
"We'll see, depending on what I want to do. I maybe want to get back into coaching. I coached (as an assistant for two seasons) at Merrimack College, but I've really thought about going back and coaching in prep school or high school."